Google Express to close in a few weeks, will become part of Google Shopping – gpgmail


Google’s failed online shopping service Google Express is closing in a few weeks, as its features will be merged into a revamped version of Google Shopping, Google says in an email sent to its customers this week. The company had already announced its plans to shutter the Google Express brand, as part of a wider redesign of how it approached online shopping. This included new advertising options for brands and online sellers, as well as a universal shopping cart across its platform of services, like Search, Shopping, Images, and even YouTube.

While Google is characterizing Google Express’s closure as an “integration,” it’s really more of a sunsetting of a failed product and brand.

Google Express was Google’s high-profile attempt to compete with Amazon for online shopping clicks and ad dollars buy creating a virtual mall on the web filled with top retailers’ products. Because Google is not a retailer itself, it did what it knows best — it organized information. At Google Express, you could find products from thousands of retailers — including big names like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Best Buy, and others. And you could shop through a dedicated online storefront on the web, a Google Express mobile app, or even Google Assistant.

In the latter case, Google Express partnered with retailers like Walmart and Target for deep integrations for voice-enabled shopping. As direct competitors with Amazon, these retailers didn’t want to offer third-party skills for Echo users or others on Amazon’s Alexa platform. Google represented a safer third-party platform for their experiments with voice commands and personalized shopping.

But even several years after launch, Google Express had failed to offer any real threat to Amazon. Its retail partners, meanwhile, were building out their own fulfillment businesses for their customers’ online orders — like Walmart Grocery’s curbside pickup and delivery, for example, or Target’s Shipt, Drive Up, and Restock.

Not too much later, Target and Walmart were pulling out of Google Express.

Google has tried to downplay the news of Google Express’s demise by including it as just another part to the larger Google Shopping revamp. After all, it’s not a shutdown, the company implied. Its features were simply becoming a part of Google Shopping! Nothing to see here! Just a rebrand!

But clearly, Google Express had been unable to establish itself in consumers’ minds as its own dedicated shopping destination. If customers wanted an online mall, they already had one with either Amazon or Walmart and their vast third-party marketplaces where you could find just about anything you’d need. Nor had Google innovated (or acquired) across key areas like warehousing or logistics, while others like Amazon, Target and Walmart had been spending billions.

With Google Shopping, Google goes back to its search engine roots. It aims to simply capture consumers’ clicks, ad dollars and now conversions no matter where they are on Google’s sites — whether that’s shopping from Merch shelves under YouTube videos, browsing photos in a Pinterest-y manner on Google Images, or through more traditional Google searches for products where ads become shoppable, and shopping carts follow you around Google’s part of the web.

In an email to Google Express shoppers that was sent this week, Google says Google Express will be integrated with Shopping in a few weeks’ time.

The redesigned Google Shopping will then be available across the web and through apps for iOS and Android later this month. At that point, the Google Express apps will automatically update to become Google Shopping, if you already had them installed.

The full email about Google Express’ closure is below:

 


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Target’s personalized loyalty program launches nationwide next month – gpgmail


Target today announced its new, data-driven loyalty program, Target Circle, will launch nationwide on October, 6th, following a year and a half of beta testing in select markets. The program combines a variety of features including 1% back on purchases, birthday rewards, and personalized offers and savings designed to make the program more attractive to consumers.

It also includes a way for customers to vote on Target’s community giving initiatives, which helps directs Target’s giving to around 800 nonprofits in the U.S.

The new program is designed to lure in customers who have yet to adopt Target’s store card, REDcard. While REDcard penetration today is around 23%, that number has remained fairly consistent over time — in fact, it’s down about one percentage point from a year ago.

With Target Circle, however, the retailer has another means of generating loyalty and establishing a connection with its customers on a more individualized basis.

A big part of that is the personalized aspect of the Target Circle program. In addition to the “birthday perks” (an easy way to grab some demographic data), customers will also get special discounts on the categories they “shop most often” — meaning, Target will be tapping into its treasure trove of customer purchase history to make recommendations from both in-store and online purchases along with other signals.

