Tag Archive | "Amazon"

Walmart Competes Against Amazon for Flipkart Buy-In, $12 Billion Offered for Controlling Stake

US companies Walmart and Amazon are competing to acquire a controlling stake in Flipkart, India’s leading eCommerce company. Walmart has completed an in-depth due diligence on its proposed majority ownership in the Indian firm. However, rival Amazon also wants to put in a bid and offers a ‘breakup fee’ of $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion, a penalty to be paid in case the deal fails to proceed.

Unnamed sources revealed that Walmart is willing to pay $ 10 billion to $ 12 billion for a controlling stake of 51 percent or more, valuing Flipkart at roughly $ 20 billion. But the deal isn’t sealed yet because Amazon is reportedly interested as well.

Insiders privy to the matter disclosed that Flipkart’s board recently discussed the competing proposals. They seem to agree that Walmart’s offer is better since the US retailer will face fewer regulatory hurdles. On the other hand, Amazon is considered as Flipkart’s primary competitor. It will face tighter scrutiny for possible monopoly since both companies control the majority of India’s online retail market.

Founded by two former Amazon employees, Flipkart is taking on the eCommerce giant to have a piece of India’s expanding online retail market. According to Morgan Stanley estimates, eCommerce in the country is predicted to grow annually by 30 percent and will be worth $ 200 billion by 2026.

Because of its vast potential, Amazon is investing heavily in the emerging market. The eCommerce giant has spent $ 5 billion for its India operations but is losing to homegrown startups like Flipkart that know the market well.

Flipkart announced recent plans to construct a 4.5 million sq. ft. logistics facility in Southern India. This is significantly bigger than Amazon’s largest warehouse measuring 400,000-sq. ft. in the country. But the US online retailer also has 62 fulfillment centers and delivery stations located all over India.

Walmart’s entry will give the startup its much-needed funds to compete head-on with Amazon. Flipkart will also benefit from the retailer’s unparalleled experience in logistics and supply chain management.

The largest US retailer’s stake in Flipkart will depend on which of its shareholders are willing to sell. SoftBank, Tiger Global, and Naspers are just some of its largest investors. Insiders said that SoftBank prefers a deal with Amazon because of its success in online commerce. Tiger and Naspers will likely sell their holdings to Walmart for the right price, according to sources.

As of writing, Walmart, Amazon, and Flipkart have declined to comment on the matter.

[Featured image via Flipkart website]

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Amazon Gets Patent for Delivery Drones with Gesture and Voice Recognition

Amazon has obtained approval on a new patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for a delivery drone that can respond to human gestures and voices on Tuesday.

The patent, filed in July 2016 and published recently, is in line with the company’s goal to maintain a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that will rapidly deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. Through visual cues, voice commands, and a person’s gestures, the drone can establish its flight path, release the package, or ask humans about the delivery.

Patent illustration for Amazon drone

The document included several illustrations of the design, one of which shows the delivery drone and a man outside his home. He was wildly flailing his arms in what Amazon called an “unwelcoming manner,” a gesture as if to shoo away the drone overhead. A blank voice bubble suggests possible voice commands for the drone.

A diagram of the drone’s communication system includes speakers and microphones, as well as navigation components like depth sensors and cameras to detect visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light. Through its array of sensors, the delivery drone would recognize audible and visible gestures and react accordingly.

The patent also detailed the steps a drone would take when it reads body language—thanks to its human gestures database—as it delivers the package. Once it’s clear to deliver, the drone releases the parcels from the air or lands on a certain spot to place the package. It would be able to verify the recipient’s identity via an app, speech recognition, or remote operator.

Moreover, the delivery drone can add new movements to its database to improve the accuracy of its gesture-recognition system. “In some examples, when in the learning context, a human operator may interact with the UAV in order to ‘teach’ the UAV how to react given certain gestures, circumstances, and the like,” the patent stated.

The eCommerce giant has declined to comment on the gesture-recognition concept, but this isn’t the first time that Amazon has applied for something this ambitious. Since announcing plans to design an air delivery service, the company filed patents for mobile flying warehouses by using airships and self-destructing drones.  

[Featured image via Amazon]

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Amazon is Now Worth More Than Microsoft, Becomes the World’s Third Most Valuable Company

The race in becoming the first company to reach the trillion dollar mark in terms of market capitalization is still ongoing. However, Amazon is a strong contender as its long-running market rally continues unabated. Thanks to a sharp rise in its company’s shares on Wednesday, Amazon became the world’s third most valuable company, overtaking Microsoft for the first time.

