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Direct-To-Consumer Distribution Of Vitamins: The Future Is Now

July 27, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
National Business Journal (NBJ) says vitamin supplement producers have embraced the trend toward direct-to-consumer distribution, now the largest sales channel for multivitamins. Use of vending machines and other novel modes of multivitamin delivery – could drone delivery be far off? – are gaining legitimacy. According to NBJ, new delivery technologies and formats could finally convince the federal government to allow multivitamins as a permitted purchase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). At any rate, NBJ expects vitamin sales to surpass $15 billion by 2021, led by multivitamins. [Image Credit: © NBJ ]
"Is the Future of Vitamins in Vending Machines?", New Hope Network, July 27, 2017, © Penton
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Amazon's 2Q 2017 Profit Drops 77 Percent; Blames Expansion Costs

July 27, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Online retailer Amazon.com Inc. reported profit fell 77 percent to $197 million in the second quarter of 2017, compared with the same quarter in the previous year. Sales grew 25 percent to $38 billion; however, the high cost of expansion efforts, which include new warehouses and delivery capacity for its retail business and datacenters for its cloud services business, caused the drop in quarterly profit. Amazon is expanding its brick-and-mortar business, highlighted by its acquisition of Whole Foods Market Inc. in June 2017.
Laura Stevens, "Amazon’s Expansion Costs Take a Toll as Profit Falls 77%", Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Consumer Shopping: Speed Is Of The Essence

July 26, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Now that consumers have the technological capability to shop at the speed of light, they expect instant gratification at online stores. Retailers have put in place a wide array of technologies and practices that speed transactions and fulfillment, from one-day delivery to in-store beacons (left) that communicate with shoppers via smartphones. Other advancements created to satisfy the new “I want what I want when I want it” shopping culture are: experimental delivery drones, same-day doctor appointments,, virtual doctor consultations, one-hour delivery of food and groceries, in-store restaurants and bars, and the “see-now, shop-now” trend that lets consumers order new fashion items seen on Instagram almost immediately. [Image Credit: © Estimote ]
"Faster Shopping: A Top Consumer Trend for 2017", Blog entry, Euromonitor, July 26, 2017, © Euromonitor
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Tesco Expands Same-Day Delivery Service Across UK

July 24, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Tesco said it has expanded its same-day online grocery delivery service across the UK. Launched in 2014 in London and the South East, the service is now available for customers of more than 300 stores across the country, the company said. Free for a limited period to members of the Tesco's Delivery Saver online delivery program, the service will cost between ₤3 and ₤8. Customers need to place their order by 1:00pm to have their purchases delivered by 7:00pm or later.
"Tesco becomes first retailer to offer same day grocery delivery nationwide", Tesco, July 24, 2017, © Tescoplc.com
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Amazon-Whole Foods Deal Portends An Accelerated, Automated Grocerants Trend

July 19, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
“Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert says the $13.7 billion Amazon-Whole Foods deal is likely to speed up development of ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat grocery store items known as “grocerants.” Techno-centered Amazon will bring new intelligence from computer wizards, molecular biologists, and sustainability experts into retail grocery. Lempert says the Amazon-Whole Foods store will apply technology to improve efficiencies and reduce in-store labor costs. That means more robotics in the back room and interactive robots all around the store. [Image Credit: © Softbank ]
Kacey Culliney, "The Future Of Grocerants? Deliveries, Humanoids and a Good Dose of Life-Hacking, says Supermarket Guru", FOODnavigator-USA.com, July 19, 2017, © William Reed Business Media SAS
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Enterprise Software Company Tackles Food Waste, Small Farm Management

July 12, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Enterprise IT software giant Cisco Systems says its products are being used to solve food waste and farm management problems. A start-up company that helps manufacturers and farms make use of extra food raised $2.5 million to buy Cisco's enterprise software. Boston-based tech start-up Spoiler Alert’s cloud-based software links food producers, food banks, and pantries. The company helps them track food they throw away or donate. In addition, Cisco’s software has helped smaller and rural farms connect their “Farm from a Box” units with Wi-Fi capabilities and an Internet of Things (IoT) system to optimize everything from water and energy use to guidance on farm management. [Image Credit: © Spoiler Alert ]
Stephanie Chan, "Technology that Helps Reduce Food Waste", News release, Cisco Systems, July 12, 2017, © Cisco Systems
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New Coke App Uses AI Technologies To Modernize Vending Machine Use

