more articles by

Michael Waters

  • 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.

  • DEC 03, 2020

    Why Tastemade is partnering with retailers for shoppable programming

    Recent Walmart and Amazon partnerships suggest that shoppable TV might become a big part of Tastemade's future. And as more retailers are looking to invest in their own television shows, social-first media companies like Tastemade are becoming their go-to place. But the media company still has to figure out how to get people to actually buy the products.

  • DEC 02, 2020

    ‘The online store has gone crazy’: Christmas tree sales are finally going digital

    As shoppers become more dependent on e-commerce, a growing number are beginning to look online even for Christmas trees. A small handful of DTC-style brands, like Walddie, have cropped up to offer delivery-focused tree sales. Even big players like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s are stepping into the market, selling Christmas trees not just in their physical stores but also online. Digital Christmas tree are on the rise -- but ultimately, the Christmas tree business might show the limits of online ordering despite this banner year for e-commerce.

  • DEC 01, 2020

    Explainer: Is middle-mile delivery a logistics frontier or retail buzzword?

    The "middle mile" -- the part of the supply chain in which goods are shipped from a supplier's warehouse to a retail store -- might not have the buzz or high profile of last-mile delivery, but a growing number of retailers see middle-mile logistics as a quick path toward slashing delivery costs. For retailers, that would keep them competitive as the online delivery space grows more crowded.

  • NOV 25, 2020

    How Roblox paves the way for a new era of branded gaming

    Roblox is still in its infancy as a marketing tool, but over the last two years, the number of brands and retailers on Roblox has grown dramatically. Compared to other gaming systems, it is incredibly easy to discover new games on Roblox, which makes the platform well suited to help even small brands build a large, passionate audience. In fact, one agency told Modern Retail that retailers -- including grocers -- are looking into building their own branded games. 

  • NOV 24, 2020

    Retailers are increasingly uncomfortable with employee influencers

    Sherwin-Williams recently fired an employee allegedly over his popular TikTok posts. These types of terminations highlight the awkward relationship between retailers and a rising crop of employee influencers. On one hand, some companies have started encouraging and compensating their low-level workers to post behind-the-scenes snippets to TikTok. Meanwhile, other retailers seem terrified to have employees representing them online -- and might make themselves look worse in the process.

  • NOV 23, 2020

    As big tech goes all in on live-stream shopping, the future may be for small brands

    Based on its success overseas, experts have been predicting for years that live-stream shopping will blow up in the U.S. Until now, even though apps like NTWRK are niche successes, that hasn’t happened. But the entrance of tech giants into live-stream shopping might signal a real breakout moment -- and might prove to be a boon especially to small, niche businesses.

  • NOV 20, 2020

    Why food insurance is taking over holiday marketing

    This upcoming holiday season is an extremely hard one for any marketing department. Emphasizing family togetherness, as companies tend to during the holidays, feels out of touch given the requirements of social distancing. Yet beyond their sheer headline value, these marketing gimmicks are also a way to drive people to sign up for corporate membership programs. Whole Foods customers partaking in the insurance program, for example, must already Amazon Prime members.  

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