Tag: shopping

Amazon launches Dash in the UK

AmazonAmazon has launched its Dash Button in the UK as part of its cunning plan to become a one stop shop for everything.

The product is now available for Amazon Prime customers in the country, who pay £79 a year in order to get access to a range of Amazon services.

Basically the Dash Button is a small hardware button that you can stick around your house, allowing you to order up to 40 different branded products.

These are things like Andrex toilet paper, Durex condoms, Pedigree pet food, Play Doh, and Rimmel make-up. Once the order has been placed, the products will be delivered within a day.

Although the Dash Button is £4.99, Amazon Prime users will receive £4.99 off their first order, meaning the device is essentially free.

Amazon is also launching its Amazon Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) in the UK.

DRS is a cloud-based service that allows manufacturers to enable their connected devices to automatically reorder household products from Amazon using a set of APIs. Amazon said DRS could allow a washing machine to reorder laundry detergent or a printer to reorder ink, for example.

Daniel Rausch, Director of Amazon Dash, said in a statement: “We’ve all experienced the frustration of running out of something we need—Dash Button and Dash Replenishment Service are designed to make that moment a thing of the past.

“Dash Buttons offer the convenience of 1-Click shopping from anywhere in the home—they can be placed near those frequently used items you don’t want to run out of, and when you see supplies running low, the Dash Button makes it easier than ever to order more. Just press the button and your item is on its way.”

Sainsbury’s borrows Amazon Prime now idea

jamie-sainsbury-twatSainsbury’s is trialling a one hour home delivery service that is similar in concept to Amazon’s ‘Prime Now.’

Sainsbury’s is testing its new service, called ‘Chop Chop’, in Wandsworth which will have a delivery fee of £4.99.

Customers living within three kilometres of its Wandsworth store can order up to 20 Sainsbury’s products for delivery to their home within an hour, using an app on Apple devices.  Of course this means that people with proper phones will not be able to take part, and the target market will have to ask a responsible adult if they can actually use their shiny toy to buy food.

Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Mike Coupe says he could see potential demand for the provision of a basket of food on a very short time scale.

He noted that Sainsbury’s has the nationwide store network, with large fresh food ranges in all of them, and the online retail knowledge, to provide such a service if the market develops.

Amazon launched Prime Now in London a year ago and it is now available to more than 30 percent of the UK population.

The mobile app is available to Prime members and offers one-hour delivery on more than 15,000 items for 6.99 pounds, or delivery at no extra charge within a choice of two-hour, same-day delivery slots.

Items available include essentials such as fresh milk, nappies, coffee and chocolate, as well as games consoles, toys, gifts and sports equipment.

Amazon also launched a British version of its U.S. AmazonFresh food delivery service, stepping up the pressure on the traditional big supermarkets.



Shops facing up to digital world

vaulted-glass-ceiling-of-the-shopping-arcade-galleria-vittorio-emanuele-ii-sami-sarkisA survey suggested that 64 percent of shops in Western Europe have committed to what they describe as digital transformation while another 21 percent will kick their efforts off by the end of the year.

High street chains and megastores face many challenges from moving to a digital world one of which is that people might go into brick and mortar establishments to check out goods, then when they get home go to Amazon and bypass the stores completely.

IDC said that it has assessed the marketplace and top shops will create an “omni channel” backbone so they can have a single view of elements including orders, customers and stock.

Western European companies, said IDC, want to give their sales people on the shop floor mobiles and repeat the kind of steps people go through online in a shop.

Mobile commerce is “the next frontier”, said IDC, and fulfilling customers needs across multiple and different touch points.

“Digital transformation is a train they [the shops], cannot afford to miss,” said Luca Bonacina, a senior research analyst at IDC. “Today all the top Western Euroean retailers are in the process of determining how digital impacts them and what their digital transformation approach and strategy should be”.

Tesco starts face scanning

Tesco is installing facial recognition technology to display targeted video advertising on screens at its petrol stations.

Dubbed OptimEyes the system recognises facial characteristics that discover a customer’s gender and age in order to show relevant video adverts while they are waiting to pay for their petrol.

There is nothing new about the technology. Pilots of bill boards which could tell what gender you were carried out in London years ago, to an underwhelming response.

Simon Sugar, chief executive of Amscreen, the firm which sells the technology, admitted to The Grocer that the technology has improved and is more like something out of Minority Report.

Needless to say the roll out has miffed some privacy groups, with Big Brother Watch’s Nick Pickles telling the Guardian that OptimEyes creates a “huge consent issue”.

People needed to be told that if they walk into a supermarket, or a doctor’s surgery or a law firm, that the CCTV camera in the corner is trying to find out who they are, he said.

As far as the Information Commissioner’s Office is concerned, such equipment would have to be clearly marked and explained as a customer enters the shop. A similar rule already exists for CCTV cameras.