Amazon shares surged by 2.6 percent on Wednesday—an increase of $ 36.54 a share in just a single day of trading. Closing at $ 1,451.05 per share, the online retail giant is now valued at $ 702.5 billion. Its market value went up by $ 17.69 from the previous day’s close.

While Microsoft managed to post some gains on the same day, it was not enough to offset Amazon’s increase. The software giant’s stock rose by 1.6 percent or $ 1.40 per share, translating to an increase in total market cap by $ 10.78 billion. The company is now valued at $ 699.22 billion on Wednesday’s close.

At the moment, only two companies are worth more the Amazon. Gadget maker Apple is still number one with a market valuation of $ 849.2 billion. Meanwhile, Google’s parent firm Alphabet is in the second spot currently valued at $ 746 billion.

Amazon continues to dazzle investors and has managed to post a 73 percent increase in the past year. As a result, CEO Jeff Bezos overtook Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as the world’s richest person. Microsoft’s 41 percent increase in the past 12 months was not enough to offset the online retailer’s meteoric rise.

[Featured image via Amazon]

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Amazon Exceeds Analyst Predictions, Posts its Highest Q4 Profits Ever

Buoyed by strong holiday sales and the robust performance of its cloud computing division, Amazon exceeded previous expectations set by analysts for its fourth quarter performance. The eCommerce giant posted a staggering $ 60.5 billion in revenue, surpassing Wall Street estimates which projected its revenues for the period to only reach $ 59.83 billion.

For the fourth quarter last year, Amazon posted a net profit of $ 1.9 billion, which is a record for the company. By comparison, the 2017 Q4 profit is more than double its net profit for the same period the previous year.

However, Amazon’s profits got a big boost from a tax benefit. The company received a provisional $ 789 million boost from a new tax law passed in December.

In addition, the strong performance of its cloud computing business Amazon Web Services (AWS) is also a contributory factor to its record performance. AWS’s $ 5.11 billion revenue for the same period likewise defied analysts’ expectations, which was only anticipated to reach $ 4.97 billion.

The biggest factor to Amazon’s stratospheric Q4 performance still comes from holiday shopping especially during the period starting on the Thanksgiving holiday until New Year. Pushed by the holiday shopping rush, Amazon’s sales rose to $ 60.5 billion or a 38 percent increase from the year-ago level.

According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the company’s success is, in large part, a result of its AI-powered digital assistant Alexa. In fact, there are indications that Amazon could be investing more in the technology given its initial success.

“Our 2017 projections for Alexa were very optimistic, and we far exceeded them. We don’t see positive surprises of this magnitude very often—expect us to double down,” Bezos said in a statement.

For its 2017 full year performance, Amazon posted a 31 percent rise in sales with its 2017 full year revenue of $ 177.9 billion, as compared to its 2016 sales of only $ 136 billion. However, its operating profit is only $ 4.1 billion, a 2 percent decrease from the previous year due to reinvestments.

Wall Street still remains overwhelmingly positive on Amazon’s future prospects. Recently, its stock rose by 70 percent which resulted in Jeff Bezos overthrowing Bill Gates as the world’s richest man.

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Amazon Web services Acquires Cybersecurity Startup Sqrrl

Cybersecurity will always remain a big issue that computing companies such as Amazon Web Services will have to address every time they court potential clients. After all, these clients will want assurance that their sensitive data will remain secure when stored off premises.

With the discovery of the decades-old system flaws like Spectre and Meltdown, assuring clients on the safety of their data is even more challenging for players in the cloud computing business. However, it appears that AWS has this issue already covered. The tech giant recently acquired Sqrrl, a cybersecurity firm with ties to the master of cybersecurity itself —the NSA.

Rumors of the deal started circulating a few months ago that Amazon was reportedly eyeing to the startup, which specializes in advanced computer threat prevention and detection. However, the acquisition has now been confirmed by Sqrrl CEO Mark Terenzoni in a post made on the company’s website.

“We’ve reached another milestone in our journey!,” Terenzoni announced in the post. “We’re thrilled to share that Sqrrl has been acquired by Amazon. We will be joining the Amazon Web Services family, and we’re looking forward to working together on customer offerings for the future.”

