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July 16, 2018
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eCommerce

Casper opens a storefront for $25 naps

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Casper is opening a storefront designed specifically for sleepy New Yorkers in need of a nap.

In The Dreamery, you can reserve nooks for 45 minutes at a time, at a cost of $25 per session. These nooks are basically giant wooden “O”s with curtains and soundproofed backing, and of course they’re stocked with Casper beds.

It’s easy to dismiss or giggle about a nap store, but it seems a lot less funny when it’s a warm afternoon and you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open at work. In fact, I will happily confess to taking advantage of the TechCrunch New York couch after a big lunch, or after a morning that started stupidly early thanks to deadlines and embargoes.

The Dreamery, of course, is a lot fancier than the office couch, as I discovered when I dropped by for a quick tour. Beyond the nooks themselves, there are also lockers to drop off your stuff, private washrooms to get cleaned up, a lounge for hanging out and drinking coffee before or after, plus additional amenities like pajamas and Headspace “sleepcasts.” (And yes, a Casper spokesperson assured me that the sheets are changed between each session.)

“The Dreamery is about making sleep and rest a part of our regular wellness routines — similar to how many people prioritize a workout class,” ​said COO Neil Parikh in a statement. ​“The concept enables us to pilot new ways of bringing better sleep to more people and to more places — whether that’s here, the workplace, airports, or beyond.”

Oh, and this new storefront is located on the same New York City block as a Casper sleep store, so it should be a pretty quick walk if you love the experience so much that you want to take a mattress home.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Retail startup Bulletin is giving brands new tools to manage their in-store presence

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If you visited a Bulletin store, or bought products off its website, COO Ali Kriegsman said you might “pigeonhole” the company as a “feminist apparel brand” — a place to buy T-shirts and accessories with fun, provocative political slogans.

And yes, that is part of what draws consumers. But Kriegsman and her co-founder Alana Branston have also laid out their broader vision for a more flexible, WeWork-style approach to brick-and-mortar retail, one where brands essentially rent out shelf space in Bulletin stores.

So brands that may have only sold online can experiment with physical sales, while shoppers can purchase from a curated, constantly refreshed selection of brands and products.

“We’re building this more feminine retail company, but we are also part real estate company, and now, we are also part technology company,” Kriegsman said.

The “now” that she’s referring to is the launch of Bulletin Omni, a software platform that allows brands to apply to sell with Bulletin, manage their inventory and track their sales.

Bulletin has actually been working on something like this since I first talked to the team last year, but according to Maggie Braine, the company’s director of product and brand experience, Omni only just reached the point where the company ready to roll it out to all of the 150 brands it works with. She said that without it, the company has mostly relied on “emails, phone calls, and a very, very large Google Doc” to manage the process.

Braine gave me a quick walkthrough of Omni, showing me how a brand could, with just a few clicks, add a new product to its offerings in a given store, confirm once that product has actually arrived and then see how each product is selling in each store.

That’s “unheard of” in traditional retail, she said, where “there’s very little transparency” once goods are purchased by retailers. With Omni, Braine said the goal is to give brands the same kinds of data around physical purchases that they have access to when they promote and sell their products through online channels.

She also said the team plans to introduce ways for in-store staff to offer feedback to the brands — like whether a product isn’t selling because it’s too expensive.

Bulletin Omni

Kriegsman said that if the software is does well enough, she could imagine Bulletin becoming “a retail software destination,” where other companies buy the software to manage non-Bulletin stores.

Either way, she predicted that Omni will allow Bulletin itself to expand more quickly. The company currently has three New York City stores — one in SoHo, one in Williamsburg and a recently-opened lcoation near Union Square — with plans to open in additional cities later this year.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Snapchat code reveals team-up with Amazon for ‘Camera Search’

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Codenamed “Eagle,” Snapchat is building a visual product search feature that delivers users to Amazon’s listings. Buried inside the code of Snapchat’s Android app is an unreleased “Visual Search” feature where you “Press and hold to identify an object, song, barcode, and more! This works by sending data to Amazon, Shazam, and other partners.” Once an object or barcode has been scanned you can “See all results at Amazon.”

Visual product search could make Snapchat’s camera a more general purpose tool for seeing and navigating the world, rather than just a social media maker. It could differentiate Snapchat from Instagram, whose clone of Snapchat Stories now has more than twice the users and a six times faster growth rate than the original. And if Snapchat has worked out an affiliate referrals deal with Amazon, it could open a new revenue stream. That’s something Snap Inc. direly needs after posting a $385 million loss last quarter and missing revenue estimates by $14 million.

