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February 22, 2019
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It’s the golden age of traditional retail, not its end days

in Artificial Intelligence/Business/China/Delhi/e-commerce/Economy/India/inventory/Logistics/Marketing/merchandising/online shopping/Politics/retail/supply chain/TC/United States by

A lot of people that will say that traditional retail is dying. They’ll point to the rising prominence of e-commerce, which accounts for under 10% of total retail in the U.S. and a whopping 15% or more of total retail in China, as diminishing opportunities for traditional retail. But the reality is that, thanks to technology, the future of traditional retail has never been brighter.

Today, brick-and-mortar retailers not only have unprecedented insight as to what is happening in their stores – from customer behavior, to traffic flow, and more, they also have an arsenal of new tools to keep raising the bar for the customer experience. This transformation can be looked at from three angles: Smart consumption, smart supply chain and smart logistics.

Smart consumption is blurring the boundaries of online and offline for retailers and customers alike. With AR/VR technology in offline stores, customers can walk into a store, and virtually ‘try on’ an article of clothing, for example, without ever visiting a fitting room. Similarly, while sitting at home, they can virtually place a treadmill in their living room to determine the best fit. IoT has even made it possible for customers to make purchases from the comfort of their cars. At every step of the way, the goal is to improve customer retention and loyalty.

Equally as important, smart supply chain is helping retailers improve operational efficiency by leaps and bounds. Whereas traditional retail requires a fair amount of guesswork — what will customers like, how many of each individual item will they want to buy, and over which time period — smart supply chain driven by AI and big data means that retailers have a much better sense of what customers actually want, and when they want it. With dynamic information about sales, pricing and inventory, brands can improve their time to market, inventory control and product design, and retailers can make smarter decisions about their offerings, making the most of confined physical retail spaces.

But if retailers can’t get products into customers’ hands quickly and cost effectively, then all of the efficiency of smart consumption and supply chain is of no use. It is imperative that behind all of the glitzy offline technology and supply chain algorithms, are extremely efficient logistics.

From smart warehousing, which ensures products get moved out and on their way to the customer as fast as possible, to autonomous delivery vehicles, which make urban delivery more efficient through being able to avoid traffic and follow scheduled routes, to drones, smart logistics work their magic behind the scenes to get products to customers’ doors.

Businesses that embrace innovative technology and invest in it wisely will have a better chance of being a step ahead of the competition and their likelihood of success will be magnified.

Technology is no longer just a support for retail. It is the essential tool for retailers to thrive in the market.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Amazon debuts Showroom, a visual shopping experience for home furnishings

in Amazon/Delhi/e-commerce/eCommerce/furniture/India/online shopping/Politics/retail/shopping by

Amazon just over a year ago launched its first in-home furniture brands, with private labels Rivet and Stone & Beam. This past fall, it began experimenting with a new, more visual way to shop for furniture and other merchandise with its Pinterest-like recommendation service Scout. Now, Amazon is venturing further into home furnishings with the debut of Amazon Showroom, a visual design tool that allows you to place furniture into a virtual living room, customize the décor, then shop the look.

The retailer didn’t formally announce the launch of Amazon Showroom, but a spokesperson confirmed it’s a recent test available that’s now available on Amazon.com and in the Amazon mobile app.

You can access it from the “Accounts & Lists” drop-down on the web; the Home, Garden & Pets department on the web; or the Home & Kitchen department on the mobile app.

Currently, the new feature is focused on helping Amazon shoppers put together a living room. In a virtual setting, you can make adjustments to the wall color and the flooring, then swap out each item in the space with one of your own choosing – including the sofa, coffee table, chair, end table, lamp, rug, and even the art on the wall.

To do so, you just click on the piece in question, then pick another from the right-side panel where a scrollable list of other options are available, along with their prices. This selection can be filtered by a number of factors, as well, like price, style, color, material, brand, and star rating.

Not surprisingly, Amazon’s own home furnishing brands are heavily featured here.

As you work on your project, you can save your room design to pull up later. And you can save more than one room design, if you’re trying to decide between different styles. When satisfied, an “Add to cart” button lets you place all at into your cart for checkout with just one click.

Amazon Showroom – a name that’s almost a cruel reference to Amazon’s ability to turn brick-and-mortar stores into showrooms for online shoppers – isn’t the retailer’s first attempt at helping shoppers visualize items in their home ahead of purchase. The company also launched an AR shopping feature in its app in 2017, which allows you to place a virtual item in your camera view to see how it goes in your own room. That can be useful if shopping for a single item, but less so when designing a complete room.

