Making Friends And Influencing People: Walmart, eBay And Theranos

A visit to a local bookshop (or to Amazon, more realistically for many of us) and a brief perusal of the self-help section will give one access to hundreds of options for improvement. That is unless the shopper is online, in which case they might find themselves picking through 100,000 options. Though all claim to the best and hold the true secret to a life, there is only one book that has sold over 30 million copies on the topic: Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends and Influence People. 

We could not help but think of Mr. Carnegie’s famous missive when looking at the news of the week  Walmart, eBay and Theranos all, in their own way, tried to a do a bit of one or the other.

Walmart Wants To Make Friends With People Who Influence People

Walmart wants to develop a stronger name for itself as a lifestyle brand, and a richer reputation for having a social media presence. That is why it is adding influencer content to its website and has been since June.

The influencer content appears below product images on each Walmart product page. What one sees, according to reports, depends a bit on the type of item for which they are looking. The Bigelow Green Tea product page, for example, feature images of cakes, cookies and muffins for bloggers’ sites and three recipes that accompany the images. The product site for hair coloring, on the other hand, features influencers mugging for the camera while wearing the same hair color or using a hairspray made by the same company.

Since the push to add influencer content began a little over a month ago, brands such as Mondelez, Henkel and Bigelow have all built out Walmart product pages that incorporate it and Walmart says more is coming soon. According to reports, future influencer content will include Atsuna Matsui, a beauty influencer with nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram; Nicole Weisman, who has nearly 150,000 followers on Instagram; and lifestyle blogger Abril, who runs the blog The Color Palette.

Among possible issues with the offering, according to segment watchers, is that Walmart will not allow influencer content to link out to their third-party sites, as the goal for Walmart is to keep customers in the sales funnel.

“Retailers typically use syndicated content, but it’s very canned,” said Leah Logan, VP of media products and community growth for Collective Bias, a content services provider working with Walmart. “[Walmart] has honed in on showing products in actual context, and influencer content does exactly that.”

The changes come as Walmart has been making major updates and upgrades to its website to create a “cleaner” and “more modern” web space, according to a company blog post. The first phase of that rolled out in May, with a full site redesign of Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S., said the site will highlight real-life moments with featured photography, and will emphasize beauty and design across the channel, leveraging an expanded color palette and font family to add “vibrancy and depth.”

Speaking of adding things to websites…

eBay Is Hanging With The Cool Kids

One sure way of making friends is hanging out with the cool kids, and this week, eBay announced its burgeoning relationship with one of tech’s cooler kids Apple. As of this fall, Apple Pay will be one of the first new options on its new payment platform, making it possible for customers to either use Apple Pay in eBay’s mobile app or for web purchases (provided they are using Safari, as Apple Pay doesn’t work with Chrome or other browsers).

The option will not go online all at once only a select group of marketplace customers will see the Apple Pay option in the first phase of its introduction. The overall goal, according to eBay, is to have it up and fully operational for all by the end of 2021.

The transition is the first consumer-facing evidence of the decision by eBay to mediate payments. Two-plus years after its split from eBay, the exclusive payments partnership with PayPal is drawing to a close — and the eCommerce marketplace is working with Adyen to construct a payment system for its own eBay platform. The new platform will mean that eBay pays less for processing or so it has said and that users will be able to checkout directly from eBay without having to log in to a third-party provider like PayPal.

Since Adyen’s product is completely a back-end service, eBay is planning to add a few front-end checkout options — Apple Pay will likely be one of many.

According to Steve Fisher, eBay’s SVP of Payments, “Apple Pay is one of the most ubiquitous forms of payments, and provides users with an easy, fast and secure way to pay. Offering Apple Pay as a form of payment on eBay is the first step in providing more choice and flexibility in payment options to our tens of millions of buyers.”

We’re not entirely sure about that first statement, though: ubiquitous, Apple Pay is not.

Apple isn’t eBay’s only new friendship of the week. Concurrent with the Apple Pay announcement, eBay noted that it will be teaming up with Square to offer financing services for its marketplace sellers. The new deal with Square Capital will allow sellers on eBay to apply for loans from $500 to $100,000.

And speaking of financing…

Theranos Settles With Its Investors

Among the more famous pieces of advice Carnegie gave in his book, the only way to win a fight it to avoid a fight. Fights, he noted, have no winners. This was a chapter that Theranos must have read when it decided to end its protracted legal battle and settle with its investors.

According to Bloomberg, the settlement includes Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes and former Theranos President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. The suit has been ongoing for the last two years or so, though it became apparently by late 2017 that — win, lose or draw  Theranos wasn’t going to leave much behind for its investors to recover.

By the end of last year, Theranos was near bankruptcy and had survived on a loan secured by the value of its patents. Those patents and their value are now in question as well.

In June, Holmes was indicted on criminal wire fraud charges, though the company confirmed that Holmes would remain chairman of the Theranos board despite the charges. Balwani was also included in that indictment. The two former executives appeared in California court to be arraigned on two counts of conspiracy to commit the aforementioned fraud and nine counts of actual wire fraud.

That suit follows the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing a separate civil lawsuit against Theranos, alleging “massive fraud” of the company. The scope of the fraud? According to the SEC, Theranos raised more than $700 million from investors over a two-year period that ended in 2015. The SEC contends that investors were deeply misled about the merits of the product.

Hence, the curse of blindly following the cool kids.

That suit and its settlement saw Holmes surrender 19 million shares that she’d received from the firm, conceding to a half-million dollar fine and agreeing to not serve as an officer or director of a public company for at least 10 years. The terms of the newest settlement are, as of yet, undisclosed.

What did we learn this week? Making friends particularly new friends can be enriching in both life and business. Making enemies, on the other hand? That gets expensive quickly, especially when one never wanted to be their friend, but then tries to convince the enemy later that they really did.