more articles by

Michael Waters

  • JAN 05, 2021

    How Amazon sellers are getting Silicon Valley-ified

    Amazon sellers are increasingly being wooed by VCs and acquirers. These new firms tend to use similar tricks for finding and optimizing products -- redesigning product pages, reshooting product photos, adding keywords and so on. Amazon’s third-party marketplace could well become crowded with increasingly indistinct, algorithmic winners, accelerating a trend that has already begun on the platform.

  • JAN 04, 2021

    How brands finally figured out TikTok

    With the right video, any user -- and any brand -- can find themselves catapulted to viral fame overnight. But bigger companies figured out those same lessons -- and by crafting their own branded songs, leaning into self-parody and, in some cases, encouraging their employees to post on their behalf, retailers in 2020 finally learned how to use TikTok effectively.

  • DEC 30, 2020

    In memoriam: Iconic retail brands we lost in 2020

    Oddly, 2020 might prove to be the year of the zombie brand. Even the companies that did shutter their physical stores are on track to find a second life online, thanks to companies like Retail Ecommerce Ventures buying rights to the brands out of bankruptcy.

  • DEC 23, 2020

    As malls and Walmart enter the fray, livestream shopping is becoming more mainstream

    Since the fall, Minnesota-based Mall of America has teamed up with live-stream shopping app Popshop Live to stream products from within its network of stores. Simon Property Group -- a commercial real estate company that owns over 100 malls in the U.S. -- has reportedly struck a partnership with another livestream app, ShopShops. As the pandemic continues to exacerbate long-term revenue declines, these companies are hoping that livestreams will sell products without customers ever needing to enter a store.

  • DEC 22, 2020

    ‘A cautionary tale’: What the ’90s online grocery bust means for the industry today

    With the exception of Peapod, these companies all imploded in 2000 and 2001 following the dot-com crash. The story of their failure demonstrates why online grocery took so long to finally catch on in the U.S. -- even though tech entrepreneurs have long thought grocery delivery was the way of the future, they just wouldn’t invest.

  • DEC 21, 2020

    ‘They could start taking up space’: How vaccines could impact retail shipping

    Logistics experts who spoke to Modern Retail did not express fears of mass delays and shortages on the scale of what the world saw in the spring. Retailers and logistics companies alike are far more prepared for the surge in vaccine capacity now than they were for the e-commerce rush in March. But for food products that -- like the vaccines -- require cold storage, smaller-scale shipping delays and price increases are not out of the question, especially for small and mid-sized businesses that might not have the resources to fight for their slot in the cold-storage chain.

  • DEC 17, 2020

    To stay afloat, the greeting card business is going digital

    Overall, greeting card sales are down somewhere around 11.6% this year. But there are some reasons for optimism for the industry. The declines in the past several months were not as bad as at the height of the pandemic. And Shutterstock has estimated that holiday card sales would be up 7% this year compared to 2019. A lot of that might be driven by the fact that greeting card businesses have finally figured out how to efficiently sell online -- in part by catering their e-commerce stores to last-minute gift buyers. 

  • DEC 16, 2020

    ‘The time for amateurs seems over’: How acquirers are giving Amazon sellers an exit

    A German startup called Razor bought out a seller’s three top-selling products. Razor is part of a growing ecosystem of Amazon seller acquisition companies, sometimes called seller “rollup” companies, that invest in successful Amazon products and pull them into a much larger Amazon product portfolio. Here’s a look at how this growing offshoot of Amazon commerce works.

  • DEC 15, 2020

    While Amazon tries to grow its Just Walk Out technology, competitors are thriving

    Companies like Keyo, Grabango, Standard Cognition, Aifi, Zippin and Trigo have all worked on various types of cashierless technology. And despite Amazon’s tremendous power, these companies aren’t seeing their businesses shrink this year. If anything, having Amazon enter a new sector of the retail technology space seems to be a boost for the companies are already active in it.

  • DEC 14, 2020

    ‘A true influencer program’: Inside Walmart’s growing army of employee TikTokers

    Conversations with Walmart employees, interviews with executives familiar with Spotlight and publicly available episodes from Walmart’s Sparkcast podcast give a glimpse into how the growing program is trying to turn employees into a social media force to be reckoned with -- and might presage a future in which retail workers are tapped to promote products, broadcast store promotions and combat bad press.

  • DEC 11, 2020

    Explainer: The high-profile 2021 bills that may change Amazon’s business model

    E-commerce liability protections might start to come with extra strings attached -- if they continue at all. A September court decision declared that Amazon was in fact responsible for a defective laptop battery sold by a third party on its site, in large part because Amazon warehoused and packaged that product through its Fulfillment by Amazon network. In October, the White House called for stronger anti-counterfeit legislation against e-commerce companies. And that is giving new momentum to a series of Congressional and state bills.

  • DEC 10, 2020

    How a shoppable WhatsApp might give a boost to small sellers

    In the U.S., only a tiny sliver of people shop on WhatsApp. But the potential for WhatsApp -- which boasts over 2 billion users worldwide -- is significant. That suggests WhatsApp's biggest benefit might not be for international brands, but for local stores without a lot of money to spend on a slick e-commerce site. In turning WhatsApp into a shopping platform, Facebook is actually placing a bet on localized e-commerce.

  • DEC 09, 2020

    Why smart toothbrushes are ripe for brand partnerships

    But the Colgate and Headspace collaboration is the latest example of brands testing out niche smart technology. Companies are looking at collaborating with a whole host of smart products, from toothbrushes to smart fridges. Their reason for experimenting beyond the Alexas and Google Assistants of the world is largely about centralizing customer data. Turning to alternate smart products presents a way for brands to reassert control.

  • DEC 07, 2020

    ‘It wasn’t really a perk’: How Amazon Launchpad has been left to languish

    It seemed, briefly, like Amazon might shake up the way that startups take off. But over five years later, Launchpad has languished. Although there are some success stories, few customers have heard of Launchpad -- and many of those sellers who did work with Launchpad felt that the perks weren’t worth the extra 5% of profits they had to give up. What happened to the highly anticipated program for growing startups?

  • DEC 04, 2020

    Why retailers like Amazon and Target are embracing no-rush delivery

    At the same time as retailers are racing to perform ever-faster shipping times, they also appear to be upping the incentives for slow delivery. Retailers, including Amazon, Target and Macy's are all offering shoppers discounts in exchange for longer shipping times. And that split might signal a changing mindset for some retailers -- rather than focusing on speed at all costs, some are taking a more nuanced approach to logistics.

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