July 11, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Coca-Cola’s innovation chief Greg Chambers (left) says a new AI-powered app debuting soon will allow customers to order, and get, two drinks from vending machines equipped with special circuitry. The app will debut in late July at U.S. universities and in Australia and New Zealand. With the app, customers can order a Coca-Cola drink from multiple selections for themselves and a friend using a colorful touchscreen. The drinks will then be available on the vending machine. With AI technologies, “My goal is to push boundaries and push the brand forward,” Chambers says. [Image Credit: © Michael O' Donnell / Venture Beat ]
John Brandon, "Coca-Cola reveals AI-powered vending machine app", Venture Beat, July 11, 2017, © Venture Beat
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Pizza Hut’s Japanese Customers To Have A Quick, Secure Ordering Solution

July 3, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
MasterCard has partnered with Pizza Hut to integrate the Masterpass digital payments technology into the pizza chain’s mobile ordering application. The two companies are launching the initiative in Japan, where time-pressed customers will be able to order pizzas quickly, securely and easily by safely storing credit card information, as well as delivery addresses, in their Masterpass account. Ordering pizzas will require only three clicks on a smartphone, the companies said. [Image Credit: © MasterCard ]
"MasterCard, Pizza Hut Partner on Digital Payments Solution in Japan", Digital Market Asia, July 03, 2017, © DMA
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Companies Test New Ride-Share Marketing Program

June 28, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Customers of ride-share companies like Uber will now be able to purchase, or sample for free, an array of products – snacks, electronics, health and beauty items, etc. – available through the Cargo Systems mobile website. Cargo provides a box to ride-share drivers that can be installed in their cars. Customers order products on Cargo’s website, the products are delivered to the driver, and the driver hands the products to the customers in transit. Brands like Mars, Kellogg's, Michel et Augustin, Emergency Stain Rescue and Leaders Cosmetics USA have products in the boxes. Cargo says drivers can earn an extra $1,500 a year in tips and review-based bonuses by selling products or distributing free items. [Image Credit: © Uber ]
Robert Williams, "Mars, Kellogg's Test Drive Cargo's Ride-Share Product Box", Mobile Marketer, June 28, 2017, © Industry Dive
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Hangzhou Wahaha Group Buys Smart Beverage Vending Machines From DeepBlue

June 27, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
China’s largest beverage vendor is taking a step beyond FMCG toward automated retail with the signing of a 10-year contract with DeepBlue Technology to buy a million TakeGo smart vending machines. The machines use DeepBlue’s quiXmart payment system, as well as machine vision, biometric identification, and deep learning. The machines automatically assign items picked up by customers to a digital shopping cart. Customers are charged using Alipay when they exit. [Image Credit: © DeepBlue Technology / People's Daily Online]
Du Xiaofei , "Wahaha Group eyes next-generation vending machines", People's Daily Online, June 27, 2017, © People's Daily Online
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Nestlé Waters Expands Home Delivery Capabilities

June 26, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Nestlé Waters North America is taking advantage of the growth in “consumer engagement” with its digital channels by expanding its ReadyRefresh online beverage shopping and delivery service. The company’s new 10,000-square-foot branch in Denver, Colo., will make it easier to fulfill water and tea orders submitted on its mobile-friendly website. The company expects to grow its two-truck fleet in the Denver area to 30 to serve customers within a radius of 50 miles. The service operates a fleet of 2,100 Nestlé-branded trucks, and is available to homes and businesses in 23 states. [Image Credit: © Nestlé Waters North America ]
Mary Ellen Shoup , "Nestlé Waters North America sees increased demand for ReadyRefresh online delivery service", Beverage Daily, June 26, 2017, © William Reed Business Media
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Sephora Digital SEA Adopts Advanced Personalization Technology

June 22, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Sephora Digital SEA (formerly Luxola) is implementing Dynamic Yield's personalization technology stack technology to tailor individualized e-commerce experiences to each customer.  Sephora SEA is responsible for the e-commerce activities of Sephora across South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. With Dynamic Yield’s technology, Sephora SEAcan provide individualized beauty product recommendations on website pages based on country and prior shopping behavior. A Sephora SEA spokesman said personalization is “at the core of our e-commerce strategy.” [Image Credit: © Sephora ]
"Sephora SEA Chooses Dynamic Yield to Personalize the Entire Customer Journey", News release, Dynamic Yield, June 22, 2017, © Dynamic Yield
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Nestle Takes Part In Freshly’s New Expansion Funding Round

June 20, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Nestlé USA announced it is taking a big step into the burgeoning, $10 billion direct-to-consumer ready meals business in the U.S. with the investment in one of its leading companies. New York-based Freshly operates in 28 states, delivering meals to homes weekly. Nestlé is the lead investor in Freshly’s new $77 million funding round that will help pay for the company’s construction of an East Coast kitchen and distribution center in 2018, as it prepares to expand to nationwide service. [Image Credit: © Freshly ]
"Nestlé USA Acquires Minority Interest in Freshly", News release, Nestlé, June 20, 2017, © Nestlé USA
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Amazon’s Target In Whole Foods Deal Is Ultimately High-Margin CPG

