Compared to most consumer-facing companies, wholesale has been slowly to adapt to many of the biggest e-commerce trends in retail. But the high-profile entrance of a major wholesale business marks the beginning of a bigger trend. What's more, it suggests that B-to-B online marketplaces are poised to become the next big shift in retail.
Last week, Walmart announced it would acquire Zeekit, a startup that has worked with ASOS, Adidas and other brands on building technology that lets customers virtually try on clothes before they buy them. The acquisition represents the highest-profile endorsement of virtual try-on technology yet from a major brick-and-mortar retailer -- suggesting that even while virtual try-on remains a niche phenomenon, it is fast becoming the next battleground in retail.
While the current grocery delivery trend is to optimize for speed, not all analysts agree and startup CEOs see it as a viable or sustainable tactic. “This whole idea of speed of delivery is I think equivalent to the bridge to nowhere,” said Bill Bishop, an industry analyst who founded the research firm Brick Meets Click.
As both Amazon and Walmart launch more private-label products, few top search result slots are going to third-party sellers. That reality not only underscores the success of private-label products for both Amazon and Walmart -- it also shows just how tight the window has become for third-party sellers to get their products seen in the highest-trafficked parts of Amazon.
If a customer left a five-star rating, the sellers offered to refund them in full for their purchase. In most cases, they offered the reimbursements through PayPal, not Amazon, so that Amazon moderators wouldn’t be able to pick up on the links. Safety Detectives said it found evidence of at least 200,000 reviews that are the result of a refund scheme.
Buoying Pinduoduo's surge is a group-purchase model that gamifies the shopping process: in order to complete a purchase, and ensure bulk discounts for all individual consumers, shoppers can organize their friends or acquaintances into buying groups. That is a marked contrast with Alibaba, which built itself up using the same one-to-one buying approach that's a feature of e-commerce companies like Amazon: an individual buyer makes a purchase from an individual seller. But by taking a more community-oriented approach, PDD has proven the power of targeting groups of buyers, rather than individuals.
An arbitrator recently ruled that Macy's wasn't giving salespeople commissions because of its app. The decision is relatively limited in scope, but it is drawing attention to an under-the-radar issue in the retail world: as more and more retailers launch their own “scan and pay” apps, there’s a risk that sales floor workers will be locked out of commissions.
A California court just deemed Amazon liable for a faulty product sold by a third-party seller. The ruling, if nothing else, solidifies that Amazon has a real liability risk in California. “It’s going to carry a lot of weight in California,” one lawyer said.
The addition of a customer engagement feature to Transparency seems to be a way to rebrand -- and potentially increase the value proposition for -- what has been a largely neglected feature within the company’s counterfeit-fighting service umbrella.
Two proposed new Instagram features are especially significant for the retail world: Instagram’s planned branded content marketplace and its new affiliate program. Both tools, depending on their ultimate scope and rollout, could potentially shift how brands recruit and interact with influencers, and they could also precipitate changes in where -- and how -- customers discover products.
Ephemeral ghost kitchens are on the rise -- as evidenced by the rise of a burger pop-up named Gay Burger. For now, these programs -- which have the spontaneity and sense of humor of an internet meme -- are rare. But Gay Burger’s brief rise points to a future in which meme-able virtual restaurants might surface on third-party delivery apps: designed to go viral, then disappear, like a delivery-only pop-up restaurant.
Bundling together products into packs, while leaving some uncertainty about what is inside, is not new. Playing cards have been using the same concept for decades. But the rise of YouTube and TikTok has brought the phenomenon into newer sectors of the retail world -- including toy, grocery and fashion brands.
Amazon brought in $52.9 billion through its online stores in the first quarter of 2021, by far its largest category of revenue. But other sectors of its business -- including seller services, subscriptions, AWS and advertising -- have continued to see big surges. But competitors, including Facebook and Shopify, are also seeing big commerce gains.
Earlier this month, Amazon quietly rolled out a tool called Manage Your Customer Engagement that lets sellers send messages -- through Amazon -- to certain customers. Offering sellers the ability to send campaigns and product updates to their customers is one step toward allaying those concerns. Yet the new tool comes with a number of important limitations. Sellers, for instance, will not know anything more about their customers than they already do.
Those gamification features are still incredibly rare in the U.S. -- but given their success overseas, they signal that some e-commerce companies are evolving to become not just shopping hubs but also sources of entertainment.
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