Home furnishings is still an emerging category for online retail, not only because they’re hard to visualize, but also because heavy items are expensive to ship. However, major retailers see the potential in this growing market.

Walmart, for example, launched a new home shopping site for furniture and décor last year, which features its own in-house brands and more visual, editorial-style imagery. It has also snapped up other home furnishing and décor retailers, including Hayneedle and recently, Art.com, and is building its own visual search.

Amazon confirmed the launch of Showroom in a statement.

The retailer wouldn’t say when the feature debuted, exactly, but a Twitter account was tweeting links to a pre-production site earlier in December. It’s also unclear at this time if Amazon Showroom was built entirely in-house.

“Amazon Showroom is a new way for customers to visualize their home furnishing purchases when shopping online,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Amazon Showroom presents customers with a virtual living room, where they can customize the décor and furniture selection providing the ability to visually compare to scale representations of furniture items together in a room to determine how an item will fit with the style of a room and work with other complimentary pieces. The result is a photorealistic rendering of a room that answers the question: ‘How will this all look together?’,” they said.

The feature is live for all customers on the web and in the Amazon app.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Changing consumer behavior is the key to unlocking billion dollar businesses

in Airbnb/Amazon/Business/business models/Delhi/driver/e-commerce/Economy/Facebook/Getty-Images/India/Lyft/market/MySpace/online advertising/online shopping/Politics/sharing economy/social media/social networks/TC/transport/Uber by

In the summer of 2012, I had just learned of a new service where a driver would pick you up in their own car, not a taxi or licensed town car. You’d be able to recognize the car by the pink mustache strapped to the front. I quickly downloaded the new app called Lyft and, intrigued, started to share it with others around the Airbnb offices.

Almost everyone gave me a same response: “I would never use it.” I asked why. “Well, I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting into someone else’s car.” I said, “Wait a minute, you are comfortable allowing others into your home and staying in others’ homes while you travel, but you don’t want to get into someone else’s car?” The reply was always a version of “Yeah, I guess that’s it—a car is different than a home.”

I was dumbfounded. Here was a collection of adventurous individuals — who spent their days at Airbnb expanding the boundaries of what it means to trust another person — but they were stuck on the subtle behavior change of riding shotgun with a stranger. I then had another quick reaction: this product was going to be huge.

Behavior Shifts in Consumer Internet

Truly transformative consumer products require a behavior shift. Think back to the early days of the internet. Plenty of people said they would never put their credit card credentials online. But they did, and that behavior shift allowed e-commerce to flourish, creating the likes of Amazon. Fast forward to the era when Myspace, Facebook, and other social networks were starting out. Again, individuals would commonly say that they would never put their real names or photos of themselves online. It required only one to two years before the shift took hold and the majority of the population created social media profiles. The next wave included sharing-economy companies like Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber, prompting individuals to proclaim that they would never stay in someone else’s home or get into their car. In short order, times changed and those behaviors are now so commonplace, these companies are transforming how people travel and move about the world.

The behavior shifts were a change in socially accepted norms and previously learned behavior. They alone don’t create stratospheric outcomes, but they do signal that there could be something special at play.

Build an Enhanced Experience

Still, just because a product creates a behavior shift does not mean that it will be successful. Often, though a handful of loyal users may love them, there is ultimately no true advantage to these products or services.

One prime example comes to mind, the product Blippy. In late 2009, the team built a product to livestream a user’s credit card transactions. It would show the purchase details to the public, pretty much anyone on the internet, unlocking a new data stream. It was super interesting and definitely behavior shifting. This was another case where many people were thinking, “Wow, I would never do that,” even as others were happily publishing their credit card data. Ultimately there was little consumer value created, which led Blippy to fold. The founders have since gone on to continually build interesting startups.

In successful behavior-shifting products, the shift leads to a better product, unlocking new types of online interactions and sometimes offline activities in the real world. For instance, at Airbnb the behavior shift of staying in someone else’s home created a completely new experience that was 1) cheaper, 2) more authentic, and 3) unique. Hotels could not compete, because their cost structure was different, their rooms were homogenized, and the hotel experience was commonplace. The behavior shift enabled a new product experience. You can easily flip this statement, too: a better experience enabled the behavior shift. Overall, the benefits of the new product were far greater than the discomfort of adopting new behavior.

