Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘retail

Retail Therapy

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The retail industry makeover continues.

According to various reports, clothing retailer Forever 21, Inc. may or may not file for Chapter 1 bankruptcy protection as early as Sunday. And according to a WSJ report could close some 700 of its stores in any case.

Yet another online retail outfit, Shopify, has acquired another e-commerce automation startup, 6 River Systems, for some $450M.

6 River System uses its Chuck autonomous vehicles that can move packages around warehouses, and according to VentureBeat, believes those robots can increase the speed and reliability of its warehouse operations “by empowering on-site associates with daily tasks, including inventory replenishment, picking, sorting, and packing.”

Considering the tight labor market, these AI and automation deals I’ve recently written about make a lot of sense. If companies can’t find employees to take those jobs, they hire robots and increase automation. But what happens in a down labor market?

See a recent report published by IBM’s Institute for Business Value: As many as 120M workers from the world’s largest economies may need to be retrained as a result of AI and automation. Summary of that post here. 

Written by turbotodd

September 13, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Shelf Life

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On Tuesday California legislators passed AB5, a landmark bill that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees. Workers must be designated as employees if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business.

Expect Uber and Lyft’s autonomous vehicle efforts to speed up (as well as their lobbying efforts to gain an exception for its drivers to remain contractors). All those pesky humans, demanding rights like fair wages and health insurance!

On the subject of robots, Simbe Robotics has raised $26 million for autonomous inventory robots to inventory grocery shelves. A VentureBeat story indicates the brick-and-mortar automation market will be worth $18.9B by 2023.

Simbe’s robot, Tally, drives around a space to create a store map and then uses computer vision to “see” what products aren’t on a shelf and identify any missing facings, using RFID for its inventory counts.

VentureBeat reports a single robot can scan 15K to 30K products per hour, compared to the 10K-20K an average human employee can do in 20 to 30 hours. Human, 10-20K, 20-30 hours, Tally, 15K-30K per hour.

Humans will still do the restocking…for now. 

We’ll see how long their shelf life is.

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2019 at 10:10 am

Who Turned Out The Lights?

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Happy Monday!

Okay, golf fans out there, how about that U.S. Open?  Hats off to Gary Woodland, who held off the always lurking Brooks Koepka (and previous two-years-in-a-row U.S. Open winner) and fastidious Justin Rose to win his first ever major championship.

And there was hardly any bitching about the conditions of the venue, Pebble Beach, which I consider to be a good sign (i.e., no out of control rough, crazy fast greens, streaking fans…okay, that last one I made up just to see if I have your attention).

Of course, it’s kind of hard to bitch much about Pebble Beach — I’ve never been there in person, but even on TV it’s breathtaking.

Now, if you happened to be at a Target over the weekend trying to buy some merch, you might have had reason to bitch. For two days in a row, Target experienced a register outage that caused long lines and forced some customers to pay with cash.

You remember cash, right? That green stuff issued by the Federal Reserve that has pictures of past presidents and stuff on it?

Target shares are down more than 1.5% today as investors figured the missing weekend cash into the investment equation. The Wall Street Journal “Morning Download” email newsletter this morning cited Target as explaining the incident wasn’t security related, but rather blamed the outage on a data center issued related to “routine maintenance.” 

Tell me about those self-driving cars, again?  You know, the ones inextricably linked to the same clouds that are running the Target cash registers??

It could have been worse. You could have been trying to do the tango in Argentina (and Paraguay…and Uruguay…and parts of Chile…and Brazil). The power went off and left tens of millions in darkness for several hours on Sunday, and nobody seems to know why.

This as The New York Times on Sunday reported that the U.S. is escalating cyber attacks on Russia’s electric power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system. Moscow responded today by saying such hacks could escalate into a cyberwar with the U.S.

Mutually assured power outages, anyone?

And on the subject of mutually assured whatever, Huawei’s CEO is doing some advance damage control on the U.S./China Chill-But-Getting-Colder trade war, explaining he expects the company’s revenues to drop $30B below forecast over the next two years.

That’s due largely to a drop of 40 to 60 million international smartphone shipments. 

I would recommend he go talk to Alexa about his problems, but according to a recent survey of 1,000+ U.S. adults, 46 percent never use voice assistants, and 19 percent use them less than once a month.

And for those who do use virtual assistants, 49 percent use them via smartphones as opposed to 18 percent on smart speakers.

Siri, tell Google Assistant to text Alexa not to bother me!

Written by turbotodd

June 17, 2019 at 11:14 am

Amazon Grows

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Happy Monday.

Before the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is planning to open dozens of grocery stores in several major US cities.

