Tag Archives: Amazon

Trump panel wants to give USPS right to hike prices for Amazon, others
December 5, 2018 12:02 am|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States Postal Service should have more flexibility to raise rates for packages, according to recommendations from a task force set up by President Donald Trump, a move that could hurt profits of Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and other large online retailers. The task force was announced in April to find ways to stem financial losses by the service, an independent agency within the federal government. Its creation followed criticism by Trump that the Postal Office provided too much service to Amazon for too little money.

FILE PHOTO – A view shows U.S. postal service mail boxes at a post office in Encinitas, California in this February 6, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files

The Postal Service lost almost $ 4 billion in fiscal 2018, which ended on Sept. 30, even as package deliveries rose.

It has been losing money for more than a decade, the task force said, partially because the loss of revenue from letters, bills and other ordinary mail in an increasingly digital economy have not been offset by increased revenue from an explosion in deliveries from online shopping.

The president has repeatedly attacked Amazon for treating the Postal Service as its “delivery boy” by paying less than it should for deliveries and contributing to the service’s $ 65 billion loss since the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2009, without presenting evidence.

Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, a newspaper whose critical coverage of the president has repeatedly drawn Trump’s ire.

The rates the Postal Service charges Amazon and other bulk customers are not made public.

“None of our findings or recommendations relate to any one company,” a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

Amazon shares closed down 5.8 percent at $ 1,669.94, while eBay (EBAY.O) fell 3.1 percent to $ 29.26, amid a broad stock market selloff on Tuesday.

The Package Coalition, which includes Amazon and other online and catalog shippers, warned against any move to raise prices to deliver their packages.

“The Package Coalition is concerned that, by raising prices and depriving Americans of affordable delivery services, the Postal Task Force’s package delivery recommendations would harm consumers, large and small businesses, and especially rural communities,” the group said in an emailed statement.

A mailbox for United States Postal Service (USPS) and other mail is seen outside a home in Malibu, California, December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Most of the recommendations made by the task force, including possible price hikes, can be implemented by the agency. Changes, such as to frequency of mail delivery, would require legislation.

The task force recommended that the Postal Service have the authority to charge market-based rates for anything that is not deemed an essential service, like delivery of prescription drugs.

BAD NEWS FOR AMAZON

“Although the USPS does have pricing flexibility within its package delivery segment, packages have not been priced with profitability in mind. The USPS should have the authority to charge market-based prices for both mail and package items that are not deemed ‘essential services,’” the task force said in its summary.

That would be bad news for Amazon and other online sellers that ship billions of packages a year to customers.

“If they go to market pricing, there will definitely be a negative impact on Amazon’s business,” said Marc Wulfraat, president of logistics consultancy MWPVL International Inc.

If prices jumped 10 percent, that would increase annual costs for Amazon by at least $ 1 billion, he said.

The task force also recommended that the Postal Service address rising labor costs.

The Postal Service should also restructure $ 43 billion in pre-funding payments that it owes the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund, the task force said.

Cowen & Co, in a May report, said the Postal Service and Amazon were “co-dependent,” but that Amazon went elsewhere for most packages that needed to arrive quickly.

Cowen estimated that the Postal Service delivered about 59 percent of Amazon’s U.S. packages in 2017, and package delivery could account for 50 percent of postal service revenue by 2023.

The American Postal Workers Union warned against any effort to cut services. “Recommendations would slow down service, reduce delivery days and privatize large portions of the public Postal Service. Most of the report’s recommendations, if implemented, would hurt business and individuals alike,” the union said in a statement. 

Amazon, FedEx Corp (FDX.N) and United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) did not return requests for comment.

Reporting by Diane Bartz and Jeffrey Dastin; editing by Bill Berkrot

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Amazon Announces a Security Change That May Help Companies Using AWS to Avoid Data Breaches
November 17, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Amazon is finally offering a simple way for its cloud services customers to lock down data stored at its Simple Storage Service (S3) with one fell swoop. This change should help companies in the Fortune 500 and mom-and-pops down the street avoid embarrassing breaches of data.

Customers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) routinely leave private files available for public consumption. That’s led to routine, sometimes costly situations for companies that find hackers or security researchers have retrieved customer information, databases containing user passwords, or even proprietary company secrets.

That includes the global consulting and management firm Accenture, which in October 2017 left four of its S3 storage areas, known as “buckets,” open to public examination and download. Over 137 gigabytes of data could have been retrieved, including 40,000 unencrypted passwords. Accenture’s cloud platform, hosted on Amazon’s services, include 92 of the Fortune Global 100 and three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500. A security researcher discovered the public data and informed Accenture.

In August 2018, a researcher discovered that a company that sells surveillance software it markets for parents, Spyfone, left an Amazon S3 bucket publicly available, and intimate and personal data extracted from thousands of people its customers were monitoring were exposed, according to Motherboard. This included several terabytes of camera photos.

Last November, Amazon released a change that gave system administrators better notification about any storage buckets set to public access, using an orange label in its file-browsing dashboard.

The change released on Nov. 16, however, allows top-down control for an entire storage area, including disabling overrides for individual folders or files within it. This will prevent companies from leaving data open for global snooping—if they’re attentive enough to know about the new feature and enable it.

The number of security breaches due to customer settings at Amazon S3 has been so high that articles at tech sites devote themselves to listing them all.

Notable breaches include Uber, which exposed personal data of about 57 million customers in October 2016, and didn’t disclose the matter [until November 2017](Dara Khosrowshahi), after it had hired a new CEO; Deep Root Analytics, which exposed personal data on 198 million American voters; and the WWE wrestling entertainment firm, which exposed personal details of 3 million of its fans.