Revolutionary products succeed when they deliver demonstrable value to their users. The fact that a product creates a behavior shift is clearly not enough. It must create enormous value to overcome the initial skepticism. When users get over this hurdle, though, they will be extremely bought in, commonly becoming evangelists for the product.

Unlock Greenfield Opportunity

One key benefit of a behavior-shifting product is that it commonly creates a new market where there is no viable competition. Even in cases where several innovative players crop up at the same time, they’re vying for market share in a far more favorable environment, not trying to unseat entrenched corporations. The opportunity then becomes enormous, as the innovators can capture the vast majority of the market.

Other times, the market itself isn’t new, but the way the product or service operates in it is. Many behavior-shifting products were created in already enormous markets, but they shifted the definition of those markets. For instance, e-commerce is an extension of the regular goods market, which is in the trillions. Social media advertising is an extension of online advertising, which is in the hundreds of billions. Companies that innovated within those markets created new greenfield but also continued to grow the existing market pie and take market share away from the incumbents. The innovators retrain the consumer to expect more, forcing the incumbents to respond to a new paradigm.

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Shape the Future

A behavior shift also allows the innovator to shape the future by creating a new product experience and pricing structure.

When it comes to product experience, there are no prior mental constructs. This is a huge advantage to product development, as it allows teams to be as creative as possible. For instance, the addition of ratings in Uber’s and Lyft’s products changed the dynamic between driver and rider. Taxi drivers and passengers could be extremely rude to each other. Reviews have altered that experience and made rudeness an edge case, as there are ramifications to behaving badly. Taxis can’t compete with this seemingly small innovation because there is no mechanism to do so. They can’t enhance quality of interaction without taking the more manual approach of driver education.

Another benefit to the innovator is that they can completely change the economics of the transaction, shaping the future of the market. Amazon dictated a new shopping experience with online purchasing, avoiding the costs of a brick-and-mortar location. They could undercut pricing across the board, focusing on scale instead of margin per product. This shifted the business model of the market, forcing others to respond to follow suit. In many cases, that shift ultimately eroded the competition’s existing economic structure, making it extremely challenging for them to participate in the new model.

Expect Unintended Consequences

It can be difficult to imagine at the outset, but if your product is encouraging massive behavior shifts, you will undoubtedly encounter many unintended consequences along the way. It is easy to brush off a problem you did not directly and intentionally create. But as the social media companies are learning today, very few problems go away by ignoring them. It is up to you to address these challenges, even if they are an unintended byproduct.

One of the most common unintended consequences nearly all behavior-shifting companies will run into is government regulation. Regulation is created to support the world as it is today. When you introduce a behavior shift into society, you will naturally be operating outside of previously created societal frameworks. The sharing-economy companies like Airbnb and Uber are prime examples. They push the boundaries of land use regulation and employer-employee relationships and aggravate unions.

I want to emphasize that you should not ignore such matters or think that their regulation is silly. Regulation serves a purpose. Startups must work with regulators to help define new policy structures, and governments must be open to innovation. It’s a two-way street, and everyone wins when we work together.

What’s Next

My advice is to start by thinking about existing categories that represent people’s biggest or most frequent expenditures. The amount of money you spend on your home, transportation, and clothes, for example, is enormous. Is there an opportunity to grow and capture part of these markets by upending old commercial models and effecting a behavior shift?

Scooter networks are a real-time example of a behavior-shifting innovation that is just getting going. It has the same explosive opportunity of prior game-changing innovations. There are still many individuals who state that they will never commute on scooter. But applying this framework tells me that it is just a matter of time before it is more widely adopted as the technology keeps evolving and maturing.

There is no magical formula for uncovering massive, behavior-shifting products. But if you come up with an innovative idea, and everyone initially tells you that they would never use it, think a little harder to make sure they are right…

News Source = techcrunch.com

Instacart expands a pickup option for grocery orders across the US

in Atlanta/boston/charlotte/Delhi/e-commerce/eCommerce/India/Instacart/minneapolis/online shopping/personal shopper/Politics/San Francisco/United States/Washington D.C. by

Online grocery delivery service Instacart has expanded the availability of a ‘click and collect’ pickup service it’s been trialing for a few months in the U.S. — now offering it in stores across the nation.