“As guests shop, Target leverages information about their shopping behaviors and purchases to share relevant offers that create an even more personalized, seamless shopping experience,” a company spokesperson explained, when asked for details about the data being used. “For example, a guest who frequently shops Target for baby products may receive a special offer on their next purchase of baby items.”

TargetCircle NonBeta 19 Brand RGB Logo Red

According to a recent retail study from Avionos, 78% of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that better personalize their experiences and 63% are more open to sharing personal information if retailers can better anticipate needs.

And as some may recall, Target is already scary good at personalization.

In one notable case, the retailer figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, and sent her coupons for baby items. The dad, understandably, was angry — until he found out that Target was right.

That story was a high-profile example of the data collection and analysis big retailers are doing all the time, though. Target Circle simply formalizes this into an opt-in program instead of an opt-out experience.

As part of the changes, Target’s Cartwheel savings are rolling into Target Circle where they’ll be rebranded as Target Circle offers. 

TargetCircle inApp

Circle members will also get early access to special sales throughout the year — that is, the events people line up for, like they did for the Lilly Pulitzer fashion line or more recently, the quickly sold out Vineyard Vines collection.

Target says, in time, it will come up with “even more personalized, relevant ways” to make shopping easier for its customers.

The new program is meant to complement the REDcard, which will increase the cashback to 5% when used. But REDcard holders can still join Circle to take advantage of the other perks.

WalletRedeeming

“Our guests are at the center of everything we do, and we’re always looking for ways to create even easier, more rewarding shopping experiences that give them another reason to choose Target,” said Rick Gomez, Target executive vice president, and chief marketing and digital officer, in a statement. “We worked directly with guests to develop Target Circle, and the program includes the benefits and perks they told us were most important to them, from earning on every trip to having the opportunity to help Target make a positive impact in their local communities,” he said.

The loyalty program had been in testing in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Phoenix over the past 18 months.

Though not having Amazon’s scale, Target has done well at quickly innovating to keep up with today’s pace of e-commerce. In short order, it has made over its stores to make more room for order pickups and online grocery, and has launched and expanded new services like Target Restock (next-day), Shipt (same day delivery) and Drive Up (same day pickup). The changes have been paying off with Target beating on its latest earnings with $18.42 billion in revenue and profits of $938 million.

 


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Syte snaps up $21.5M for its smartphone-based visual search engine for e-commerce – gpgmail


Visual search has become a key component for how people discover products when buying online: if a person don’t know the exact name of what he or she wants, or what they want is not available, it can be an indispensable tool for connecting them with things they might want to buy.

Now, one of the companies building technology to do this has raised a round of funding to expand its business further into the US, and not just across digital platforms, but to tap further into the opportunities of bringing visual search into the world of physical commerce, too, by way of smart mirrors and apps for store assistants to better help customers.

Syte, a Tel Aviv startup that works with fashion retailers like Farfetch and River Island as well as those who sell a wider variety of goods like Argos, Sainsbury’s and Kohl’s, has raised $21.5 million in funding. The Series B was led by Viola Ventures, with participation also from Storm Ventures, Commerce Ventures, and Axess Ventures. Syte has now raised $32 million including a previous round in 2017; it’s not disclosing its valuation but is projecting 300 percent revenue growth this year.

The use of visual search — using computer vision to “read” a picture, match it up with its metadata, and then find pictures of products that are similar to it — has become commonplace in e-commerce in recent years.

Among the many other companies that have this kind of tech — including visual search platforms like Pinterest and social media platforms themselves — Syte’s approach is notable in how it engages shoppers in the process of the search. Users can snap pictures of items that they like the look of, which can then be used to on a retailer’s site to find compatible lookalikes. Retailers, meanwhile, can quickly integrate Syte’s technology into their own platforms by way of an API.

Lihi Pinto Fryman, Syte’s CMO who co-founded the company in London with husband Ofer Fryman, Idan Pinto and Dr Helge Voss, said in an interview that the company spent about three years developing its technology — spurred initially by her own surprise, when she was working as an investment banker, at not being able to find a particular dress she spotted in a magazine — and only launched a product about 18 months ago. Since then, she says the company has seen “super hyper” growth because of the gap the company is filling.