June 20, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Amazon’s deal with Whole Foods Market certainly threatens low-profit-margin – around two percent annually – retail grocers like Krogers. But Amazon’s real target is not the stores: it’s the profitable products on their shelves. In other words, it’s the higher-profit-margin – 16 percent annually – consumer packaged-goods (CPG) companies that should be worried. Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive have grabbed large market shares because of an economic and distribution model – economies of scale, lower prices, and acres of store shelf space – that is now breaking down, thanks to Amazon. Its Amazon Basics brand, already gaining market share in diapers and batteries, could be extended to other high margin categories, and move into Whole Foods stores. That’s a significant threat to the CPG giants. [Image Credit: © Colgate-Palmolive ]
Conor Sen, "Amazon's Real Target Isn't Whole Foods. It's Everything You Buy.", Bloomberg, June 20, 2017, © Bloomberg LP
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Some Of The Advantages Of The Amazon-Whole Foods Deal

June 16, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Amazon has been tiptoeing into the huge consumer grocery business since it launched its AmazonFresh home delivery service in 2006. The acquisition of Whole Foods Market, with its 460 physical stores, accelerates the move, and offers benefits to bother companies. It is probable that the deal will mean Whole Foods’ Instacart delivery service will be replaced with an Amazon version that adapts Prime Now and AmazonFresh. As to pricing, Amazon is also likely to use its scale and efficiencies to help relieve pricing pressure on Whole Foods. And Amazon could also use Whole Foods’ partnerships with suppliers to lure them to the Amazon platform and take advantage of Amazon’s 300 million customer accounts. [Image Credit: © Whole Foods Market ]
Michelle Grant, "The Implications Amazon’s Acquisition of Whole Foods", Blog entry, Euromonitor International, June 16, 2017, © Euromonitor International
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L’Oréal Takes An Expensive Flier On Virtual Reality Technology

June 16, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
L’Oréal’s Beauty Lab (left), located at the company’s year-old west-side Manhattan headquarters, serves as an experimental virtual reality center to explore a technology some industry observers call “the next frontier of fashion and beauty.” Though virtual reality has taken baby steps in fashion and cosmetics, it has yet to make significant inroads, and has had almost no impact on sales. Skeptics note that researchers aren’t even sure what to do with test data that are collected. L’Oréal, however, has invested a lot of money in its VR glasses, floor-to-ceiling VR screen, and additional 3-D modeling screens. Not so much to wow consumers, but to advance and enhance internal research. [Image Credit: © L’Oréal ]
Hilary Milnes , "How L’Oreal uses virtual reality to make internal decisions at its New York HQ", Digiday, June 16, 2017, © Digiday Media
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Amazon-Whole Foods Deal Signals A Major Economic Trend

June 16, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
The recently announced acquisition of Whole Foods Market by Amazon is an indicator of a fact well-known by retail analysts: both Amazon and Walmart are trying to be like the other. Amazon is establishing brick-and-mortar bookstores and buying 460 grocery store locations. Walmart, through its recent acquisition of Jet.com and other moves, is strengthening its online presence and infrastructure. But the larger picture is that the retail industry is undergoing consolidation among a few big companies whose resources stretch globally, whose access to sophisticated supply lines, and advanced marketing and delivery technologies, gives them major market advantages over smaller competitors. This consolidation is happening in other industries, including banking, airlines and telecommunications. And it’s creating a real economic gulf between two groups of workers: those employed by the prosperous new super companies – and those employed elsewhere. 
Neil Irwin , "The Amazon-Walmart Showdown That Explains the Modern Economy", The New York Times, June 16, 2017, © The New York Times Company
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Jet.com Sheds Its Costco Ethos

June 12, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
E-commerce company Jet.com’s co-founder Marc Lore was inspired by the Costco example. Its original business model was based on membership fees, and on bulk sales savings passed on to the customer. But now that it has been acquired by Walmart, and continues to integrate its operations with the giant retailer, it has begun phasing out the Kirkland Signature brand of products, replacing them with products offered under the Sam’s Club Member’s Mark brand. According to analytics provider 1010data, Jet accounted for 5.5 percent of online sales of the Kirkland brand in the first half of 2016, behind Amazon and Costco.com. [Image Credit: © Walmart ]
Matthew Boyle, "Jet.com Will Phase Out Costco Products After Wal-Mart Acquisition", Bloomberg , June 12, 2017, © Bloomberg LP
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Amazon Customers Who Get Food Assistance Can Pay Cheaper Prime Fee