At the moment, details of the deal are not yet available to the public. However, previous reports place the deal’s price tag to be around $ 40 million.

Of course, such a figure is not that much of a big deal to AWS who is still the leader in cloud computing. In the third quarter of 2017 alone, AWS posted a staggering $ 1.17 billion income from the $ 4.58 billion it generated in revenues.

Interestingly, the Sqrrl deal comes shortly after AWS announced plans to pick up more business from the U.S. intelligence agencies. In fact, the company revealed that it will be forming a “secret” region of data centers specifically to handle the cloud computing needs of these agencies.

Sqrrl already has ties with the NSA that date back to 2011. In 2012, it handled NSA’s open-source database software called Accumulo.

[Featured image via Amazon Web Services]

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5 Ways Retailers Can Beat Amazon This Holiday Season

There’s no denying that when it comes to holiday shopping, Amazon is the company to beat. The past few years saw the retail giant’s sales figures going up, especially during the holidays, as thousands of consumers opt to shop online because of convenience. As a matter of fact, the internet retailer accounted for 33.8% of online visits during the last two months of 2016.

While retailers and small businesses can’t hope to match Amazon’s numbers this year, they can still do something to beat it at its own game. Here are ways that retailers can get a leg up on Amazon:

Capture Consumers Attention During Vital Shopping Days

Amazon will always be in the minds of countless shoppers during the holiday season, mainly because of convenience and fast delivery. So how can retailers compete with this? By finding a way to capture the consumer’s attention and imagination. One of the best ways to do this is to come up with a marketing campaign that highlights the company’s values in order to target loyal and high-converting clients.

Image result for #optoutside

Companies like REI did this by closing its doors on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and encouraging customers to spend the day outside instead with its #optoutside campaign. The movement inspired state parks to waive their entry fees and saw companies like Subaru and Outdoor Research teaming up REI to promote outdoor recreation. And even though REI closed its doors on Black Friday, the campaign generated a 26% boost in online traffic on that day.

Treat Each Shopper as a Unique Individual

One of Amazon’s weaknesses is its one-size-fits-all approach to its consumers. This means everyone gets the same deals and prices. But retailers can go in the opposite direction and show consumers that their unique and individual needs are taken seriously. They can come up with customized offers for different types of shoppers, like loyal consumers, senior shoppers or first-time buyers. Retailers can also ensure that the content and offers in their email ads are designed for each particular group of shoppers.

Streamline Your Shopping Cart

There’s no question that the ease that someone can order from Amazon is a contributing factor to its popularity. In order to compete in the same league as Amazon, retailers should take a critical look at their shopping cart and see what their customers’ experience. They should pay particular attention to details like the number of steps it takes to fill their cart, the number of decisions that the customer must make during the checkout stage (ex. gift wrapping, shipping) and whether every step is necessary. Retailers should consider whether some steps can be streamlined by combining decisions and actions. After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than spending more than 10 minutes just trying to pay for something you want.

Offer Worry-Free Shipping and Returns

Free shipping is now the norm.While this might be a huge obstacle for some companies, there’s no denying that it’s what customers are now expecting from online retailers. There’s no better way to drive your customers to Amazon than by having high shipping costs during the holiday season. But aside from implementing this strategy, retailers should also ensure that they push this message to their consumers, like through the company’s homepage, pop-ups and social media ads. Promoting free shipping to your website’s visitors will also give them an additional incentive to browse through and hopefully purchase something.

Retailers should also take advantage of Amazon’s less than stellar reputation when it comes to returns. Designing a system where shipping and returns won’t become a thorn on the shopper’s mind will definitely give a retailer an edge over Amazon.

Provide Special Touches

Image result for gift wrapping

Customers will definitely love the special touches that companies offer, particularly during the busy holiday season. A simple gift-wrapping service or a program for storing items purchased ahead of time and to be delivered close to the holidays will be appreciated. Knowing that the company has taken the time to make life easier during this busy season will be more than enough to keep them coming back.

Amazon might be an eCommerce behemoth, but small retailers can still hold their own against it. Remember that the best way to compete with such a big company is to look at the details it neglects and to give customers a truly personalized experience.   

[Featured image via Pixabay]

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Watch Videos of the Top Amazon HQ2 Bids

Amazon’s decision to build a second headquarter has resulted in a bidding frenzy, with the company amassing 238 proposals.