TechCrunch was tipped off to the hidden Snapchat code by app researcher Ishan Agarwal. His tips have previously led to TechCrunch scoops about Instagram’s video calling, soundtracks, Focus portrait mode and QR Nametags features that were all later officially launched. Amazon didn’t respond to a press inquiry before publishing time. Snap Inc. gave TechCrunch a “no comment,” but the company’s code tells the story.

Snapchat first dabbled in understanding the world around you with its Shazam integration back in 2016 that lets you tap and hold to identify a song playing nearby, check it out on Shazam, send it to a friend or follow the artist on Snapchat. Project Eagle builds on this audio search feature to offer visual search through a similar interface and set of partnerships. The ability to identify purchaseable objects or scan barcodes could turn Snapchat, which some view as a teen toy, into more of a utility.

What’s inside Snapchat’s Eagle eye

Snapchat’s code doesn’t explain exactly how the Project Eagle feature will work, but in the newest version of Snapchat it was renamed as “Camera Search.” The code lists the ability to surface “sellers” and “reviews,” “Copy URL” of a product and “Share” or “Send Product” to friends — likely via Snap messages or Snapchat Stories. In characteristic cool kid teenspeak, an error message for “product not found” reads “Bummer, we didn’t catch that!”

Eagle’s visual search may be connected to Snapchat’s “context cards,” which debuted late last year and pull up business contact info, restaurant reservations, movie tickets, Ubers or Lyfts and more. Surfacing within Snapchat a context card of details about ownable objects might be the first step to getting users to buy them… and advertisers to pay Snap to promote them. It’s easy to imagine context cards being accessible for products tagged in Snap Ads as well as scanned through visual search. And Snap already has in-app shopping.

Being able to recognize what you’re seeing makes Snapchat more fun, but it’s also a new way of navigating reality. In mid-2017 Snapchat launched World Lenses that map the surfaces of your surroundings so you can place 3D animated objects like its Dancing Hotdog mascot alongside real people in real places. Snapchat also released a machine vision-powered search feature last year that compiles Stories of user-submitted Snaps featuring your chosen keyword, like videos with “puppies” or “fireworks,” even if the captions don’t mention them.

Snapchat was so interested in visual search that this year, it reportedly held early-stage acquisition talks with machine vision startup Blippar. The talks fell through with the U.K. augmented reality company that has raised at least $99 million for its own visual search feature, but which recently began to implode due to low usage and financing trouble. Snap Inc. might have been hoping to jumpstart its Camera Search efforts.

Snap calls itself a camera company, after all. But with the weak sales of its mediocre v1 Spectacles, the well-reviewed v2 failing to break into the cultural zeitgeist and no other hardware products on the market, Snap may need to redefine what exactly that tag line means. Visual search could frame Snapchat as more of a sensor than just a camera. With its popular use for rapid-fire selfie messaging, it’s already the lens through which some teens see the world. Soon, Snap could be ready to train its eagle eye on purchases, not just faces.

In related Snapchat news:

News Source = techcrunch.com

YC-backed Buttermilk brings easy-to-prepare Indian meals to your doorstep

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When Mitra Raman went off to college, all she wanted was a bowl of her mother’s homemade rasam. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Raman grew up eating traditional South Indian cuisine almost every day, but didn’t quite know how to make it just like mom when she left home.

On her next visit back home, she told her mom she missed her cooking. And, being a mom, Mrs. Raman simply packed all the ingredients for rasam in a plastic bag and told her daughter to heat up some water and add it in. It’s that simple.

That’s how Buttermilk was born.

The YC-backed company offers a variety of Indian dishes at a low price that can be cooked up by simply adding hot water.

Based in Seattle, Buttermilk launched in 2017 to the local market and has since expanded to serve their products across the country.

Buttermilk dishes include Sambar, Daal, Khichdi, Rasam, and Upma, all of which cost $6 each. Buttermilk also sells Basmati Rice for $1.50.

While users can buy Buttermilk meals individually, they can also purchase one of Buttermilk’s “suites,” which pack a handful of meals into one shipment. The suites, including the High Protein Pack, Buttermilk Suite, North Indian Favorites and South Indian Favorites, cost $39.

Last week, Buttermilk introduced an option called Subscribe and Save, which offers the chance to buy monthly subscriptions of pre-set packs for 10 percent off. The company is also launching new meals, including Chana Masala, Coconut Chutney, and Quina and Brown Rice options, starting on July 12. Pre-orders for the new meals start tomorrow.