June 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Amazon has adjusted its Prime program to include customers receiving government financial assistance at a lower monthly fee. Membership in Prime includes video, music, reading, photos and unlimited free shipping. The fee for people on food assistance and other programs will be $5.99 a month for a year with anytime cancelation. Customers will need to qualify with a valid EBT card linked to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). The EBT card cannot be used to pay for membership. The regular monthly rate for Prime is $10.99, which drops to $8.25 a month if paid annually ($99). Prime Video membership is $8.99 a month.
"Amazon Introduces Discounted Monthly Prime Offer for Customers Receiving Government Assistance", News release, Amazon, June 06, 2017, © Amazon.com, Inc.
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Walmart Tests Large Parking Lot Kiosk For Online Order Pickup

June 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Walmart is testing the use of a large self-service kiosk that would allow customers to pick up their online purchases without contact with an employee. After purchases are paid for online, Walmart employees find and pack the orders in bins in the 20-by-80-foot test structure, which is located in the parking lot of a Warr Acres, Okla., supercenter. Customers gain entry to the kiosk, which contains refrigerators and freezers to maintain food freshness, via a typed-in code. Customers must spend at least $30 online to use the kiosk, which is open 24/7 and can fulfill hundreds of customer orders in a day. [Image Credit: © Walmart ]
Hayley Peterson, "Walmart built a giant vending machine that retrieves groceries", Business Insider, June 06, 2017, © Business Insider Inc.
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Millennials Not Very Adventuresome When It Comes To Eating Out

June 5, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
According to new Harris Poll research, Millennials are extremely loyal to chain restaurants like Five Guys, Chick-fil-a, and Starbucks. The data are somewhat counter-intuitive because Millennials are known to favor experiences like travel over collecting “stuff.” But it turns out they also value convenience, affordable prices, and familiarity, which chain restaurants have in spades. It doesn’t hurt that chain eateries have taken to social media platforms to make ordering and picking up easier. Facebook and Instagram enable chains to engage with customers using mouth-watering pix of menu items, a phenomenon known as “food porn.” 
Nicole Spector, "Why Millennials Are Hooked on Chain Restaurants", NBC News, June 05, 2017, © NBCNews.com
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Walmart Tests Use Of Employees As Delivery People

June 1, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
To further save customers time and money, Walmart is experimenting with the use of employees on their way home from work to deliver online purchases to nearby buyers. The new program is strictly voluntary and participation levels are up to the employee. Walmart’s technology allows them to set preferences: choose how many packages they deliver, sizes and weights, and which days they can make the after-work deliveries. “It just makes sense,” Walmart eCommerce CEO Marc Lore, says. “The best part is this gives our own associates a way to earn extra income on their existing drive home.” [Image Credit: © Walmart ]
Marc Lore, "Serving Customers in New Ways: Walmart Begins Testing Associate Delivery", Blog entry, Walmart, June 01, 2017, © Walmart Stores, Inc.
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How Walmart Might Foil Incursions By Discount Grocers Aldi, Lidl

June 2, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Walmart has been doing a good job of beefing up its e-commerce program to stay close to online retail competitor Amazon. But analysts say another big challenge is to better compete against the German no-frills grocery retailers Aldi and Lidl. That battleground is mainly about price, but not completely. Walmart’s U.K. grocery unit Asda, whose unique selling proposition was low prices, got beat in the price arena by Aldi and Lidl. It is still trying to recover. As the two German retailers expand their presence in the U.S., Walmart needs to make sure it is not out-discounted again. It also needs to make sure its house brands compete on quality as well as price. The good news is that the company’s growing e-commerce strengths could help it fend off low-tech discounter competition, especially if it continues to boost its shop-online/pick-up-in-store strategy. [Image Credit: © MidAmerica Nazarene University ]
Andrea Felsted, "Walmart's Big New Problem Isn't Amazon", Bloomberg , June 02, 2017, © Bloomberg LP
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Health And Personal Care Sales Booming Online, Led By Amazon

May 31, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
U.S. sales of health and personal care (HPC) products slowed in the first quarter by one percent year-over-year, mainly in brick-and-mortar stores. Online sales were up in the quarter, led by Amazon.com. As of the first quarter of 2017, the U.S. HPC market was valued at $80.6 billion, while Amazon sales represented $1.3 billion. Year over year growth of HPC sales on Amazon in the first quarter was 30 percent. According to One Click Retail, consumers are abandoning in-store shopping for HPC products in favor of online shopping. Within Amazon, the rate of growth for HPC is highest in Prime Pantry, with top categories multiplying revenue by as much as five times.
Nathan Rigby, "Amazon Pantry Drives Health & Personal Care Sales: The Amazon Effect", One Click Retail, May 31, 2017, © One Click Retail
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Peapod Fine-Tunes Customers’ Online Search Options

