Tag Archive | "Retail"

Microsoft Ventures Into Checkout-Free Retail, Takes on Amazon

Microsoft is reportedly taking on Amazon, as the company ventures into retail territory. The company is said to be looking into checkout-free shopping, an innovation that Amazon has pioneered.

Reuters reported that at least six people have talked to them about Microsoft developing technology that will give retail companies the option to have cashier and checkout-free shops. Microsoft is said to have partnered with fellow Redmond-based company AVA Retail. The company develops systems that can collate information about shoppers. This time around, it will be working with the renowned software company on innovations that could be used on brick-and-mortar stores.

Interestingly, Microsoft will not be installing said technology in their own stores. According to the sources, it has instead reached out to Walmart about the possibility of a joint effort. If this pushes through, the two companies could give Amazon a run for its money.

Microsoft is said to have around 10 to 15 employees working on researching and developing their new retail technology. There aren’t a lot of concrete details at the moment, but one report said the research team has explored using cameras attached to shopping carts as a means to track the customer’s purchases.

If successful, this could potentially do away with the need for cashiers. It also means a store won’t need to put up hundreds of cameras the way that the Amazon Go pilot store did.

This approach suggests that Microsoft is looking to offer retailers a more cost-effective system. Stepping into the checkout-free store arena would also pit the software company against retail giant Amazon. Heated competition between the two is nothing new. Microsoft’s Azure cloud service is second only to Amazon’s AWS.

Walmart has declined to comment on the news and a Microsoft spokesman said the company “does not comment on rumors or speculations.”

There’s no question that Amazon leads the way when it comes to changing the face of retail. If Microsoft or other businesses want to get ahead of the company, or at least be on the same standing as Amazon, they better get a move on.

Amazon has already opened to the public its first cashier-less convenience store, Amazon Go, in Seattle early this year. Shoppers entering the store are required to swipe an app which enables computer-vision technology to monitor and track them and their purchases as they walk around the store. Once done with their shopping, consumers simply walk out and their purchases are charged via their Amazon app.

[Featured image via Pixabay]

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Can Google Express help traditional retail level the playing field with Amazon?

The enemy of my enemy is my friend for Google and major retail partners.

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Latest Chart Shows How Quickly Amazon is “Eating the Retail World”

CNBC is reporting that MKM Partners analyst Rob Sanderson’s latest chart shows a striking gap that has widened between Amazon and store-based retailers (Wal-Mart, Taraget, Costco, Home Depot, etc.) over the past year. While Amazon still only boasts a 5 percent share of total retail sales, excluding food, across the country, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Sanderson’s chart shows Amazon, in the categories that the company serves, growing its market share, as brick-and-mortar retail sales are on the decline.

The median growth for what MKM Partners calls the top-20 U.S. retailers was 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, 0.8 percent during the first quarter of 2017, and is forecast to decline by 0.2 percent in the second quarter this year, the firm said.

Notice how the gap completely shifted starting from 2013.

The latest hike in Amazon’s share price is “becoming large enough to make an impact,” Sanderson wrote. “This [trend] does not end well for traditional retailers and many will go the way of Borders and Circuit City, leaders in the first two large categories disrupted by Amazon.com.”

Sanderson states simply that Amazon is the “best long-term growth story available to investors today”

With an Amazon-Whole Foods deal in the making, pressure is about to hit traditional grocers head-on, as an internet giant takes on the “high-frequency” fresh foods market, MKM Partners added. “[P]ressures on traditional retailers will only get worse.”

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Shopify Sees Future of eCommerce in Retail

“Retail is not the same. Shopify is enabling merchants to do everything, from anywhere.”
- Lynsey Thorton, Shopify Director of User Experience Design at Unite 2017 Conference

Shopify’s newest product announcement by Satish Kanwar, VP of Product, can be described as their certainty of eCommerce and retail becoming one. The Chip & Swipe Reader will boost in-person selling for the eCommerce platform’s over 375,000 partner shopping sites:

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eBay CEO: We’re Seeing The End of Retail As We Know It

UPDATE: After years of huge losses and store closings, Sears warned investors that it has “substantial doubt” it will stay in business. Sears also owns Kmart.

As noted here recently, the well-established retail giants have seen significant loses the past few years. This downward trend hit a breaking point at the close of the holiday shopping season in a way that will very likely alter the retail industry this year and forever.

