Walmart Propels Its Digital Future With Walmart+ and TikTok

With its new deal to invest in TikTok (with Oracle), Walmart is taking big steps to create a transformative digital-centric future and a company that can successfully compete with its closest rival, Amazon. One analyst predicted the TikTok deal could “redefine retail” and Cowen retail analyst Oliver Chen called it a “bigger-picture opportunity.” Although it’s not yet clear what Walmart will do with TikTok, it now has another way to engage with consumers not actively shopping online, perhaps gathering data or serving ads. Continue reading Walmart Propels Its Digital Future With Walmart+ and TikTok

Amazon’s Small Hub Plan Threatens UPS, U.S. Postal Service

As the holiday season looms, Amazon plans to launch 1,000 small delivery hubs throughout the U.S., according to sources. With COVID-19, online orders soared, and Amazon was not capable of meeting its two-day delivery pledge. The company hired 175,000 new workers, which has helped clear the delivery pipeline, but wants to ensure that Amazon Prime subscribers can get as many products as possible on the same day. Its rivals Walmart and Target are able to speed deliveries due to their thousands of well-located stores. Continue reading Amazon’s Small Hub Plan Threatens UPS, U.S. Postal Service

Amazon Hires, Builds and Grows During the COVID Pandemic

In August and September, Amazon revealed plans to hire 20,000 more employees in seven cities in the U.S. and the UK. The massive e-commerce company has seen tremendous growth during the coronavirus pandemic as have other retailers including Walmart, Target and Instacart. Amazon, which continues to allow employees who can work from home to do so until January 8, is continually recruiting hourly positions at warehouses. Although it pays a minimum of $15 an hour, Amazon no longer provides incentive pay or stock for hourly workers. Continue reading Amazon Hires, Builds and Grows During the COVID Pandemic

Some States Say Amazon Is Liable for Third-Party Products

When Angela Bolger’s laptop caught fire due to a replacement battery she bought on Amazon, she suffered third-degree burns and filed a lawsuit against the popular e-commerce site. Amazon responded by providing a refund for the battery. Until recently, Amazon has successfully fought off such liability suits. The stakes are high since almost 60 percent of all physical goods on its site now come from third-party sellers. The courts have traditionally sided with Amazon, but recent cases from a few states are changing that trend. Continue reading Some States Say Amazon Is Liable for Third-Party Products

Amazon Builds Mammoth Facility in India, Plans U.S. Growth

Amazon built its largest office building in the world in Hyderabad, a city of 10 million in southern India also known as Asia’s Silicon Valley. Amazon spokesperson Minari Shah said, “Hyderabad is a known software tech talent center, and the government has been an enabler for us to have a campus this size.” Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft also have bases in that city. In the United States, Amazon said it will hire 3,500 white-collar employees, including 2,000 in New York, continuing with plans it made prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Continue reading Amazon Builds Mammoth Facility in India, Plans U.S. Growth

Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

European Commission executive vice president in charge of competition Margrethe Vestager is ramping up her scrutiny of U.S. tech giants, including Apple and Amazon. She’s currently targeting Apple’s “gatekeeper” position with third-party apps and Apple Pay. She is also looking more closely at Amazon’s position in online retail. Bloomberg Intelligence antitrust analyst Aitor Ortiz, however, noted that the $9 billion fine she levied against Google didn’t stop the tech giant from continuing to dominate search. The fines “don’t really have a deterrent effect,” he concluded. Continue reading Apple is Next Target of European Commission Investigations

Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

According to a review by ProPublica, tech giant Amazon has begun to reserve the best placement in search results for its own products. Brands have been able to bid on search terms in order to gain visible listings at the top of the Amazon product search results. They can still bid on such placements, which also earns them a “sponsored” tag. But ProPublica and consultants found that, during the coronavirus pandemic, the company made the top left position on the first page unavailable to anything other than its own private-label products. Continue reading Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