May 31, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Online grocer Peapod’s smart shopping technology now has more search filters so shoppers can further refine selections based on personal dietary tastes and preferences.. In addition to common search filters like brand preference, price and sale specials, the company now offers 16 nutrition options, including non-GMO, sugar free, vegan, and vegetarian. The new filters were selected based on consumer food and nutritional trend data. For example, 42 percent of consumers read nutrition labels before purchasing, 33 percent of Millennials say they eat a meat alternative product every day, and sales of non-GMO products will hit $330 billion by 2019. [Image Credit: © Peapod ]
"Peapod Expands Nutrition Filter Options To Help Shoppers Make Mindful Food Decisions Even Faster", News release, Peapod, May 31, 2017, © Peapod
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Apartment-Based Cake Baker Transformed Herself Into A Social Media Star

May 30, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
A Manhattan cake baker no longer sells her apartment-made cakes to friends to make money. A much easier revenue-generating scheme allows her to create masterpieces in her kitchen, videotape the process, and share the edited results with fans on social media. She has 250,000+ followers, and her videos regularly generate hundreds of thousands of views. An Instagram celebrity, Chelsey White makes money basically selling the concept of cake, rather than the cake itself, with help from partners such as the Food Network and AwesomenessTV.
Polly Mosendz, "Bakers Are Cashing In on Instagram’s Cake Obsession", Bloomberg, May 30, 2017, © Bloomberg Finance L.P.
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TECHNOLOGY: Coke CEO Sees Technology As Major Challenge, As Well As Solution

May 26, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Technology advances are helping Coca-Cola cut costs. Company has turned to cheaper off-the-shelf software, for example, to run human resources and bill payment, allowing it to cut obsolete jobs. But evolving technology also presents new marketing challenges, according to CEO James Quincey. Rise of online beverage purchasing is disrupting soft drink buying patterns: shopping trips that used to lead to soft drink purchases at food courts or vending machines are being replaced by smartphone purchases and home deliveries. Quincey sees technology such as social media as key to answering these challenges, including decline in foot traffic, and ultimately believes surmounting them will make Coca-Cola a winner, here and abroad, in the digital age.
Jennifer Kaplan, "Coca-Cola’s CEO Fights Digital Threat to Buying Habits", TheRecord.com, May 26, 2017, © Metroland Media Group Ltd.
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Walmart Opens Flagship Online Store For China Market On JD.com

May 25, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Walmart opened its flagship online store on China-based shopping portal JD.com. Aimed at providing same-day and next-day deliveries to more than 600 million consumers in the country, the opening came almost a year after Walmart and JD.com formed a strategic alliance for the China market. In October 2016, Walmart invested $50 million in New Dada, JD.com's joint venture with delivery services firm Dada.
Bien Perez, "US retail giant Walmart launches flagship online store on JD.com", South China Morning Post, May 25, 2017, © South China Morning Post
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Lidl Opens Online Store In China

May 22, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Germany-based retailer Lidl launched its China-focused online store on Alibaba's online platform Tmall Global. According to the company, the website will offer several of its private labels. With European products being popular in China, Lidl wants to launch its Combino, Bellarom, and Sondey brands in the country.
Yoni Van Looveren, "Lidl launches Chinese web shop", RetailDetail, May 22, 2017, © RetailDetail
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Facebook Expands Food Order/Delivery Feature On Desktops And Phones

May 19, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Facebook users are now able to tap an icon on their smartphone or desktop to place food pickup and delivery orders from participating restaurants that use Delivery.com or Slice. The innovation means users needn’t leave the Facebook platform to visit a restaurant or delivery site. The new feature expands a deal with the two online ordering businesses announced last October that allowed Facebook users to order food from Facebook pages of supported restaurants using a “Start Order” button. The “Order Food” icon eliminates the need to visit restaurant sites because all participating restaurants are listed together on the user's Facebook page. [Image Credit: © Facebook ]
Sarah Perez, "Facebook Rolls Out a New “Order Food” Option in its Main Navigation", Tech Crunch, May 19, 2017, © AOL Inc.
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Unilever Indonesia Joins Local Online Shopping Platform Blibli.com

May 18, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
PT Unilever Indonesia has opened a Unilever Anchor Store on local online shopping website, Blibli.com. According to Unilever Indonesia e-commerce manager Hira Triadi, all of the company's products are featured on the online store. Through the online store, Unilever Indonesia hopes to widen its reach to include millennials and consumers who like using social media.
"Unilever anchor store added to Blibli.com", The Jakarta Post, May 18, 2017, © PT. Niskala Media Tenggara
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PepsiCo Expands E-Commerce Relationship With China’s Alibaba Platform