“The fourth quarter of last holiday season was a really important moment,” eBay CEO Devin Wenig told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” from the Shoptalk Conference in Las Vegas. “I think it was an inflection point where that was the end of retail as we know it. And I do think the restructuring of this industry is going to happen faster than a lot of people think…. the fourth quarter is the moment that people will look back on and say, ‘That’s when the current structure of the industry was irretrievable.’”

Wening continues, “I’m not sure all the retailers are going to even make it, in a healthy economy, to this holiday season,” Wenig said. “And I do think you are going to see drastic changes in store footprints and what stores do.”

While the eCommerce industry saw another record holiday shopping season with gains over the previous year, retailers including JCPenny, Macy’s, HHGregg and Sears have announced a large number of stores closings.

Wenig said he doesn’t think stores are completely going away, but that stores must be a “mini distribution center” to succeed.

“I think the complete death of stores has been greatly exaggerated,” Wenig said. “The consumer wants stores. The entire world will not be online. But there are both capacity and utility issues in retail. People don’t like poor store experiences.”

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eCommerce Has Just Conquered Another Retail Giant

Due to what has been coined as The Amazon Effect, 61 year old electronic retail behemoth H.H. Gregg is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week. After announcing last week the closing 40% of it’s retail locations (88 mega-stores) and 3 distribution centers for profitability restructuring purposes, sources close to the matter said that the filing is days away.

As Nasdaq outlined this morning, HHGregg’s 24% sales plunge in the holiday quarter, compared to Amazon’s 22% rise, is yet another indicator of how Amazon’s multi-channel eCommerce strategy fits perfectly into consumers’ needs and spending habits.

This has especially proven true in the area of shipping , where Amazon has turned what once was a long, tedious experience into a “click, buy and at your door” delightful whirlwind.

More importantly, this eCommerce uptick is in no way exclusive to Amazon, who is seen as a key indicator in the industry. eCommerce websites of all shapes and sizes have tremendously improved the customer experience. There is absolutely no sign that the eCommerce industry is even close to slowing down. As the brick and mortars continue to clunk along, while also balancing low, competitive profits margins, customers will continue choosing options that generally take less time and effort while also being provided a smooth, personalized digital experience. And when that service includes swift delivery to your home, it’s harder to convince customers to jump in their cars and hunt down a parking spot at the suburban mall or on Main Street. But if this retail/eTail trend continues, finding that parking spot won’t be too difficult.

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Facebook Announces Inventory-Smart Dynamic Ads for Nearby Retail

Facebook is getting better at competing for brick & mortar ad dollars, announcing an ability to tie a retailers inventory into their product ads, so that they aren’t advertising out of stock items. Very smart and necessary to compete with Google for online retail ad dollars.

Just this past June, Facebook added features to track in-store purchases prompted by a retailers Facebook ads. We wrote at the time:

This is the holy grail for convincing brick and mortar advertisers that Facebook is an effective platform to drive in-store business, assuming the data shows their advertising working. It could also be Facebook’s achilles hill if advertisers discover that their ads aren’t driving business.

Tying ads to inventory is a way for Facebook to increase click to conversion percentages. This lowers a marketers ad cost per sale, and is an especially important metric which retailers use when considering their ads effectiveness.

The inventory feature is targeted toward large retailers like JC Penny, Nike and Coach, of which many have been insisting on connecting their local inventory availability before they make large Facebook marketing commitments. Facebook is still in the very early stages of their attempt to make their platform a local retail sales channel.

Facebook, with this new feature, gives retailers the ability to create customize creative for every store location based on local product availability, pricing or promotions. This is a major step toward attracting the big brands and is a continuation of where they see most of their ad revenue coming from in the future.

Consumers are now using their mobile phones to price check, look for coupons and compare products while in the store and they are also continuing to engage in social media. Facebook aims to take advantage of this and over time change the mind-set of their users about Facebook, making it about both social exchange and ecommerce and in-effect combining the two.

“If a fashion retailer wishes to advertise a nationwide sales event happening at every store, dynamic ads for retail will only showcase products that are in-stock at a nearby store and display the price found at that location,” said Facebook in a blog announcement of this feature. “As the ads are linked to the local product catalog, if a product sells out in one store the campaign automatically adjusts so that people in that region will no longer see it advertised. Product selection for each ad can be optimized based on people’s online and mobile shopping behavior.”