What will enable Tesco to run its scheme is that it is hardly Minority Report yet. The software only scans your face, to guess what sex you are, it is hardly able to tell who you are and pull up a list of products it might think you would like.

Otherwise all a service station is going to get are adverts for petrol, Kit-Kats, Twixes and cigarettes  and you do not really need facial recognition software to tell you that.

Social networks fail to entice Black Friday shoppers

Ever since the US conglomerates began tempting families away from spending another day with each other after Thanksgiving, turning it into the shopping frenzy of Black Friday, it has become a pretty good metric for going over the latest consumer buying trends. According to IBM’s extensive data sifting there were some interesting changes.

Online sales for Thanksgiving grew 17.4 percent, while web sales for Black Friday swelled 20.7 percent on the previous year. Almost one quarter of all consumers used a mobile device to visit a retail site, which was up from 14.3 percent last year, although mobile sales were at 16 percent.

That is still an impressive boost from 9.8 percent in 2011. Most consumers tracked bargains in-store, online, and on their mobile devices to make sure they got the best prices. IBM noted that 58 percent of all consumers on Black Friday used smartphones to browse on the day.

There was a 20.68 percent increase on sales overall, however people were spending slightly less per order, on average, and with fewer items. 

Of those that did visit using mobile devices, iPad traffic led the way with 9.75 percent of all visits.

This was followed by 8.71 percent for shoppers using an iPhone, and 5.53 percent for those using Android devices. 

Social media was useful for spreading positive sentiment and helping brand image, as most were happy with promotions, shipping, convenience, and the retailers, at a three to one ratio.

However, advertisers on websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube are still struggling to monetise the networks, with all of the above generating just 0.34 percent of all online sales throughout Black Friday – a decrease of over 35 percent from 2011. 

IBM plans shopping spree

IBM is preparing itself for a shopping spree for small-to-medium sized businesses. 

Senior VP Steve Mills told Bloomberg the software business, already worth $22.5 billion, needs to grow some more. And the way forward is in acquisitions.

The whispers suggest IBM will be spending in the region of $100 to $300 million to get what it wants. 

IBM is on a bit of a winning streak at the moment. Palmisano’s pet project in scrapping the PC business and focusing on everything else seems to have paid off, having walked ahead of Microsoft in a yearly valuation, to take second spot for technology company market value – behind Apple.

IBM says its focus for growth will sit with software. Bloomberg reports the company has made 50 software buys since 2006 in a wide variety of areas, citing analysts who agree that it has gone with the right purchases. 

Either way, it doesn’t look like IBM is setting itself up for a fall – with Palmisano keeping his eye on the slow-and-steady approach to trouncing the rivals. With 100 years to get its act together, Palmisano seems to have done a lot of the groundwork in just five.

Snow saps online buys over Yuletide

Consumer confidence in the online market in the UK dropped over the Christmas period thanks to economic fears and gifts that did not arrive due to severe snow, according to a report by consumer research firm Intersperience.

£245 million ($382 million) less was spent over the holiday period in 2010 compared to 2009, with 40 percent of shoppers revealing that the weak economy has forced them to be more cautious with their spending.

Heavy snow brought many shoppers online, with a 35 percent increase in internet sales, but the majority of people encountered big problems with buying online that may make them think twice about it for Christmas 2011.

A whopping 68 percent of people experienced problems with purchasing things online, while one in six of the gifts people ordered online never arrived in time. A further 11 percent received the wrong items, further aggravating their online experience.

“The majority of those that went online looking for a bargain or to beat the snow had a problem of some kind,” said Paul Hudson, CEO of Intersperience. “Overall, online retailing failed to live up to people’s expectations and the problems they faced receiving orders put them off further internet purchases.”

The result of this was a massive confidence drop, with 25 percent of people deciding to spend less online, which could have a big impact on sales next Christmas.

High Street fights back against Internet sales

Aussie High Street retailers are involved in a secret plan to tax goods and services bought over the world wide wibble.

BusinessDay has found evidence that a government plan to tax internet transactions was as a result of secret lobbying by High Street retailers.

An internal email sent by FD, the public relations agency that is pulling the strings behind the campaign, and is paying for full-page ads in newspapers and recommends when to run the ads to achieve the best outcome and impact with readers.

FD has for a client Solomon Lew who owns Premier Investments, which owns retail retail brands in the country such as Just Jeans, dotti, Portmans, JayJays and Smiggle. It also looks after Redgroup Retail, a private company that owns Borders and Angus & Robertson.

The adverts talk about nasty foreign internet sites stealing food from the mouths of retailers who are forced to pay local taxes.

However as the Sydney Morning Herald  points out, after three days of advertising the campaign has misfired. Thousands of disgruntled shoppers fill talkback stations, websites and newspaper letters pages to complain about perceived price gouging by local retailers.

