KidHQ: Walmart and Mattel Renting Space in Virtual Store

Online toy shopping is getting increasingly creative, as digital reality tools rise in popularity among retailers and consumers. Walmart and Mattel are now leasing “floors” at the BuzzFeed-produced interactive video experience KidHQ, a virtual reality store that allows users to browse products via choose-your-own-adventure-style videos. Both companies are looking ahead to the holiday season as they try to sell toys ranging from Barbies to “Frozen 2” merchandise, and are using interactive video to connect with consumers to do so. 

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Amazon Curated Annual Holiday Toy Guide Comes at a Cost

Amazon released its annual Holiday Toy Guide featuring more than 1,700 “curated” items. In order to be considered for a spot in the well-regarded guide, Amazon charges toy companies millions of dollars, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. Amazon sells “Holiday Toy List” sponsorships for up to $2 million, and “the more sponsors pay, the more products they can nominate to be on the list and the more prominently their own products will be featured on the popular website.” Amazon’s summer toy list charged lower rates.

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Walmart Aims to Take On Amazon by Subsidizing Vendors

It seems as though the holiday online shopping competition is already revving up. Walmart will soon release a new program to compete with the Amazon marketplace, which boasts 40 percent control of the U.S. e-commerce market. On Walmart’s own marketplace site, vendors pay a fee to list goods. Soon, the prices of some of these goods will temporarily lower, but the vendors will still be paid in full with Walmart subsidizing the difference, according to a description of the plan obtained and reported by Bloomberg

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AMC Joins the Streaming Business with On-Demand Movies

AMC Theatres is launching an iTunes-style digital video store today in the U.S. that will allow AMC Stubs members to rent or purchase movies for home viewing. Similar to the model introduced by Amazon, Apple and other VOD retailers, AMC Theatres On Demand will offer about 2,000 movies following their theatrical runs, despite the fact that chains have generally been at odds with online video. A major theater chain joining the expanding collection of studios, networks, tech companies and popular platforms already embracing this technology illustrates the impact of streaming video on entertainment media. Continue reading AMC Joins the Streaming Business with On-Demand Movies

Amazon Offers Same-Day Shipping For Low-Cost Products

Amazon is stepping up its e-commerce domination with same-day shipping, even for products that cost less than $5, according to analysts at Edgewater Research. Rather than having to combine your “add-on” item to a larger purchase in order to reach a $25 minimum order to qualify for Amazon Prime shipping deals, the company is providing members with free same-day shipping, even if the only item is a $2 roll of dental floss. Amazon’s willingness to lose money on such a model illustrates its desire to compete with stores like CVS, Target and Walmart, where consumers often go for convenient purchases. Continue reading Amazon Offers Same-Day Shipping For Low-Cost Products

Google Upgrades Shopping Portal, Extends Lens Capability

Google has streamlined its Shopping desktop and mobile portals in anticipation of the holiday season and unveiled a fashion recommendation engine for Google Lens, its AI-enabled computer vision search tool. According to Google Shopping vice president Surojit Chatterjee, the redesign is aimed at making it easier for users to “research and buy” what they are looking for. A personalized homepage offers product suggestions, and new sections allow re-ordering. Also more prominent are links to “nearby and online” stores. Continue reading Google Upgrades Shopping Portal, Extends Lens Capability

Amazon Eyes Low-Income Shoppers With PayCode Service

Amazon recently announced PayCode, a new pay-with-cash option for its online shoppers. The e-commerce giant’s service is the latest step in taking on low-price retail chains like Walmart. The move could help attract the 8+ million low-income households in the U.S. that do not presently have bank accounts, debit cards or credit cards. PayCode users can place an order on Amazon and then pay in cash within 24 hours at one of 15,000 Western Union locations. Amazon is also looking to expand its recently developed cashierless Go technology by bringing it to retailers such as movie theaters and airport shops. Continue reading Amazon Eyes Low-Income Shoppers With PayCode Service