The stores would not be part of the Whole Foods market chain,  and while the company has already signed leases according to the story, there is no guarantee it will open the stores.

Remind you of a recent deal in Long Island City, New York?

Just coincidental that this new grocery brand comes as Amazon is also rolling out its cashierless Amazon Go stores, the ones that require very few humans but lots of cameras and algos?

I think I’ll still with Trader Joes…for now. 

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco the RSA security conference gets underway for its 2019 edition.  Should be lots to talk about!

IBM’s Security Intelligence blog offers a few tips and tricks for those of you attending. 

My own two cents: Wear very comfortable shoes, carry some layers to wear, and pack a small umbrella. 

Oh yeah, and don’t use the free wi-fi networks while you’re there. It’s a cyber security conference, duh.

Written by turbotodd

March 4, 2019 at 10:39 am

Posted in 2019, amazon

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Walmart’s Leafy Green Blockchain

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TechCrunch recently reported on an initiative in which Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain, and that Walmart would be requiring all suppliers of leafy green vegetables for Sam’s and Walmart upload their data to the blockchain by September 2019.

TechCrunch’s story notes that “most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes,” making it difficult to track down food safety issues like E. coli romain lettuce. But “by placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital.

Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply to a particular location with much greater precision.

Walmart has been working with IBM for over a year on using the IBM Food Trust Solution use case in this scenario.

Most notable is the time compression involved. The story notes that before moving the process to the blockchain, it typically took approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, that has been reduced to 2.2 seconds, which means that also “substantially reduces the likelihood that infected food will reach the consumer.”

You can learn more about the IBM Food Trust blockchain solution here.

Written by turbotodd

September 26, 2018 at 11:16 am

Oh Thank Heavens

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It’s all about convenience.

MacRumors is reporting that 7-Eleven announced yesterday that Apple Pay and Google Pay are accepted at nearly all of its 10,000+ locations across the United States.

The company also highlighted some of the technology improvements that it has introduced recently including the 7-Eleven NOW app for placing on demand orders with Apple Pay, the 7Rewards loyalty program that allows customers to earn points for purchases, and the 7-Eleven Bot on Facebook Messenger to allow customers to get quick answers to questions.

Those all-critical questions that often arise at 2 AM, like: “Do you have any hotdogs left?”

To use Apple Pay at 7-Eleven stores, customers will need an iPhone 6, 6s, 6, 7, 8, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, 7 Plus, 8 Plus, SE, or X, and/or a compatible Apple Watch model.

Written by turbotodd

September 11, 2018 at 9:35 am

Posted in 2018, apple, payments, retail

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Amazon Check

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Amazon is talking with major banks about building a checking account-like product for its customers, according to a report from today’s Wall Street Journal.

The talks are allegedly focused on creating a product that would appeal to younger customers and those without bank accounts, but would apparently not involve Amazon itself becoming a bank.

Big picture strategery-wise, it imeans Amazon is continuing to work itself down to the very end of the consumer retail chain, near to the endpoint where people ingest and exhale their dinero. It would also have the derivative benefit of Amazon potentially cutting out another middleman (the bank), or at minimum minimizing the fees it pays. 

As the Journal article points out, Amazon would also get valuable data on customers’ income and spending habits across the board.

And as for the JPMorgans and other banks that may come aboard the Amazon checkbook-like safari, hey, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Written by turbotodd

March 5, 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Online Retailer LabelSneak Leverages IBM Smarter Commerce Technologies To Glean Mobile/Social Insights, Bolster Sales

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LabelSneak teamed with IBM and IBM Business Partner CSI Solution to connect with the growing marketplace of consumers who prefer to buy across online, mobile and social channels. IBM Smarter Commerce precision marketing is allowing consumers to choose which sales promotions they want to be alerted to or when their favorite clothing item goes on sale via text, tweet, Facebook post or email. This can be a more effective sales method as smaller retailers can deliver a level of personalization and a more tailored marketing campaign to the individual consumer.

LabelSneak teamed with IBM and IBM Business Partner CSI Solution to connect with the growing marketplace of consumers who prefer to buy across online, mobile and social channels. IBM Smarter Commerce precision marketing is allowing consumers to choose which sales promotions they want to be alerted to or when their favorite clothing item goes on sale via text, tweet, Facebook post or email. This can be a more effective sales method as smaller retailers can deliver a level of personalization and a more tailored marketing campaign to the individual consumer.

There’s some new news on the Smarter Commerce front from IBM.

Earlier today, IBM announced a collaboration with LabelSneak, a small online retailer of discounted designer men’s wear, which is using IBM Smarter Commerce technologies to create a unique shopping experience aimed at the millennial consumer.