The shoppers hate whinging by billionaires such as Lew and Harvey Norman founder Gerry Harvey about competition, apparently.

Consumers in Australia are fed up with paying prices that are 40 to 60 percent higher in Australia. The 10 percent GST is so low that it hardly makes an impact.

LCD TVs make it to buyers Black Friday shopping lists

LCD TVs will be top on shoppers buying lists this Black Friday according to the NPD group.

The market research company has said that LED-backlit LCD TV prices have fallen 44 percent from October 2009 to October 2010 to $1,106, while traditional (CCFL) LCD TVs have also seen significant price drops, declining 24 percent to $435.

Ross Rubin, executive director of Industry Analysis at NPD, said: “Holiday circulars consistently feature flat-panel TVs as the marquee door buster electronics category on Black Friday.”

 He said the price drops this year are as a result of retailers seeking to offset several months of year-over-year flat-panel revenue drops driven by slowing price declines and rising household penetration.

“While LED TV pricing is dropping more quickly than that of traditional LCD sets, LED-backlit models still command a significant price premium,” he added.

Graph1The company however pointed out that while prices for LED chips are falling steadily, the pricing dynamic for the LCD panels themselves is somewhat more complex. This is because after the economic downturn, demand returned quicker than expected in 2009, and the supply chain was faced with product shortages during the second half of the year that fed rising prices for LCD TV panels into the first half of 2010.

Since it takes about three months to move through the LCD TV supply chain, the rising panel prices led to slower average selling price declines at retail during the first half of 2010.

“Because profit margins have thinned in the LCD TV category, brands and retailers are somewhat at the mercy of the supply chain when trying to push retail prices lower,” added Paul Gagnon, director of North America TV market research at DisplaySearch.

“The result has been a cooling of growth in some markets, such as the US. As often happens in such cycles, the resulting slowdown in demand for key components including LCD TV panels has once again shifted the supply chain back towards oversupply.”

LCD TV panel prices began falling once again in Q2’10 particularly for the two most popular size categories, 32” and 40/42”, which were 10 percent and 5 percent lower in Q3’10 than they were in Q3’09. Gagon warned that the falling panel prices in Q2’10 and Q3’10 will have a direct effect on retail pricing during the Q4’10 holiday.

“If consumers remain sensitive to falling prices, it could help jump start demand in the US,” Gagnon concluded.


Virtual robot will size your jeans

An Estonian company is trying to combat the problem of online clothes sizing by developing a robot and web app to help us see exactly what an item of clothing will look like when it’s on a body shape.

It’s an age old problem for girls, and we imagine for guys as well. Virtual shopping takes on a sinister turn when you order a jumper, pair of jeans or dress in a size that comes through your letter box and is too big or small.

The sleeves may fit on a jumper, but it could be too baggy on the belly or the chest fit could make you look like Superman rather well dressed. In the past companies have tried to combat this by offering measurements on their sites – for the record we’ve never found these useful – or by offering a tailor made service. Again, we’ve heard rumours that these aren’t up to scratch with one fashionista telling us a service failed to make the right pair of jeans three times.

Fits.me has  developed a team of shape-shifting robots designed to help shoppers get the right fit when buying clothes online. According to the company, we’re not alone in our sizing problems with only 7 percent of the population buying clothes online because there’s no way of really trying on clothes before you buy. You can bust out the tape measure but erratic sizes between labels means you can’t be sure.

Three years ago Fits.me decided to try and find a way around. It secured just over a million pounds in funding from the European Union, and approached Maarja Kruusma, professor of biorobotics at the University of Tallinn, to create a robot that determined sizes by exact measurements.  

A robotic upper-body mannequin will shape-shift its torso, neck and upper arms to the sizes you put into the website.

After the customer has entered their body measurements, they can see the fit of a clothing item – like in the real-life fitting room. The robotic mannequins mimic the shape and size of the customer and show the customer photos of the mannequin wearing different sizes of clothing.

It’s now hoping, as are we, that retailers will implement the idea into their “size help” or “size chart” showing only samples of clothing.

We decided to have a play with the robot on the site. Unfortunately there is currently no womens option because it’s apparently  a lot harder to get the bust measurements right. However, it’s hoping that there will be a feminine counterpart next month.

Putting in male measurements is however, easy. You click on the item of clothing you like on the website and are then taken to the measurements section, which uses a slider to determine your height, chest size, waist and arm length as well as your torso shape. Once you’ve done this a second page will come up with a range of sizes from XS to XXL on the bottom. Clicking on each size will show how the item will look on you.

A word of warning: if you’re in denial about what size you actually are and have a mirror that tells “white size lies” at home then you may not like the way the item bulges around the belly when you click on that “XS” but looks great on the “XL”.