The crux of the problem goes something like this: Retailers both online and offline have found that a new generation of shoppers are less interested in visiting their storefronts.

They are instead shopping by browsing social media platforms like Instagram and buying from there, which essentially opens those retailers to whole new set of competitors, and potentially at a great disadvantage, since they are not as well equipped to speak to that audience or anticipate what interests them to trigger sales.

“Young people are on Instagram for hours each day,” Fryman said. Indeed, Instagram is one of the only big social networks that’s seeing usage rise at the moment. “Retailers need to find a way to compete with that and remain in the market, and they can’t just continue what they’ve always done.”

On the other hand, while there are a number of visual search tools out in the market, not all of them are useful enough. “If you are searching for a ruffled floral yellow dress but you get a blouse, it just doesn’t cut it,” she noted. “And if it takes seven seconds to get an answer, that’s also not good, because people will give up after 2 seconds. Millennials and Gen Z shoppers have a very short attention span, so you need to be accurate and fast.”

The idea is that a product like Syte’s addresses both of these issues, and then some. In addition to its camera-based search service, it provides a recommendation engine to retailers, plus tagging services for its back catalog to complete the service.

“Rarely do we find companies that have managed to solve a technological problem that tech giants have been working for years to solve without success,” says Ronen Nir, General Partner at Viola Ventures, in a statement. “The feedback from the market is clear and swift and the rate of adoption of Syte’s solution is unparalleled. We are excited to lead a significant funding round that would be able to take the company to the next level.”

Syte’s more recent foray into physical commerce is an interesting turn as well. Smart mirrors have been more of a wishlist item than something that has seen critical mass adoption so far in changing rooms.

If the idea does catch on, I wonder what kind of a digital divide it might create among retailers, since the cost of refurbishing changing rooms to include these, along with all the backend changes that would need to be made, will likely be only the kind of service that bigger or high-end boutiques will be able to shoulder. More interesting, perhaps, is the idea of app-based tools for assistants, many of whom already carry a smartphone and would likely be grateful for recommendations to help sell better to customers.

“We have a vision to transform product discovery, and thus the eCommerce experience, for both retailers and consumers.” said Ofer Fryman in a statement. “That vision is what has led us since we founded Syte, and it is what continues to lead us as we enter this stage.”


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Target’s Drive Up pickup service expands nationwide – gpgmail


Target’s same-day curbside pickup service, Drive Up, has now reached all 50 U.S. states, the retailer announced on Thursday. The service allows consumers to shop online then pull up to designated spaces at their local store to have their purchases ferried to their vehicle by Target staff.

Drive Up has rolled out to Target stores at a fairly fast pace, given the technology requirements, infrastructure and operational changes required to support these fast-to-fill online orders.

The company in April 2018 introduced Drive Up to its first locations outside of Target’s hometown market of Minneapolis-St. Paul, where it had been in piloting testing since October 2017. With the public launch, Drive Up was immediately available across nearly 270 stores in Florida, Texas and the Southeast. By summer 2018, it had reached over 800 stores, with plans to reach 1,000 by year-end.

Instead, it hit the 1,000-store milestone in October 2018.

And with the start of this year’s back-to-school shopping season, Drive Up became available at over 1,500 stores.

With the expansion announced today, Drive Up has now reached 1,750 stores, thanks to recent rollouts in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. As it launches in new locations, Target will often dole out free product samples as a perk for its first customers and to encourage repeat business.

Overall, Drive Up seems to be working to bring more consumers to its stores — even if they don’t come inside.

In less than two year’s time, Drive Up has become one of Target’s best-rated services. During its most recent earnings, Target noted that it had more than doubled the total number of Drive Up orders in 2018 by fulfilling nearly 5 million orders within the first part of this year alone.

The retailer also recently noted that roughly 1 in 5 customers placing a same-day order in Q2 were placing an order with Target for the first time.

The backend side of Drive Up has improved over time, as well, with improvements to optimize both order picking and delivery of curbside orders to customers.

At launch, Target was committing to fulfill Drive Up orders within 2 hours. Today, Target says it’s able to offer fulfillment by Drive Up in as soon as one hour.