As a result, LabelSneak has seen 148 percent growth in revenues, tripling sales in less than a year.

For The Fashion Conscious Male

LabelSneak is an outlet store aimed at brand aware males, and offers discounts of up to 75 percent on fashion and sportswear, alerting its consumers via social channels to personalized, limited-time sales offers.

With new deals updated regularly, the site generates tremendous amounts of data, including Tweets, Instagram photos, Facebook comments on popular sales items and conversations between consumers on favorite brands through social channels, mobile and tablet devices.

LabelSneak’s challenge was this: To capture and glean insights from all this big data to better understand what consumers were saying about the latest promotions, which items were the most popular and at what time and in what circumstances sales were most effective.

They also needed analytics to better target and mold online sales campaigns and to decide which social channels effectively communicated its message to attract new customers.

LabelSneak teamed with IBM and IBM Business Partner CSI Solution to connect with the growing marketplace of consumers who prefer to buy across online, mobile and social channels.

With access to IBM Global Financing within minutes, the small retailer is now using IBM Smarter Commerce technology to handle high volumes of transactions as well as the large volumes and variety of data, CSI’s RapidCommerce Cloud Managed Service Solution has helped LabelSneak create a site to more effectively target the digitally savvy millennial consumer with an integrated brand experience across all devices.

To date, the platform is supporting a rapid pace of growth, enabling the client to focus its time and resources on growing the business such as conducting sales promotions, gleaning insights from Facebook comments or tweets.

The Competitive Challenge

Fashion companies of every size and style are vying for a slice of the men’s wear market. To compete with more established retailer brands, LabelSneak needed to better understand men’s online consumer behavior, create a more tailored marketing campaign and deliver the right merchandising mix.

Not only is LabelSneak gleaning insights from data analyzing which brands to carry, but they also are seeing how consumer preferences for certain brands in men’s wear are connected to a favorite sports teams or music.

Background On IBM Smarter Commerce

IBM Smarter Commerce precision marketing is allowing consumers to choose which sales promotions they want to be alerted to or when their favorite clothing item goes on sale via text, tweet, Facebook post or email.

This can be a more effective sales method as smaller retailers can deliver a level of personalization and a more tailored marketing campaign to the individual consumer.

IBM Smarter Commerce provides intelligent automation of marketing, sales, customer service and procurement to help chief marketing officers, chief procurement officers, sales, e-commerce, supply chain and customer service executives do their jobs more productively and efficiently.

Go here if you’d like to do some shopping on LabelSneak.

Not Back In Davos

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It’s that time of the year.

The year when all the smart, rich, famous and well-connected show up in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.

I’m sure it’s nothing personal, but once again for as many years as I care to remember, my invitation never showed.

That’s okay, as things are pretty busy around here as we get off to a fast start in 2013.

However, I did really enjoy Alison Smale’s big picture set up piece for Davos this in The New York Time’s DealBook.

And if I were in attendance, that’s the type view I would be eagerly seeking — What are the general macroindicators and movements that smart peeps think are going to shape the year?

Some will be currents we can’t yet see, and as Smale observes, “Our footing is uncertain, as on this ski resort’s slithery streets, and we have steep slopes to climb, as the Magic Mountain will remind the global elite this week.”

Troubles in north Africa, the challenge of free information in China, anemic growth in Germany, the averted fiscal cliff but once again looming U.S. debt ceiling…”Crisis, in short,” writes Smale, “is the new normal.”

Speaking of Germany, also increasingly normal is the threat of cyber intrusion, according to a panel at the DLD conference ending today in Munich.

In coverage by Frederic Larinois from TechCrunch of Eugene Kaspersky, founder of Kaspersky Lab, the Internet security firm, and F-Secure’s chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen, it became readily apparent that cyber intrusion sophistication is reaching new levels.

Kaspersky spoke of recent cyber attacks like Stuxnet and Red October, suggesting such efforts have reached the equivalent of the “space station” in terms of their sophistication and impact, while Hypponen said the “happy hacker” of the 80s and 90s was long, and that instead “we now have to deal with criminals who try to make money from their malware and botnets, hacktivists who try to protest and governments attacking their own citizens and other governments for espionage and full-scale cyber warfare.”

The cyber genie, in other words, is well out of the virtual bottle.

So, let’s forget about all these woes for a few, shall we, and go shopping instead?

IBM’s new study of 26,000 global consumers will be coming out soon, and the early skinny has it revealing some interesting insights, including the fact that 35 percent of shoppers are unsure whether they would next shop at a store or online.

Talk about a confused consumer!

It also revealed that nearly half of online purchases result from “showrooming,” a growing trend whereby consumers browse goods at a store, but ultimately buy them online.