TiVo Confirms That Ads Will Appear Prior to DVR Recordings

TiVo confirmed that it plans to introduce commercials that will play before DVR recordings, including movies and TV shows recorded by customers with a lifetime subscription plan. The introduction of pre-roll video ads will impact the company’s current devices (running TiVo Experience 4 software) within the next 90 days and will become a permanent part of the service. Some publications speculate that the update will eventually affect devices with TiVo Experience 3 as well. TiVo’s Roamio, Bolt and Vox will be the first models eligible for pre-roll ads. Customers will have the ability to skip an ad once it starts playing. Continue reading TiVo Confirms That Ads Will Appear Prior to DVR Recordings

Tension Over Algorithm Roils Amazon Retail, Search Teams

Amazon’s search algorithm can make or break a product. Sources are now saying that the tech behemoth adjusted its system late in 2018 so that products that bring it bigger profits get the most visibility. That could include Amazon’s own brands over products that might be more relevant and popular. The tweak in the algorithm took place against the backdrop of ongoing tensions between the executives running Amazon’s retail businesses, who wanted the switch, and those at A9, the company’s search team, who did not. Continue reading Tension Over Algorithm Roils Amazon Retail, Search Teams

FTC Begins Amazon Probe by Talking to Third-Party Vendors

The Federal Trade Commission has begun its investigation of Amazon by trying to determine if small businesses do in fact have alternative marketplaces. Several attorneys and “at least one economist” have been conducting 90-minute interviews with some of Amazon’s third-party vendors, to see if they do earn revenue from eBay, Walmart or other shopping sites. According to former FTC staffer Michael Kades, the length of the interviews and number of staff dedicated to the task indicates the agency is doing a “serious job.” Continue reading FTC Begins Amazon Probe by Talking to Third-Party Vendors

Alibaba Dominates E-Tail in China But Fails to Thrive Abroad

In its last fiscal year, which ended in March, Alibaba Group’s 654 million customers bought $835 billion worth of goods, with revenues of $56.2 billion, cementing the company’s credentials as the world’s largest e-tailer. Put another way, the company handled more business than Amazon and eBay combined. Notably, 66 percent of Alibaba’s revenue — $36.9 billion — came from China. But translating that success to other countries has proven elusive — a mere 5 percent of the company’s revenue came from international locations. Continue reading Alibaba Dominates E-Tail in China But Fails to Thrive Abroad

Amazon Technology Chief Details Rise to Cloud Dominance

Amazon launched its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-computing unit in 2006. AWS generated $8.4 billion in sales in the latest quarter, with operating income up 29 percent to $2.1 billion. Research firm Gartner reported that AWS’ $15.5 billion in annual cloud services is about half of total revenue for this sector last year. Amazon’s closest rival, Microsoft and its Azure cloud service, represents about 15 percent of cloud market sales. Amazon chief technology officer Werner Vogels described the company’s path to dominance. Continue reading Amazon Technology Chief Details Rise to Cloud Dominance

State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

After several states began pursuing an antitrust probe of the big technology companies, sources reported that representatives of several state attorneys general met with top Justice Department officials to air their concerns about the lack of competition in the technology sector. Now, according to sources, a bipartisan group of states plans to initiate a joint antitrust investigation, to be launched as soon as next month. Sources say the investigation will focus on whether dominant platforms stifle competition. Continue reading State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

FedEx Ends Delivery for Amazon, Supports Other E-Tailers

FedEx will not renew its contract, which expires end of August, for ground delivery of packages for Amazon. In June, FedEx ceased shipping Amazon packages by air but continued ground delivery. FedEx is cementing its relationships with Target, Walmart and other big e-tailers that compete with Amazon. The company released a statement that its move is “consistent with our strategy to focus on the broader e-commerce market,” and its chief operating officer Rajesh Subramaniam said FedEx is “all-in on e-commerce.” Continue reading FedEx Ends Delivery for Amazon, Supports Other E-Tailers

Apple Card Debuts With 70 Percent of U.S. Retail On Board

This month, Apple will officially launch Apple Card, a credit card for iPhone users, according to chief executive Tim Cook. The credit card, which will be situated in Apple’s Wallet app, allows contactless payments and includes no fees, lower interest and cash rewards. According to the Silicon Valley company, Apple Pay has 70 percent “retail acceptance” in the U.S. and 90 percent in Australia. It can be used wherever Apple Pay is available and is expected to be in 40 countries by the end of the year. Continue reading Apple Card Debuts With 70 Percent of U.S. Retail On Board

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