Bidders for the project come from at least 43 states, with the Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia also showing interest. Three Mexican states and seven Canadian provinces also tendered their bid. Selection for Amazon’s second headquarters campus (HQ2) will be made next year.

Amazon has set some pretty high standards for the project though. The company described their ideal location to be in a city with at least a million citizens and is near an international airport. The location should also have an environment that’s stable and business-friendly.

The promise that the winning state’s local economy will receive a major boost and secure as much as 50,000 high-paying jobs have pushed city administrators to put on their thinking caps. The submitted video proposals range from the creatively brilliant to the downright strange but inventive. Here are some of the more memorable ones:

Talent and Diversity in Philly

There’s no denying that Philadelphia is one of the most diverse regions and the city is proud of it. Its proposal to Amazon definitely shows this as its pitch focused on the city’s deep cultural diversity. The clip also aimed for a human element as it showcased vital business and community leaders to emphasize local talent.

Vibrant Las Vegas

The city’s 5-minute pitch is the longest video proposal Amazon has received. It comes as no surprise though as Las Vegas boasts of a dizzying range of industries and activities. The resulting proposal is an overwhelming barrage of facts and videos crammed in one clip.

Moving to Detroit

Detroit’s Move Here pitch is one of the more compelling proposals of the lot. The video’s clean and crisp visuals and lyrical narration tugs at the heartstrings and celebrate the city’s tenacity in climbing back to greatness.

It’s the Bottom Line for Boston

No one can claim to be surprised that Boston opted to forgo the frills and just state the facts. The city’s video pitch emphasized how the region’s infrastructure would be beneficial to Amazon. The sleek but short clip underlined key points like the city’s public transportation and tracts of open land.

Forging Ahead in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is another city that opted to go for realism and facts instead of flowery statements and visuals. The city’s video pitch highlighted Pennsylvania’s tenacity and strength, which can be seen in its companies to its workers. The short clip unabashedly admits to the city falling on hard times and how it’s now clawing back up, thanks to technology. It’s a move and a mindset that the e-commerce icon would no doubt appreciate.

Arizona’s Prickly Proposal

Of course, there was no dearth of bewildering proposals as well. Tucson decided that the best way to capture Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ attention was to go big. It did so by sending Amazon a 21-foot saguaro cactus. A representative of Arizona’s main economic agency, Sun Corridor, explained the massive cactus was a symbol of the long-term growth the company can enjoy if it chooses to build HQ2 in the state.

A City Called Amazon

Stonecrest, Georgia is pulling all stops in its bid to convince the company to build HQ2 in the area. Stonecrest doesn’t meet one of the company’s key requirement – that of having more than a million citizens – but it’s not letting that detail stop it. Stonecrest’s City Council is hoping that the idea of renaming 345 acres of de-annexed land Amazon would be enough to catch Bezos’ interest.

It’s not surprising that cities are thinking outside the box. After all, Amazon will be investing $ 5 billion outright in the design and construction of its new headquarters. There’s also the possibility that the region will see the influx of tens of thousands of staff members. The company would also build its workforce from the area itself, a move that will provide employment opportunities for countless people.   

[Featured image via Amazon]

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Amazon Prime Now Offers Business Shipping

Amazon has rolled out a new paid membership program for businesses in the United States and Germany, a clear indication that the company now has its sights on corporate customers.

The program, dubbed Business Prime Shipping, extends Amazon Prime’s free, two-day shipping features to everyone with an Amazon Business account and allows them to purchase office supplies. Some sectors will undoubtedly see this new program as a threat to office supply shops likes Office Depot and Staples, retailers like Walmart and stores like Costco, which specializes in warehouse deals.

According to Amazon’s press release, the pricing for the new membership model is determined by the number of users on the business account. The base price starts at $ 499 for a company with about 10 users and $ 1,299 for businesses with 100 users. The most expensive is $ 10,099 for companies with more than 100 users.

Once a company signs up for the program, all the employees or users will be notified through email about the benefits they are entitled to. New users added to current Amazon Business accounts will also be automatically enlisted in the program.

Greg Greeley, VP of Amazon Prime, said the company is excited to introduce the new shipping program and described it as combining the vast selection of products open to Amazon Business clients with the convenience and speed that Prime is famous for. He also assured customers that the company would keep innovating to ensure easier business purchasing.

Amazon Business was launched in the US in 2015 and was later introduced to countries like Germany and the United Kingdom. The service was recently expanded to include Japan and India.