You’ve done that before, haven’t you?  You just didn’t know there was a fancy name for it!

Ultimately, consumers are seeking an integrated shopping experience.  So, in response, retailers need to connect their online and physical stores, blending the benefits of each — from research to purchase to building brand loyalty, to that ultimate golden chalice of retail, repeat sales.

IBM is helping through its analytics capabilities, helping retailers measure sales metrics across digital channels to spot consumer buying patterns and visualizing product display, promotions, and even coupons in new ways.

Visit the IBM Smarter Retail web site to learn how your organization can create an integrated shopping experience.

Me, I’ve got to run down to the Amazon store for some new typewriter ribbons. 😉

Written by turbotodd

January 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Every Kiss Begins With Kay

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Kay Jewelers

IBM and Signet Jewelers Ltd., the largest specialty retail jeweler in the U.S. and U.K., have worked together on a major e-commerce strategy and digital marketing redesign for Signet’s national U.S. store chains, Kay Jewelers and Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry.

This week the retail gurus of the world have been hobnobbing at the Jacob Javitts center in New York City as part of the National Retail Federation’s annual gathering.

So I thought it an appropriate opportunity to highlight a retail partnership between IBM and Signet Jewelers Ltd., the largest specialty retail jeweler in the U.S. and U.K..

IBM and Signet have worked together on a major e-commerce strategy and digital marketing redesign for Signet’s national U.S. store chains, Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry.

Building A Multichannel Strategy 

The initiative has transformed the multichannel experience for Kay and Jared customers and resulted in consistent sales growth, including a year-over-year increase of 49 percent in online sales as reported in the company’s recently announced holiday sales for fiscal 2013.

To advance its existing multichannel retail strategy and supplement its e-commerce and information technology expertise, Signet Jewelers U.S. Division engaged consultants from IBM Global Business Services and its digital consulting and design practice, IBM Interactive.

IBM and Signet U.S. collaborated to develop a unified strategy for delivering a more consistent, branded and personalized customer experience to Kay and Jared customers everywhere they shop — whether in a physical store, online or via mobile.

Key components of the multi-phased strategy include the launch of new transactional mobile sites, which enable customers to shop and purchase Kay and Jared products from their mobile phones, and a redesign of the Kay.com and Jared.com websites, which went live before the busy holiday shopping season.

The new sites combine best practices in optimized navigation and functionality, making it easier for shoppers to find, compare and purchase products online, along with new custom features that deliver a more guided, personalized shopping experience for which the company is known.

For instance, shoppers can now chat live with a customer service representative, compare product details side-by-side to help determine their selection, track recently viewed items and much more.

Mi amigo Paul Papas, IBM’s Smarter Commerce Global Leader for Global Business Services, had this to say about the partnership:

“Much of Signet Jeweler’s success in building Kay and Jared into two of the most trusted retail brands can be attributed to the expertise and superior customer service they deliver to create a world-class shopping experience. In an industry known for being married to tradition, Signet Jewelers is a shining example of how bricks and mortar retailers are redefining the customer experience and embracing digital channels, like mobile and social, as part of their overall strategy to deliver personalized interactions to their customers at every touch point.”

Behind the Redesign 

Initially starting with tactical enhancements to the Kay.com and Jared.com websites in late 2011, Signet U.S. launched complete redesigns of both sites in October 2012.

Signet introduced new mobile sites for each brand with transactional capabilities in mid-November.

The company has also launched a mobile app available on iTunes and the Android Market and introduced catalogs on the Google Catalogs app to tap into the growing population of mobile shoppers.

To elevate Signet’s social media presence, the company worked with IBM to define an engagement strategy, which Signet U.S. has begun implementing by launching a social media presence for Kay and Jared.

Each brand platform is focused on engaging consumers in the spaces that are most relevant to them, like Facebook and Twitter, to develop and sustain relationships, build loyalty and foster brand advocates who shop both in-store and online.

To help define Signet’s e-commerce strategy and roadmap, IBM executed research that included a customer segmentation analysis, voice of the customer surveys and in-store observations.

With deeper insights into customer needs and distinct shopping scenarios, as well as the capabilities required to support them online, Signet U.S. was able to deploy an integrated solution that extends the Kay and Jared in-store shopping experience to the web and mobile platforms.

About Signet Jewelers Ltd

Signet Jewelers is the largest specialty retail jeweler in the US and UK.  Signet’s US division operates more than 1,325 stores in all 50 states primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry.  Signet’s UK division operates more than 500 stores primarily under the name brands of H.Samuel and Ernest Jones.

Go here for more information about IBM Smarter Commerce and here for more information in specific about IBM’s Retail expertise.

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