By this holiday season, Target says that “most” of its 1,855 U.S. stores will offer Drive Up service.

“We’ve heard the message loud and clear from our guests: They absolutely love the ease and convenience of Drive Up, whether they’re shopping for household essentials, road trip snacks or baby gear,” said Dawn Block, senior vice president, digital, in a statement about the nationwide expansion. “So our team has worked hard to rapidly expand the service since its introduction less than two years ago to all 50 states. And the work’s not done. The team’s continuing to find ways to make the service even better.”

The service is not without competition, however.

Walmart Grocery offers curbside pickup at over 2,500 locations. Sam’s Club in July announced same-day pickup nationwide. Amazon, which has historically lacked a brick-and-mortar presence, has been quick to react to the threat of curbside pickup. Most recently, it announced a new partnership with Rite Aid, that will see the arrival of a “Counter” service — a free, in-store pickup option — at 1,500 Rite Aid locations by year-end. (Amazon also offers grocery pickup at select Whole Foods.)

However, in-store pickup isn’t quite as convenient as curbside service. And that’s especially true for curbside’s top demographic: parents — often those with young children. Among Target Drive Up’s best-sellers, for example, are things like diapers, wipes, and formula.

Drive Up is one of several ways Target is fighting back against Amazon. The company also now owns same-day delivery service Shipt, offers online order pickup, subscriptions to common household items, and runs a Prime Pantry competitor with next-day service, Target Restock. 


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World of Warcraft Classic Is Mobbed With Returning Players


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When World of Warcraft Classic launched this week, no one was quite sure what the player response would be. The amount of interest in the launch has been massive, but how many people would show up to play?

The answer: Tons. So many, that the question is now “How many will stick around for the long haul?”

The game is mobbed, to put it politely. I managed to log on Monday for a few hours, probably because people weren’t aware that the official North American opening was on Monday, not Tuesday. Tuesday night, the queues were basically impossible — an attempted log in at 8 PM found me stuck in a 3-hour queue. Even at 10:30 PM — when sane people on the East Coast are headed for bed — I was looking at a half-hour login queue.

WTB-Spawns

It’s, uh, busy.

I’ve decided to do a comparison between the leveling experience for 1-60 between retail WoW and Classic WoW. Thus far, it’s been a bit hampered, simply because the enormous explosion of level 1’s rolling in new character zones is so high. This is an obvious problem for any game — the rush of players experiencing the content at launch is always high, which means competition for resources, spawns, and drops is also high. Certain WoW Classic mechanics, like the need to “tag” mobs in order to receive credit (and only one person can tag a mob) means that it takes longer to complete certain quests.

This has been utterly predictable. What I find more interesting is how the player base is reacting to Classic on the whole. There’s a definite group of people who have no idea how to play the game — stumbling through various issues, fighting to orient themselves in classes they either never played back in 2004 or have forgotten how to play according to 15-year-old rules. On the Retail servers, chatter about Classic is mostly about how bad it is and how glad various players are not to be engaging with it. On Classic servers, the general chatter is over how much fun people are having and how glad they are to be back in a version of the game they like.

Well, that, and fighting over whether the Deadmines instance should be abbreviated “DM” or “VC.” I have witnessed this argument three times now, on two different servers. Other meme callouts include “50 DKP minus,” (NSFW based on language), “Shield / Hearth,” and… *sigh* “Leroy Jenkins.” There have been multiple calls for someone to fire up a Ventrilo server for everyone to group on and while I’ve seen some arguments in chat, I’d say Classic has generally been friendlier than retail. In fact, one amusing irony is that the Retail server I hung out on last night was full of more complaining about Classic mechanics than the actual Classic server I’m playing on.

(Aerie Peak and Pagle, for anyone curious).

The initial Classic launch on Monday night was quite laggy, but Blizzard had warned that it would be. For as long as I’ve played WoW — 15 years now, off-and-on — it’s been possible for the sheer number of players on the server to cause local lag. Right now, the queues for login are stretching past 9,000 people, despite the fact that servers can hold several times more players now than they could in 2004. Over time, this will fade away. The question is, what will be left when it does?