Aside from the usual benefits offered to Prime subscribers, Amazon Business provides other features big businesses need, like being able to compare offers between sellers, exclusive pricing on more than 5 million items, bulk discounts, integration with 30 or more purchasing systems, and reporting and analytics.

Amazon did not reveal when the new shipping program will expand beyond Germany and the US.

Companies can also sign up to try out Amazon’s Business Prime Shipping for free for 30 days.     

[Features image via Amazon]

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Amazon Wants to Break into Your Home And Car For Package Delivery

While Amazon has already streamlined its delivery process to near perfection, reports of missing or stolen packages left at the recipient’s doorstep are still ongoing. The online retail giant is now considering a new strategy it hopes will eliminate the problem once and for all. In the works are plans that would allow Amazon to deliver packages right inside the recipient’s home or drop the packages inside their car’s trunks even when they’re not present.

According to CNBC, Amazon is now in advanced talks with Phrame to come up with a system to carry out the new plan. Phrame is a maker of “smart” license plate frames which comes with a compartment for storing keys that can be unlocked using a smartphone. Amazon wants to harness the technology even further by enlisting Phrame’s help in creating a system that will allow delivery personnel to access a car’s trunk after remote authorization by its owner.

Aside from trunk deliveries, Amazon is said to be also exploring the possibility of some type of a smart doorbell service. According to Engadget, the company partnered with August, a San Francisco-based smart lock maker and Garageio, an Ohio-based smart home garage door firm, to develop a way to grant delivery drivers temporary access to a recipient’s home to drop off packages inside.

It is still unclear just how keen Amazon is on exploring the two options since CNBC’s report merely cited an unnamed source who has knowledge of the deal. According to a survey by August, around 11 million U.S. households have reported their deliveries as stolen since 2016.

The problem isn’t confined to Amazon deliveries alone as other retailers are also trying to curb unattended package theft among their customers. Just last month, WalMart announced an in-home delivery service in partnership with August.

[Feauted Image by Amazon]

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Google, Target Form Alliance to Take on Amazon

A war among titans is silently brewing in the online retail arena. Recently, Google announced a partnership with Target, a move that could signal the start of Google’s challenge to eCommerce giant Amazon on its own turf.

Amazon is a serious threat not only to traditional retailers such as Target but to the search engine king Google as well. While Google might be the leader among search engines, many people are heading to Amazon first when looking for a particular product online. According to a Kenshoo survey, Google maintains a relatively small edge over Amazon when it comes product searches.

Which of these online sites are you likely to use to help you find product ideas and information before making a purchase? Facebook - 27%, Retail Websites - 36%, eBay - 38%, Amazon - 72%, Google - 85%

Image via Search Engine Land

In an effort to widen its lead on product searches, Google has set in motion plans to keep Amazon at bay. It has steadily formed alliances with a number of retailers, to collectively put up a stand against a common enemy.

Google announced on Thursday that it will be expanding its year-old delivery deal with Target. Previously available only in New York City and California, the two companies agreed to provide coverage nationwide, according to The Verge.  Shoppers can now order products carried by Target through Google Home smart speaker.

Of course, the arrangement between Google and Target is seen as a direct challenge to Amazon’s service that allows customers to easily order what they want from the online retailer using voice commands through Echo. Though it may be difficult for Google to fend off Amazon in the segment, the company hopes that by partnering with a host of well-known brick-and-mortar stores, people might start seeing Google Home as an alternative to Echo when it comes to voice-activated shopping. And with the growing number of stores joining the alliance, the breadth and variety of products available via the service might be able to compete with Amazon’s dazzling array of options.

Aside from Target, Google already has a similar partnership with Walmart.  In August, the company gained access “hundreds of thousands of items” being sold by the Walmart, Adweek reported. Google also managed to secure agreements with other big retailers such as Home Depot.

What is interesting to note is that the Google and Target deal will likely employ either augmented or virtual reality to lure customers into the service according to a Recode. The speculation is based on the press release given by Mike McNamara Target’s digital chief.

“Target and Google teams are working on … building experiences that digitally replicate the joy of shopping a Target store to discover stylish and affordable products,” McNamara previously announced. Of course, the details are yet to be revealed but it will be interesting to see just how the search giant utilizes an emerging technology like augmented reality to further its business objective.

[Featured Image by Mike Mozart/Flickr]

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