Buttermilk has plans to add other cuisines to the platform eventually, with the same idea of bringing mom’s home cooking to people who don’t have the money or time to recreate those meals from scratch. The company is also interested in potentially selling their products in grocery stores or coffee shops beyond the existing online channel.

News Source = techcrunch.com

A bigger Amazon Prime Day 2018 arrives July 16 with more deals, devices and longer hours

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Amazon’s Prime Day, the company’s annual sales event that’s now its biggest, will be held this year on July 16, starting at 12 PM PT/3 PM ET, and will feature over a million deals, the retailer announced today. One big change this time around is the event’s length — last year, Prime Day ran 30 hours, but this year’s event will run for 36 hours. In addition to being the longest Prime Day to date, the event will also expand to new markets this year, says Amazon.

Australia, Singapore, Netherlands and Luxembourg will join the other countries hosting Prime Day this year, which includes the U.S., U.K., Spain, Mexico, Japan, India, Italy, Germany, France, China, Canada, Belgium and Austria.

As in previous years, Amazon is touting deals across product categories, like TVs, smart home, kitchen, grocery, toys, fashion, furniture, appliances, back-to-school supplies and everyday essentials.

Of course, Amazon will again mark down its own devices for Prime Day, and it’s teasing some of its deals in advance. The retailer says it will offer “double the deals” on Amazon devices, including the lowest prices to date on Echo, Fire TV and Fire tablets.

The expanded number of deals comes from Amazon now owning more hardware brands. For example, it acquired the smart doorbell maker Ring earlier this year, and the smart camera and doorbell startup Blink back in December. Today, it’s selling a suite of home security products that includes these brands and others, like its own Echo Dot and Amazon Cloud Cam.

These could be the “home security devices” that will be newly on sale this year during Prime Day, alongside the Echo Show.

Also new this year is Amazon bringing Prime Day to Whole Foods.

Prime members shopping in-store can take an additional 10 percent off hundreds of sales items and will receive other deep discounts on popular products, Amazon says. Plus Prime Rewards Visa card members will receive double the rewards — 10 percent back — July 14 through 17 when shopping Whole Foods.

In addition to the usual slate of deals, some brands are unveiling new products, new content or special edition products for Prime Day 2018.

This list includes the new Delta Trinsic Touch2O, the first Alexa-enabled kitchen faucet; Coleman RoadTrip LXE portable propane grill; Fingerlings Light Up Unicorn Mackenzie; an Audible Original production, Hi Bob!, which has Bob Newhart sitting down with guests Sarah Silverman, Will Ferrell, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel, Judd Apatow and Conan O’Brien; an exclusive version of the Moto G6 64 GB, and more.

Amazon is kicking off the Prime Day deals starting immediately, however.

The following items are already on sale:

  • Echo Show – save $100 (normally $229)
  • Amazon brands – 25 percent off furniture and décor from Rivet and Stone & Beam, up to 20 percent off AmazonBasics items and 30 percent off everyday essentials from Presto!, Mama Bear and Solimo, and others
  • Prime Video, DVD, and Blu-ray – save up to 50 percent on select movies and TV shows
  • Amazon Music – four months of on-demand music for $0.99
  • Twitch Prime – hundreds of hours of free gameplay and free PC game giveaway every day until July 18, and more
  • Kindle Unlimited and eBooks – three months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99; $10 Prime Day credit for buying your first Kindle book
  • Audible – first three months for $4.95/month (65 percent off)

During Prime Day, Amazon is adding 50 percent more Spotlight Deals, and will feature deals across the following: Watch a Deal (deal notifications from the Amazon app); Prime Day Sneak Peek (sneak peek at deals in the app from July 9-15); deals by Popular Interests (deals organized by 40 of the most shopped interests); Alexa Shopping (ask Alexa for deals); Amazon Prime Credit Cards (5 percent back on Prime Day purchases).

To encourage Alexa shopping this year, Amazon is offering customers a chance to win a sweepstakes where a grand prize winner will get an Alexa-enabled 2019 Lexus ES, a complete Alexa smart home package and more. This is a big step up from the Alexa shopping perks from last year, which included $10 for first-time Alexa voice shoppers.

Prime Day began as a way to drive more consumers to subscribe to Amazon’s annual Prime membership program, which now has more than 100 million paid members. However, because of the numerous deals available, it’s also become a sales event that outpaces Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other sales holidays for Amazon. Prime Day 2017, for example, was the biggest sales day in history for Amazon, up 60 percent from the year before.

With Amazon doubling down on the event this time around, with even more device deals, Whole Foods deals, market expansions and longer hours, it will likely break records again.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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