Pinterest Adds Today Tab for Topics, Shop Tab for Products

Pinterest, the website and mobile app that describes itself as a “visual discovery engine,” showcased “Today,” a tab on the user’s Pinterest home page that features topics and ideas curated by Pinterest staff and trending pins selected by algorithms. “Today” is a response to changing customer behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. The platform’s global monthly active users reached 367+ million, up from about 300 million last September. During the last few months, searches and boards have both leapt up 60 percent compared to last year. Continue reading Pinterest Adds Today Tab for Topics, Shop Tab for Products

Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jeff Teper wants Microsoft Teams — the company’s fastest growing business app — to overtake Windows, currently on 1+ billion active devices. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams is experiencing significant growth, with 75 million daily active users as of April 29, a 70 percent leap in six weeks. In April, 200+ million participants used Teams in a single day. Meanwhile, Microsoft is still promoting Skype, which in March passed 40 million daily active users (up 70 percent from the previous year), but for a different customer base. Continue reading Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced updates to Shops, a new version of an existing Facebook feature that lets retailers upload product catalogs to their Facebook page or Instagram profile. Users can access Shops on the retailer’s page or, by clicking on an ad, will land on the retailer’s Facebook-located Shop. Zuckerberg stated that Shops will eventually be available on Messenger and WhatsApp as well. The company relies on several AI systems, including GrokNet, which can “segment, detect and classify images.” Continue reading E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

NBCU’s Fandango Purchases Streaming Video Service Vudu

Following the soft launch of its Peacock streaming service to Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, NBCUniversal is bringing another streamer into the fold, this time to expand its Fandango offerings. Movie ticket seller Fandango has acquired digital movie and TV streaming platform Vudu from retail giant Walmart, with plans to merge it with digital marketplace FandangoNOW. According to Walmart, Vudu is available on more than 100 million devices, while its mobile app has more than 14 million downloads.  Continue reading NBCU’s Fandango Purchases Streaming Video Service Vudu

Apple Closes its Retail Stores, Vets Apps Related to COVID-19

Due to the coronavirus, Apple closed its retail stores outside of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The move will shutter 450 stores in 21 countries until March 27. Apple chief executive Tim Cook noted that, “the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance.” Employees of the stores will continue to be paid. The company is also paying special attention to apps related to the coronavirus, to weed out misinformation and inappropriate content. Continue reading Apple Closes its Retail Stores, Vets Apps Related to COVID-19

Amazon Debuts Unit to Sell Its Cashierless Store Technology

On Monday, Amazon will introduce a new business unit, Just Walk Out, to sell the technology that makes its Amazon Go cashierless convenience stores possible, with a website launching on the same day. The company said it already has several signed deals, but would not be more specific. According to Loup Ventures, the market for retail stores without cashiers could grow to $50 billion. As Amazon vice president of physical retail/technology Dilip Kumar put it, “Do customers like standing in lines?” Continue reading Amazon Debuts Unit to Sell Its Cashierless Store Technology

Walmart Tests Paid Membership Program, Vying with Amazon

Walmart is preparing to publicly test a paid membership program, dubbed Walmart+, to complete with Amazon Prime. According to eMarketer, Walmart accounts for five percent of all U.S. online retail sales versus Amazon’s 40 percent. Currently, more than half of Walmart’s top spenders are also Amazon Prime members. To distinguish itself from Prime, Walmart plans to offer features that Amazon cannot, such as text messaging to place grocery orders. Walmart+ is expected to launch as a rebrand of the company’s Delivery Unlimited service. Continue reading Walmart Tests Paid Membership Program, Vying with Amazon

Robots Look Friendly But Surveil, Manage Staff in Workplaces

Humans fear the very real possibility of robots replacing them in work environments, so manufacturers are doubling down on designing those robots to look friendly rather than threatening. As University of Central Florida professor Peter Hancock puts it, “it’s like Mary Poppins … a spoonful of sugar makes the robots go down.” Even if they don’t replace humans, robots already in the workplace are working in management, tracking workers’ every move, telling them to work faster, and even docking their pay. Continue reading Robots Look Friendly But Surveil, Manage Staff in Workplaces

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