It says the collect in person Instacart Pickup option is now available in nearly 200 stores — across 25 “key markets” near Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Nashville, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

The Pickup service is intended to offer customers more flexibility by letting them choose a time to drive by and grab their groceries, rather than wait in for a delivery.

Customers are offered a range of partner stores to choose for collecting their order. While pick ups can be made on the same day.

Instacart says it’s expanded its partnerships for the now expanded Pickup service — saying it’s working with the likes of ALDI, Cub Foods, Food Lion, Price Chopper, Publix, Schnucks, Smart & Final, Sprouts, Tops Friendly Markets and Wegmans.

To access the Pickup service, customers can use Instacart’s website or mobile app, selecting their city and store. After they add groceries to their cart they get to choose either a delivery window or pickup window before they check out.

If picking up, they’ll get an in-app notification when their groceries are ready to collect.

But that’s not the end of the process; Pickup customers are supposed to send an in-app notification to their Instacart personal shopper to let them know they’re on the way.

Then, once they arrive, Instacart says one of its shoppers or a retailer employee will bring the groceries out to their car. Assuming the car has been described accurately enough in the app…

Instacart says the service is free for its Express members.

For non-members there is a cost involved — though Instacart says this is lower relative to paying for delivery (which also varies depending on factors like location/time of day etc). The Pickup cost can also vary depending on the retail partner selected.

For its main grocery delivery service, Instacart says it’s currently accessible to more than 70% of U.S. households, in all 50 states, and more than 50% of Canadian households — available in more than 15,000 different grocery stores across 4,000 cities overall.

While it has partnerships with more than 300 retailers at this point.

On the gig economy side, its service is powered by some 70,000 personal shoppers.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Sam’s Club to offer same-day grocery delivery via Instacart at over half its stores by month end

in Delhi/delivery/e-commerce/eCommerce/grocery/India/Instacart/online grocery/online shopping/Politics/same-day delivery/sams club/shopping/Walmart by

Fresh off its $600 million round of new funding, grocery delivery service Instacart is expanding its relationship with Walmart, the companies announced this morning. The two first joined up in February to offer same-day grocery delivery at select Sam’s Clubs locations in the U.S. Today, Walmart says it plans to offer Instacart-powered grocery delivery in over half of Sam’s Clubs stores by the end of this month.

That expansion will make Sam’s Club grocery delivery via Instacart available to nearly 1,000 new ZIP codes and more than 100 new stores, including those in markets like New Jersey, Indianapolis, Houston and others, the company says.

In total, customers will be able to order from nearly 350 clubs by the end of October.

The partnership was first piloted in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and St. Louis, then reached San Diego and L.A. in more recent weeks.

The deal also allows consumers to shop Sam’s Clubs stores without a membership, including shopping its sales. However, Sam’s Club members will receive lower, membership-only pricing, Walmart says.

Deliveries are offered in as little as an hour, and may include non-grocery items, the retailer also notes.

“To help the holidays run smooth, we’re offering a wide product assortment available on Instacart so shoppers can now get household goods delivered,” said Sachin Padwal, Sam’s Club’s Vice President of Product Management, in a statement. “We’re excited that last-minute gifts, small appliances, extra pillows and towels – just to name a few things – are just a few clicks and minutes away,” he added.

The partnership between Sam’s Club and Instacart is significant in terms of Walmart’s larger battle with Amazon, which offers grocery pickup and delivery through its Whole Foods division, as well as grocery delivery through AmazonFresh and Prime Now.

Sam’s Club parent Walmart also offers an affordable curbside pickup program for groceries – which, unlike with third-party services, sells items at the same price as they are in stores. In select markets, Walmart offers grocery delivery, too.

In Walmart’s recent fiscal year 2020 guidance, it said that it expects to offer grocery pickup at 3,100 Walmart stores by 2020, and delivery at 1,600 locations. Currently, Walmart’s grocery delivery is on track to reach 100 U.S. metros by year-end.

Same-day delivery for Sam’s Club isn’t the only change Walmart’s warehouse membership club has made in recent months. Also in February, the club began to offer free shipping on orders, with no minimum purchase, and simplified memberships to two tiers, Savings ($45/year) and Plus ($100/year). Both of those options are cheaper than Amazon Prime, now $119/year.

Sam’s Club shoppers can visit samsclub.com/Instacart to see if their local store is supported.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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