The idea that WoW Classic players are going to simply dump the old game is, I think, simplistic. While I have no idea how long the game will hold its players, at least some of the people who have come back for the experience, including myself, know exactly what they’re getting into. What I’d love to know is whether or not WoW Classic has generated a bump in subscriptions, indicating that people are reactivating old accounts to play the version of a game they already played once before.

It’s comparatively rare to get to compare the old and new version of a retail shipping product in this fashion. Most games do not evolve as much as WoW has. If they do evolve as much as WoW has, they tend to be online games with an eternally “updated” server. While WoW is not the first title to support both a “Classic” and a current client — Runescape also did this, with Runescape Classic, which shut down last year — it’s one of a relative handful of games in which the developer has formally offered two side-by-side editions that capture where the game was in a vastly different time period.

I shall be reporting from both sides of Azeroth in the not-too-distant future.

Now Read:

What to Know (or Remember) Before Diving In to World of Warcraft Classic
World of Warcraft Classic Gets More Servers, Fewer Character Restrictions
WoW Classic Has a Release Date and God Help Me I’m Excited




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Instacart CFO Ravi Gupta to exit for Sequoia Capital – gpgmail


Instacart‘s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, Ravi Gupta, will exit the on-demand grocery delivery company at the end of the year to “return to his investing roots,” the company told gpgmail this morning. The executive will join Sequoia Capital as a partner on the growth team beginning in January.

The company’s vice president of finance and strategy, Sagar Sanghvi, has been promoted to CFO, a critical role as the company gears up for an initial public offering as soon as next year. Instacart is actively searching for a COO replacement.

Valued at nearly $8 billion, Instacart has raised a total of $1.9 billion in venture capital funding since it was founded in 2012. Co-founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta has remained mum on any details surrounding the company’s IPO plans, telling gpgmail last fall that a float “will be on the horizon.”

Instacart’s vice president of finance and strategy, Sagar Sanghvi, has been promoted to CFO.

After a decade at the investment firm KKR, Gupta joined Instacart in 2015 to manage both the company’s finances and operations as its first CFO and COO. He’s worked closely with Sequoia for some time; the firm first invested in Instacart prior to Gupta’s hiring, leading an $8.5 million Series A financing in 2013. Sequoia’s outspoken partner Michael Moritz sits on the company’s board of directors.

Roelof Botha, another Sequoia partner, says the venture capital firm helped San Francisco-based Instacart recruit Gupta to the C-suite years ago: “With Ravi now returning to his passion of investing, he can help other visionaries – like Apoorva – turn their dreams into reality,” Botha said in an emailed statement. “Ravi’s operational and investing experience, along with his strong work ethic and humility, will make him an invaluable partner to founders and our team.”

When Gupta joined Instacart to oversee finance, corporate development and strategic business initiatives in what was a newly created role, the business, a newly minted “unicorn,” had only 300 employees. Today, Instacart has roughly 1,000 full-time employees and another 100,000 “shoppers,” or contract workers who fulfill the online grocery orders.

“In 2015, I met Apoorva and he shared his vision for Instacart with me,” Gupta said in an emailed statement. “I was truly inspired and knew this was a team I wanted to join and a company I wanted to help build.”

Following his departure, Gupta will continue to advise Instacart on a variety of matters, the company said.

Instacart is announcing another two high-level hires this morning. Jakii Chu has joined the company as its chief marketing officer after nearly five years at sports merchandising business Fanatics, where she was senior vice president of e-commerce.

Chris Rogers, the former managing director of Apple Canada, has been hired as its vice president of retail. Rogers will be based in Instacart’s Toronto office, which Instacart opened earlier this year, reporting to chief business officer Nilam Ganenthiran.

Instacart delivers groceries to 5,500 cities across the U.S. and Canada, making deliveries from some 20,000 stores. Earlier this year, Instacart began its expansion into alcohol delivery. The service is now available in 20 states.

A graduate of Y Combinator, Instacart is also backed by D1 Capital Partners, Coatue Management, Thrive Capital, Canaan Partners, Andreessen Horowitz and several others.