May 11, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
PepsiCo’s China unit has extended its marketing relationship with giant online and mobile commerce company Alibaba with a new strategic agreement. The company said the pact is an effort to expand its own e-commerce capabilities while enhancing customer online experiences. PepsiCo will take full advantage of Alibaba's platform and data “to carry out more innovative experiments” and “perfect PepsiCo's products and services.” Cooperation with Alibaba began five years ago in the e-commerce segment when PepsiCo established a flagship store on Tmall  It has launched several online marketing campaigns, including the 2016 Super Brand Day, Quaker's co-branded campaign with Tmall, and Kumamon-branded Lay's gift campaign during Chinese New Year. [Image Credit: © PepsiCo ]
"PepsiCo Signs Strategic Agreement with Alibaba Group", News release, PepsiCo, May 11, 2017, © PepsiCo
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Feds Crack Down On Misleading Social Media Celebrity Product Endorsements

May 10, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
The Federal Trade Commission has warned companies that use celebrity endorsers on social media – notably Instagram – must disclose that the endorsements, which include photos of celebrities displaying products, are paid and not voluntary. The agency sent 90 letters to brand holders and endorsers allegedly in violation of federal law. Companies notified included dietary supplement firms, personal care brands, food companies and consumer goods companies like Adidas and Puma. Endorsers included Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, Allen Iverson, Jennifer Lopez, and former NFLer James Harrison. FTC guidelines say a company that has a “business relationship” with a celebrity endorser should “clearly and conspicuously” disclose that relationship in the endorsement ad. [Image Credit: © FTC.gov]
Hank Schultz, "FTC Tells Companies, 'Influencers' to disclose when Instagram Posts are Ads", NUTRAingredients-USA.com, May 10, 2017, © William Reed Business Media SAS
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Target Tests Next-Day Home Delivery In Minneapolis

May 9, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Though retailer Target offers free in-store pickup for online orders, the store feels it needs to do more to keep up with competitors Amazon and Walmart, so it has begun an experiment with next-day home delivery of household staples. The company is testing the new service among employees in the headquarters city of Minneapolis, and will expand the test there later in the summer to the general public. For the pilot test, employees using a company debit or credit card will be limited to two 45-pound boxes of household goods, including laundry detergent, paper towels, granola bars and coffee. If the test succeeds, customers who use the Target Restock program will be charged “a low, flat fee,” according to the company.
Roger Yu , "Target to launch next-day delivery of household goods", USA Today, May 09, 2017, © USA Today
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Survey Puts Amazon, Google At Top Of Beloved Consumer Brands List

May 3, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Digital media and survey research firm Morning Consult says the two “most loved” consumer brands in the U.S. are Amazon and Google, followed by Campbell Soup, Hershey Company, UPS, FedEx, Sony, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Google unit YouTube. The rankings are based on 200,000 interviews that covered 27 consumer brand sectors. In the food and beverage category, beer is led by Heineken, followed by Budweiser and Samuel Adams. Among restaurants, Baskin Robbins is the leader, followed by Wendy’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. And Kroger edges out Whole Foods in the grocery category.
Tanya Gazdik, "Amazon, Google 'Most Loved' Brands", MediaPost, May 03, 2017, © MediaPost Communications
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Get Revenge On Internet Trollers With A Cake

May 1, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
People victimized by Internet trolls and their hateful online comments can repay the perps with a cake, as long as they know the troller’s actual physical address. For a fee of $35, Brooklyn’s Troll Cakes Bakery and Detective Agency will bake a cake, decorate it with the troll’s hateful words, and then deliver it right to their door. Even if they don’t know the address – this is where the “detective agency” takes over – for $60 the service will research an unknown address and take it from there. The company even has a service for Donald Trump haters: it will decorate a cake with a customer’s favorite Trump tweet (or nasty comment) and send it to the White House. It’s called the “Tiny Hands Special.”  [Image Credit: © TrollCakes.com ]
Ben Hooper, "Bakery Returns Online Trolls' Comments to them in Cake Form", United Press International, May 01, 2017, © United Press International, Inc.
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Fast-Growing U.K. Beauty Services Venture Gets Cash Infusion From Unilever

April 27, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Unilever Ventures is putting $4.5 million into rapidly expanding London-based on-demand beauty services provider Blow Ltd. to facilitate the company’s expansion to other U.K. cities and to the Continent. Blow, which has been expanding at a rate of 20 percent a month, is based on an advanced technology platform that allows customers to book time-saving, at-home beauty appointments using its website or smartphone app. The company calls it a reinvention of the service experience that also creates a new product distribution channel. Three-fourths of the app users are busy women looking to save time by having beauticians, manicurists, etc., come to the home. [Image Credit: © Blow Ltd ]
Natalie Theodosi, "Britain’s Blow Secures Unilever Ventures Investment, Plans Expansion", Women’s Wear Daily, April 27, 2017, © Penske Media Corporation
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Amazon.com Posts Strong Sales Numbers In 1Q 2017

