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Period: February 15, 2014 to March 1, 2014
Comment & Opinion or Companies, Organizations or Consumers or Controversies & Disputes or Deals, M&A, JVs, Licensing or Earnings Release or Finance, Economics, Tax or Innovation & New Ideas or Legal, Legislation, Regulation, Policy or Market News or Marketing & Advertising or Other or People & Personalities or Press Release or Products & Brands or Research, Studies, Advice or Supply Chain or Trends

Whole Foods Buys Start-Up’s Checkout Technology For Smartphones, Tablets

Whole Foods has contracted with start-up payments company Square to install its smartphone and credit card readers at several stores. Whole Foods is the second national chain – following Starbucks – to sign a deal with Square. The checkout stands allow speedier payment processing using smartphones (with an app) and tablets at fresh sandwich and coffee stations, but not at the main registers. Whole Foods, seven of whose stores have the readers installed,  hopes that having several of the stands in its stores will not only speed up the checkout process, it will also attract new customers.

"Square Lands Payments Deal With Whole Foods", The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2014

Online Tool Allows EZWatch Shoppers To Haggle

EZWatch, a manufacturer of security cameras and related systems increased its sales in 2013 by launching a customer engagement tool that allows online buyers to name their price. Developed by PriceWaiter, the online tool includes a “Name Your Price” button that lets online buyers indicate a price they would like to pay for a product. EZWatch CEO Ben Cornett said sometimes customers would key in an absurdly lowball price; however, EZWatch is often able to make a counteroffer that the buyer finds acceptable. PriceWaiter dropped the commission it previously charged sellers for using the online tool, but plans to introduce premium, fee-based services.

"A seller of security cameras beckons online buyers to ‘Name your price’", Internet Retailer, February 04, 2014

Companies, Organizations  

Wal-Mart's Expanding Online Business Brightens Up An Otherwise Bleak Fourth Quarter

Wal-Mart highlighted its online business, which grew 30 percent to $10 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013 and is expected to grow over $13 billion in the current fiscal year. During the company’s recent earnings call with investors and analysts, company CEO Doug McMillion said the company’s position of strength in the online business includes the “potential to create transformative growth in global e-commerce and mobile commerce.” Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon, for his part, said e-commerce added 30 basis points to same store sales, with the company posting its strongest Cyber Monday sales yet. Walmart’s expansion of its small-format stores is also expected to help boost the retailer’s online business and its efforts to provide shoppers with “omnichannel experience.”

"E-commerce growth sharpens Walmart’s digital focus", Retailing Today, February 20, 2014

Marks & Spencer Launches New Online Store

Retailer Marks & Spencer launched its new online store, replacing the Amazon-developed platform it had been using since 2007. CEO Marc Bolland said the website is an integral part of the company’s £2.3 billion initiative to transform itself into an international retailer capable of connecting with customers via a multichannel platform, which includes brick-and-mortar stores, the internet, and mobile devices. Featuring product images with zoom views, catwalk, and 360-degree videos, the new website will work in tandem with the company’s ecommerce distribution center that opened at Castle Donington in May 2013.

"Marks & Spencer launches new website to replace Amazon platform", The Telegraph, February 18, 2014

Ecommerce Company Rakuten Acquires Messaging App Viber

Japan-based ecommerce company Rakuten said it has agreed to buy mobile messaging app Viber. Valued at $900 million, the deal would add 300 million users to Rakuten’s current 200 million users, according to company owner, billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani. Already the sixth largest ecommerce platform in the world, Rakuten Ichiba emphasizes its ability to connect with its customers, which the company believes gives it an edge over bigger rivals eBay and Amazon in Europe. In the past few years, Rakuten acquired ereader company Kobo, online video providers Wuaki.tv and Viki, and other ecommerce companies in several countries, including Brazil and Germany.

"Viber bought by Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten for $900m", theguardian.com, February 14, 2014

LUSH Cosmetics Brand Wins Infringement Case Against Amazon.com

The UK High Court ruled in favor with cosmetics company LUSH’s infringement lawsuit against online retailer Amazon.com. Filed in December 2014, the lawsuit alleged that Amazon committed trademarks infringement by diverting online consumers to similar products after searching for LUSH cosmetics, which are not sold by the online store. According to the court’s ruling, the online retailer can continue using the word “Lush” as a paid-for search term to produce advertisements for similar products. It cannot, however, use the word or imply that its online store sells LUSH cosmetics.