Facebook describes their dynamic retail ads this way:

  • Local availability: An availability indicator on the ad shows people that a product is available at a store near them, and the store locator makes it easy for people to get directions.
  • Product summaries: Advertisers can use Facebook-hosted product summaries to give potential shoppers the information they need without leaving the Facebook app.
  • Different actions: Product summaries include ways for people to take actions like contacting the nearest store, buying online, or saving the product for future reference.
  • Similar products: Similar products available at the nearest store are featured so people can browse the aisles right from their phone.
  • Facebook says that they are currently testing dynamic ads for retail with advertisers including Abercrombie & Fitch, Argos, Macy’s, Pottery Barn and Target. They will be expanding to more retailers in the coming weeks.

    “Extending the power of Facebook’s dynamic ads to in-store inventory opens up exciting new possibilities for Macy’s as an omni-channel retailer,” says Serena Potter, Group Vice President Digital Media Strategy at Macy’s. “We were excited to be the first up and running with Facebook’s dynamic ads for retail as it truly allows us to personalize product ads based on online behavior and inventory at the nearest Macy’s store. This bridges our online and offline channels to deliver a more engaging, relevant, and useful experience to shoppers.”

    Facebook Also Introduces Store Visits Objective Options

    “We’re also introducing our first marketing objective built specifically for advertisers to drive more people to their stores or business locations,” noted Facebook. “The store visits objective builds on the geo-targeting and ad format features of the local awareness ad solution and introduces store visits as the primary reporting metric and a new optimization model.”

    They have added features to let retail brick & mortar advertisers add an objective defined by the marketer in order make their marketing more efficient. They said that Albertsons grocery store used this in beta tests that decreases their cost-per-store-visit by 40 percent.

    Also added were improvements to geo-targeting, where advertisers can now define a geo radius based on population density and desired reach.

    All of these features are only available in mobile Facebook advertising.

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    SearchCap: Travel & retail report, first page bids & more

    Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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    92 Percent of retail purchases are still happening offline. Why?

    Bloomberg black friday 2013The internet is the world’s biggest shopping mall and it never closes. You can shop anytime of the day or night, 365 days a year. You can find almost anything you can think of (and millions of things you never dreamed of.) You can even sip your coffee while you’re shopping without getting the evil eye from a stuffy salesman. Shopping paradise!

    And yet 92% of all retail purchases come from a brick and mortar store. Hard to believe when you hear all the hype about online shopping. You don’t have to be in the business to see it. Just watch the news on Black Friday and you’ll hear all about it. Last year, Black Friday online spending increased 15% setting a new dollar record of $ 1.2 billion. That’s huge. . . . ish but it’s not even close to what’s being spent in the stores.

    Why aren’t more people buying more things online? Ripen eCommerce asked 1235 people that question and here’s what they came up with:


    Two issues surfaced above all others. 30.8% want to see or feel an item before buying it. 29.9% like the instant gratification of buying in store.

    The urge to see, feel and try on an item before buying is a tough one to overcome online. Until we come up with a way to add texture to the internet, you’re going to have to settle for creative and detailed descriptions. And pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

    The other option is to sell items customers can’t easily find in stores. This is why handmade marketplaces like Etsy and Daily Tee sites like TeeFury do so well. If you like what you see, you have no choice. You have to buy it online.

    Instant gratification is another toughie. Amazon deals with this issue buy pre-selling hot items then shipping them prior to the release date so they actually arrive on the release date. It’s tricky but it’s the only way they’re going to stop people from running to the local bookstore or Walmart to grab a hot item on the release day. (Amazon just gave Kindle Direct Publishers the ability to pre-sell ebooks, too.)

    16.9% of people don’t shop online because they’re concerned about privacy. They don’t want anyone tracking their purchases and they’re worried about misuse of credit card and other personal data. The best way to combat this is with transparency and reassurance. Allow customers to buy without storing their information. Don’t ask for more information than you really need and please, please, please stop asking customers to create an account just to take a look at what you have to offer. It’s insane.

    Finally, 14.4% of customers shop in-store to avoid paying for shipping. You can combat this problem by offering a variety of reasonable shipping options. REASONABLE. I was going to buy a fun bar of soap at an online store until I saw $ 8.95 shipping. Really? Where’s it coming from? France? I ship products everyday and I know it doesn’t cost $ 8.95 to ship a bar of soap.

    Marketers, it’s time to overcome the objections. What can you do to convince these offline shoppers that online is the better way?


    Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

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    Google Lucky Number 7: Differences In New Google SERP Across Retail, Finance & Technology

    What do 26,000 keywords tell us about the latest Google 7 change and the new Google SERP? As the Google SERP continues to evolve and brands aim to increase their control over search results, the emergence of a new type of SERP has interesting implications for SEO Managers. Since August, Google has…

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