April 27, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Online retailer Amazon.com, Inc., reported operating cash flow jumped 53 percent to $17.6 billion for the trailing 12 months ending March 31, 2017, compared with the same period in the previous year. Free cash flow grew to $10.2 billion, compared with $6.7 billion in the previous year. In the first quarter of 2017, net sales grew 23 percent to $35.7 billion, compared with $29.1 billion in the first quarter of 2016. Operating income dropped 6 percent to $1.0 billion in the first quarter, compared with $1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2016.
"Amazon.com Announces First Quarter Sales up 23% to $35.7 Billion", Amazon, April 27, 2017, © Amazon.com, Inc.
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“Blessed” Panera Streamlines Food Ordering, Ramps Up Delivery

April 24, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Panera founder and CEO Ron Shaich says his company is “blessed” because it has not only applied the principle of “digital utilization” to streamlining the ordering process, its menu – soups, salads, sandwiches – is perfect for easy delivery to homes and businesses. This blessing has meant that the company can reduce the number of workers handling food, but has to hire 10,000 delivery people by the end of 2017, as it adds delivery services to as many as 40 percent of its eateries this year. The streamlining process, known as Panera 2.0, has meant changes across the board, including redesigned kitchens and reworked assembly lines, plus implementation of new ordering technology like digital kiosks.
Kate Taylor, "Panera is Replacing Cashiers with Robots — but it's Hiring Thousands of Workers for Another Task", Business Insider, April 24, 2017, © Business Insider Inc.
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Smart Lock Technology May Solve Major E-Commerce Problem

April 21, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
One of the biggest worries of online buyers is the fate of a delivered product when the buyer isn’t at home. It can be stolen, rained on, or simply returned to the seller if too many delivery notices are ignored. This “cognitive load” dampens online sales – it's the number one problem inhibiting e-commerce – according to the founder of August Smart Lock. His technology automatically unlocks the door when the correct codes are presented, giving delivery companies one-time, specific-time, or anytime access to the house. A camera monitors the whole process. A pilot test showed that lock owners, though nervous at first, were extremely happy with the process. Bottom line: “This is how I want everything delivered to my house.” [Image Credit: © August Smart Lock ]
Daniel Terdiman, "How In-Home Package Delivery Could Save E-Commerce", Fast Company, April 21, 2017, © Mansueto Ventures, LLC
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Amazon Announces Plan To Hire 5,000 Part-Time Customer Service Agents

April 6, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Online retailer Amazon said it plans to hire more than 5,000 new part-time employees for is Virtual Customer Service program in 2018. Part of the company’s previously announced plans to hire 30,000 part-time workers in the US, the proposed hiring will strengthen the retailer’s capability to provide customer service. Virtual Customer Service employees are provided with the flexibility to do their job while working from home.
"Amazon to Create 5,000 New, Part-Time, Work-From-Home Jobs over the Next Year", Amazon, April 06, 2017, © Amazon.com, Inc.
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Will Costco Put More Energy Into Online Bulk Sales?

April 5, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Costco has for the most part downplayed the e-commerce side of its business while emphasizing store traffic, impulse buying, and a “treasure hunt” atmosphere of constant churning of new products. It’s a strategy that continues to be profitable. But investors and analysts think it’s time the bulk-selling giant adapts to modern times. The logistical technology is certainly available, even for Costco-size shipments. A Costco spokesman says the company has been slow on the uptake “on purpose,” but acknowledges “there are things we can do or should be doing.” Now it may be getting tougher: carriers like UPS and FedEx Corp. are beginning to charge based on package size as well as weight. [ Image credit: © Wikipedia  ]
Sarah Nassauer et al., "Why Costco Loves Store Sales: You Try Shipping a Tub of Mayo", The Wall Street Journal, April 05, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Coty, Parfumerie Akzente Present Respective Cases Before Court Of Justice Of European Union

March 30, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Coty Germany and Parfumerie Akzente have made their oral arguments before the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the beauty brand's lawsuit against the distributor for selling Coty products on the internet. Ongoing for several years now, the case highlights the lack of established rules regarding sales of products via third-party online stores in the EU. Previously, a district court in Frankfurt ruled that a ban on third-party online sales is illegal and restricts competition.
Jennifer Weil, "Coty Germany, Parfümerie Akzente Heard in the EU’s Court of Justice", Women’s Wear Daily, March 30, 2017, © Penske Media Corporation
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Unilever And Lazada Strengthen Alliance For Better Ecommerce In South East Asia