"UK Court Sets Online Ad Precedent with LUSH Cosmetics Ruling Over Amazon", Brandchannel, February 12, 2014

Alibaba Spreads Wings In U.S. Market; Opens B2C Ecommerce Site

China’s leading ecommerce company Alibaba said it will launch its business-to-consumer site, 11 Main, in the United States. Set to launch its initial public offering in the U.S. that could put its value at more than $100 billion, according to market analysts, Alibaba said its subsidiaries Vendio and Auctiva will launch the online store to sell quality products from “handpicked shop owners.” Alibaba-owned online stores account for 80 percent of ecommerce in China, with revenues rising more than 50 percent to $1.7 billion in the last quarter. Slowdown in sales growth, however, prompted the company to search for new sources of revenue growth, which led it to expand its business in the U.S.

"Alibaba to launch US ecommerce site", The Financial Times , February 11, 2014

US retailers smarten up the shopping experience

The Financial Times, February 24, 2014

Mexico Delivers for Wal-Mart

Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2014

Can Amazon.com Kick-Start Pet Food Internet Retailing in the US?

Euromonitor International, February 12, 2014

Innovation & New Ideas  

Apple Builds Mobile Payment Empire

Apple’s ecommerce business is the consumer electronics company’s fastest-growing business, with sales of non-Apple products through its online and mobile platforms growing 19 percent to $4.4 billion in the first quarter of 2014. Although most of the technology media’s attention is focused on Apple’s gadgets business, which includes the iPhone and iPad and the rumored iWatch and Apple TV devices, future growth for the company is likely to come from its online and mobile retail operations. Apple’s Touch ID security feature for iPhone smartphones and its iBeacon mobile retail marketing platform are designed to ensure safe, secure, and convenient option for consumers who want to use their smartphones as a mobile payment device.

"Apple Is Already Building Its Next Massive Business And No One Seems To Have Noticed", Business Insider, February 21, 2014

Retailers Seek Faster Growth By Combining Physical Stores With Online Operations

Startup company Storefront offers brands an online marketplace that it claims combines the benefits of having a physical store with the advantages of online-only retail operations. Storefront’s concept allows brands to avoid overhead costs, including long-term leases, while offering consumers engaging, physical selling experiences. Before ecommerce had become widespread, brands would have to compete with each other for shelf space and access to customers. Online retail has weakened brick-and-mortar retailers, while empowering anyone with a product and a website to build their own sales channel. Online retailers, however, have discovered how physical stores can help drive sales and expand reach to new customers. Even online retail giant Amazon.com is reportedly planning to launch its own brick-and-mortar operations.

"How Retail Is Evolving In An On-Demand Economy", Forbes, February 11, 2014

Marginally Useful

MIT Technology Review, February 18, 2014

Market News  

Third-Party Retailers Find It Profitable To Sell On Amazon's Marketplace

In 2013, online retailers saw increased earnings from selling their products on the Amazon marketplace. For example, online household and sporting goods retailer DealYard derived 79 percent of its $8.6 million total web sales from selling on online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay, according to data from Internet Retailer’s Top500Guide.com report. Amazon did not release information on the dollar value of products sold on its online market; however, ChannelAdvisor Corp. CEO Scot Wingo estimated the online retailer’s gross merchandise value for 2013 at $140.6 billion. With Amazon taking an average of 10 percent cut from all third-party sales, it means the online retailer earned $14.1 billion, or about 19 percent of its $74.5 billion total sales in 2013, from third-party sellers. According to Internet Retailer’s estimates, this was 53 percent higher than the $9.2 billion estimate for 2012.

"Small retailers reap the benefits of selling on Amazon, but challenges remain", Internet Retailer, February 14, 2014

Online Sales In UK Grows Fastest In Five Years, Study Reveals

Online sales in the UK grew by 19.2 percent in January 2014, compared with the same month in 2013, according to the British Retail Consortium. Data from the KPMG-BRC Online Retail Sales Monitor also revealed online sales contributed 1.2 percent growth to total non-food sales in the country during the month, accounting for 17.4 percent of total non-food sales. Overall, retail sales grew 5.4 percent in January, compared with the same month in the previous year, with like-for-like sales rising 3.9 percent.

"Online sales grow at strongest rate for five years", Internet Retailer, February 11, 2014

Smartphones, Tablets Account For 31 Percent Of Web Traffic In North America, Study Shows

Internet browsing from smartphones and tablets increased 35 percent year over year from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the same quarter of 2013 to account for 31 percent of all web traffic, according to Walker Sands. Data from the marketing and PR firm’s Quarterly Mobile Traffic Report revealed 31.3 percent of global Internet traffic to North American web sites in the fourth quarter of 2013 came from smartphones and tablets. Also, about 51 percent of mobile traffic to web sites comes from organic search, an increase of 19 percent since the fourth quarter of 2012. About 33 percent of mobile traffic is generated by consumers keying in web addresses into their browsers, while approximately 10 percent comes from referrals other than search engines.

"Mobile devices account for nearly a third of web traffic", Internet Retailer, February 06, 2014

Square Lands Payments Deal With Whole Foods

Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2014

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