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Ron Johnson’s e-commerce startup Enjoy raises $150M, expands in U.K. – gpgmail


Enjoy, the e-commerce startup led by former Apple VP of retail operations, Ron Johnson, has raised an additional $150 million in Series C funding from L Catterton’s new consumer technology platform, LCH Partners. The funds will be used to fuel Enjoy’s U.K. expansion and other international growth. The startup is also today launching a partnership with British mobile network operator EE, which will allow the company to serve over 80% of U.K. households by 2020.

The company announced the funding but not the size of the round. An SEC filing shows $150 million was offered, but only half had closed. However, a source familiar with the round confirmed $150 million had been raised.

The new growth funding brings Enjoy’s total raise to date to $350 million, following its May 2015 launch. Prior investors include Riverwood Capital, Stamos Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Highland Capital, and Oak Capital Management.

Having spent over a decade at Apple, Johnson is best known for pioneering the concept of Apple’s retail stores and Genius Bar. He previously held an executive position at Target as VP of Merchandising and, following Apple, had a less successful run as J.C. Penney’s CEO which led to his ouster. (Though in hindsight, it’s been argued that J.C. Penney should have just stuck with his plan, after all.)

With Silicon Valley-based Enjoy, Johnson combined the convenience of online shopping with the personal service that comes from shopping in a physical, brick-and-mortar store and the help you’d receive at Genius Bar, for example.

As Johnson explained around the time of launch, the goal was to figure out how to provide personal service to those who want to buy online.

“One of the observations from my time at Apple is that Apple makes the easiest to use products on the planet, but look at how busy the stores are with people asking questions and needing help. So what about the rest? How do you deliver help in this digital world we live in?,” he said, during an interview at gpgmail Disrupt 2015.

Through partnerships with other companies, including AT&T, Sonos, Google, and now EE, Enjoy creates an online mobile store where customers can shop for devices and receive same-day delivery. They can also opt to have an Enjoy expert deliver the item and help them get set up free of charge.

Enjoy generates its revenue from its business partners, who pay to have their products sold through an online storefront. Enjoy then returns information like what sort of challenges customers face with their setups, and help to reduce calls to tech support while also increasing brand loyalty.

“One of the highlights of my retail career was creating a new channel for Apple customers, which was the Apple Retail Store,” said Ron Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder of Enjoy, in a statement. “Now I get to do it again by creating the mobile retail store for not just one company, but for many great companies around the world. As we look to drive the next phase of our growth, L Catterton was a natural choice as our partner, given their expertise in building consumer and technology brands on a global scale,” he said.

Including today’s expansion by way of its EE partnership, Enjoy now operates in more than 54 U.S. markets and covers more than 50% of the U.S. population, and will be offered in 11 U.K. markets, covering more than 60% of the population, by year-end. As of 2020, it will reach 80% of the U.K. population.

The company also plans to expand to at least one other country this year, and additional countries in 2020.


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Target’s same-day pickup and delivery services growing at double the rate of 2018 – gpgmail


Target’s investment in same-day pickup and delivery options is paying off. The company, which today offers same-day in-store pickup, drive-up, and same-day delivery through its acquisition of Shipt, said this week that these services combined have more than doubled their sales in the last year. In addition, they accounted for more than a third of Target’s digital sales, up from about 20% last year.

“These options offer speed, convenience and reliability and as a result, they are quickly becoming the preferred fulfillment choices for our guests,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell, speaking to investors about Target’s Q2 earnings. “And most importantly, because these options leverage our store infrastructure, technology, and teams, same-day fulfillment delivers outstanding financial performance as well,” he added. 

What’s notable about the same-day sales is that they’re bringing in guests to Target, who had never before placed digital orders with the retailer.

Roughly 1 in 5 customers placing a same-day order in the second quarter were placing an order with Target for the first time.

And once Target customers become familiar with the process, they seem to return in short order. During Q2, more than three-quarters of the same-day orders were placed by guests who had used same-day fulfillment in the past three months.

Target’s ability to grow its same-day sales in this fashion was the result of investment in infrastructure, technology, and even its brick-and-mortar stores themselves.