March 30, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
An end-to-end alliance between Unilever and Lazada is expected to boost eCommerce in South East Asia and provide consumers with a superior online experience. The agreement is expected to push rapid growth in online retail for the region and address challenges such as high cost of product delivery in certain geographic locations. Category development, supply chain, data and marketing, social commerce and talent development are among the top focus areas for Unilever and Lazada to meet their common goal. The alliance builds on the previously launched partnership between Lazada Singapore and Unilever for an exclusive online store that allows buyers to purchase Unilever products. The companies say this is the first cross-functional collaboration for eCommerce in South East Asia and that it sets new standards in customer experience, supply chain and digital marketing.  
"Unilever and Lazada forge first in e-commerce cross-functional alliance", Unilever, March 30, 2017, © Unilever
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Peapod Customers Shopping More Often, Buying More, CMO Says

March 28, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Peapod customers are using the online grocery delivery service more frequently and are increasing their basket size, according to the company's CMO Carrie Bienkowski. She said among the factors driving growth in the online grocery delivery service segment are millennials' preference for home-cooked meals and service providers' personalization strategies. Bienkowski described some of her company's personalization tactics, including customized homepage for existing customers and emails based on “transaction behavior.” Also, the company is focused on identifying customer segments, by evaluating transaction behavior.
Tricia Carr, "Peapod Customers Are Buying More, and More Often—Here's Why", eMarketer, March 28, 2017, © eMarketer Inc.
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Wal-Mart Revamps Technology Group, Promotes Three Executives

March 27, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reorganized its technology division, following its $3.3 billion acquisition of online retailer Jet.com Inc. in September 2016. According to the company, the steps are aimed at positioning mobile devices as its main platform, with consumers increasingly using their mobile gadgets to shop both online and physical stores. As part of the revamp, Fiona Tan was promoted to senior vice president of U.S. Customer technology, Jaya Kolhatkar was named SVP of global data and analytics platform, and Jae Evans was promoted to VP of global technical engineering and operations.
Kim S. Nash, "Wal-Mart Reorganizes Tech Group to Strengthen Mobile", The Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Amazon Working To Iron Out Kinks In Its Cashierless Store Model

March 27, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Technical glitches are delaying the debut of Amazon.com’s cashierless brick-and-mortar convenience store, Amazon Go,scheduled to open at the end of April in Seattle. The innovative store automatically charges customers when they exit.  No cash registers are used. The delay spotlights the difficulties the online retailer is experiencing as it implements a strategy to broaden its retail influence, especially in food sales. Observers say the cashierless technology works perfectly as long as there are 20 or fewer customers in the store. It also has a problem tracking items once they leave the store shelf. [ Image credit: © Amazon.com  ]
Laura Stevens, "Amazon Delays Opening of Cashierless Store to Work Out Kinks", The Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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RB Expects Online Sales To Make Up 10 Percent Of India Sales By 2020

March 25, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Reckitt Benckiser predicts online sales will account for 10 percent of the company’s total sales in India by 2020. RB India, which has an exclusive business deal with online retailer Amazon, said online sales in the country has been growing 20–25 percent month on month. In 2016, the company saw its online sales grow more than double.
"Reckitt Benckiser Eyes 10% Sales from E-Commerce in India", ETRetail.com, March 25, 2017, © ETRetail.com
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Walmart Buys Small Online Stores Catering To Higher-End Customers

March 24, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Walmart is buying small, niche-focused online retailers that cater to high-end consumers as part of an effort to compete with Amazon.com. Among the hipster websites acquired by the retailer are clothing retailer ModCloth, outdoor specialty retailer Moosejaw, and online shoe store ShoeBuy. These deals give Walmart access to new brands and higher-spending consumers not normally associated with the retailer. The purchase of the websites, however, has alienated some of the stores' customers, especially those who value independence.
Sarah Nassauer, "With Niche Sites, Walmart Tries Selling to Hipsters", The Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2017, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc
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Amazon Plans To Buy Middle East's Online Retailer Souq.com

March 22, 2017: 12:00 AM EST
Amazon.com Inc. plans to acquire Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com, one of the most popular internet retailers in the Middle East. Souq.com describes itself as the largest e-commerce website in the Arab world. Purchasing Souq.com would give Amazon access to the region, which is one of the world's fastest-expanding e-commerce markets.
Hadeel Al Sayegh et al., "Amazon to Buy Middle Eastern Online Retailer Souq.com: Sources", Reuters, March 22, 2017, © Reuters
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