On the technology front, Target says its pickup and delivery services benefitted from increased order picking efficiency. Instead of using a first-in, first-out (FIFO) system, new algorithms are being used to prioritize the sequence of order picking that helps direct store employees on which work to do first as well as the best box size for packing orders.

The technology also helps to optimize the path for order picking to minimize the number of steps between the sales floor and back room.

Target claims that since the beginning of last year, these improvements have led to an over 30% increase in order picking for drive-up and pickup services. Its ship-from-store capability also improved over 30% during that time.

Meanwhile, the retailer’s $7+ billion remodeling project announced in 2017 was focused more than just updating the stores’ look-and-feel and merchandising displays. The new format stores also include changes designed to cater to online shoppers who come inside the store for their order pickups, by adding more space for things like Order Pickup.

Outside, space is added for Drive Up customers who shop online then later drive to the store for curbside service.

This summer, Target passed its 500th store remodel, and says it’s on-track to remodel 1,000 stores by the end of 2020. It also plans to open up more small-format stores — about a third of the size of a traditional Target, or on average, 40,000 sq ft — in big cities, suburbs, and college campuses.

Target says it plans on opening 30 more small-format stores per year, as it has done last year and the year prior. It said on Friday it had opened its 100th small-format store.

Richmond Drive Up

All the changes to make Target’s stores more of home for order fulfillment has helped the retailer reduce costs, as well, the company pointed out this week on its Q2 earnings.

Target says, as it’s shifted away from upstream distribution centers for order fulfillment to its stores, costs went down by more than 40%. And costs related to same-day services went down by 90%. Target today has 1,855 U.S. stores, which is how it’s able to make this store-centric strategy work.

Many traditional big-box retailers are struggling under the weight of competition from Amazon — Macy’s, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney’s all released disappointing earnings this week, for example.

Target’s earnings, however, beat every estimate this week, sending shares to a record high.

The company reported $18.42 billion in revenue, above the $18.34 billion expected. Profits were up 17% to $938 million ($1.82 a share) compared with $799 million ($1.49 a share), a year ago.

Second-quarter comparable sales grew 3.4 percent, with same-day fulfillment accounts for nearly 1.5 percentage points of that. Over the past two years, comparable sales have grown 10%, Target said.

 


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Amazon is acquiring a 49% stake in India’s Future Coupons – gpgmail


Amazon, which has invested over $6 billion in India’s growing internet market, just invested a little more to expand its foothold in the the world’s second largest internet market. The U.S. e-commerce giant is acquiring a 49% stake in Future Coupons, a group entity owned by India’s second largest retail chain Future Group, the latter said in a regulatory filing Thursday evening (local time).

In a statement to gpgmail, an Amazon spokesperson said, “Amazon has agreed to invest in Future Coupons Limited, which is engaged in developing innovative value-added payment products and solutions such as corporate gift cards, loyalty cards, and reward cards primarily for corporate and institutional customers. This investment will enhance Amazon’s existing portfolio of investments in the payments landscape in India.”

“Pursuant to these agreements, Amazon has agreed to make an equity investment in Future Coupons Limited for acquiring a 49% stake comprising both, voting and non-voting shares. As part of the agreement, Amazon has been granted a call option,” Future Retail said in a filing (PDF) to the local stock exchange.

As part of the agreement, Amazon has the option to “acquire all or part of the promoters’ shareholding in Future Retail Limited” between the third and tenth year in “certain circumstances, subject to applicable law.” Future Coupons owns about 7.3% stake in Future Retail, according to past regulatory filings.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The Promoters have also agreed to certain share transfer restrictions on their shares in the Company for same tenure, including restrictions to not transfer shares to specified persons, a right of first offer in favour of Amazon, all of which are subject to mutually agreed exceptions (such as liquidity allowances and affiliate transfers). The transaction contemplated above is subject to obtaining applicable regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions,” Future Retail added.

It is interesting that Amazon is indirectly acquiring stake in Future Retail. Future Retail runs over 2,000 stores, including “Big Bazaar” retail stores, across 400 cities in India.

This is a developing story. More to follow…


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