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Democrats to probe Trump actions on AT&T, Amazon: aide
November 12, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When Democrats take control of the U.S. House they plan to investigate the Trump administration’s attempt to block AT&T Inc (T.N) from acquiring Time Warner, and whether officials sought to punish Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) by prodding the U.S. Post Office to hike shipping prices for the world’s largest e-commerce company, a senior Democrat and a congressional aide said on Sunday.

An AT&T logo is pictured in Pasadena, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Speaking to online publication Axios, Representative Adam Schiff, who is expected to be the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Democrats will review if Trump used the powers of the federal government to punish the companies.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the likely incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the committee “may want to look into” if the White House retaliated against Amazon and AT&T.

A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee aide said on Sunday that the committee has “already been investigating these matters, but the Trump Administration to date has not complied with our requests. We fully expect that to change now that we are in the majority.”

Cummings also said on ABC’s “This Week” that he intends to investigate if Trump killed plans to relocate the new headquarters of the FBI because moving it could harm his business interests in the Trump Hotel across the street.

Cummings in September asked the White House and the Trump Organization for documents about Trump’s “failure to accurately report debts and payments” to his personal attorney Michael Cohen “for silencing women who alleged extramarital affairs before the election.”

Another committee aide said on Sunday “the requested information was not provided because we were in the minority, and this should change now that we are in the majority.” Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight felony counts.

Since winning control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections last week, Democrats have vowed to launch investigations on a wide range of topics involving the Trump administration.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File photo

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos privately owns the Washington Post, while Time Warner’s holdings include CNN. Trump has lambasted both outlets frequently for their critical coverage of him.

“It is very squarely within our responsibility to find out,” Schiff told Axios in an interview that will air Sunday on HBO.

Schiff said Trump “was secretly meeting with the postmaster (general) in an effort to browbeat the postmaster into raising postal rates on Amazon… This appears to be an effort by the president to use the instruments of state power to punish Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post,” Schiff said.

It is not clear what committees may probe the corporate issues, since Schiff’s Intelligence Committee would not have oversight. A Schiff spokesman declined further comment.

AT&T and Amazon.com both declined to comment on Sunday. The White House did not immediately comment.

Trump has repeatedly complained Amazon does not pay the U.S. Postal Service a fair rate for package delivery. Trump has said, without citing evidence, that this costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, and he has threatened to raise the company’s postal rates.

Trump opposed the AT&T-Time Warner merger as a candidate and has repeatedly attacked CNN and last week a CNN reporter’s White House press pass was suspended.

The Justice Department is appealing a federal judge’s approval of the $ 85.4 billion AT&T acquisition of Time Warner.

With a split decision in last week’s congressional elections, Democrats plan a cautious approach. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Democrats will not conduct “any investigation for a political purpose, but to seek the truth.”

Cummings vowed a “methodical” approach in approaching investigations. “I’m not going to be handing out subpoenas like somebody’s handing out candy on Halloween,” Cummings said.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Sarah N. Lynch, Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Sandra Maler

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Sears Stock Rallies After Amazon Deal Gives Its Stores a Surprise Boost
August 30, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

The summer of 2018 has been another tough period for Sears, but there’s one thing that has reliably helped lift the retailer’s share price: Amazon.

On Tuesday, Sears Holdings announced that it’s expanding a pilot program with Amazon to install and balance automobile tires that consumers buy through Amazon. Under the partnership, Amazon shoppers who buy tires, including the Die-Hard brand made by Sears, can ship the tires to a nearby Sears Auto Center for installation.

Amazon also offers similar ship-to-store programs with, for example, local bike shops. In May, when Sears announced it would service tires bought on Amazon, its shares shot up 38% during the following week.

Sears’ stock more than gave up those gains in June, however, after the company said sales fell 31% in its most-recent quarter and announced it would close 72 more stores. That was on top of hundreds of stores that Sears had closed in the previous couple of years. Last week, Sears said it would close yet another 46 stores, dragging its share price down even further to a record low of $ 1.08 a share.

News that Amazon and Sears were expanding the ship-to-store program from 47 initial stores to all Sears Auto Centers in the U.S. offered Sears a reprieve from the weeks of a declining share price. Sears shares surged as much as 23% to $ 1.37 a share Tuesday. While Sears’ stock price drifted down Wednesday, they were trading about 3% higher in afterhours trading at $ 1.26 a share.

Sears has been undergoing a long, painful restructuring for several years, with the stock now down 96% from its high point in 2013. Sears, K-Mart, and other onetime powerful retail brands have been struggling in the era of Amazon retailing. Amazon, meanwhile, has been working with brick-and-mortar retailers, including partnerships with Sears and Kohl’s and the purchase of Whole Foods Market.

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Amazon forays into Australia with small loss
August 3, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc, whose entry into Australia last year rattled established bricks-and-mortar retailers, posted a modest loss in its earliest days in the country, corporate filings show.

FILE PHOTO: Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City,U.S., January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Amazon’s foray into Australia was met with fevered attention from investors and a steep selldown in traditional retail stocks.

The U.S. company launched its website on Dec. 5, though it ran preparatory operations through the year, racking up a modest loss of almost A$ 9 million ($ 6.6 million).

In the Christmas trading weeks from the launch to Dec. 31, it turned over A$ 6.3 million in direct sales versus total Australian retail sales of A$ 26.3 billion that month.

These figures, however, are unlikely to be indicative of the future performance of a company that reported losses and roller-coaster results for years, but is now the second-biggest company in the world and closely watched on Wall Street.

The Australian trading period was too short for meaningful analysis, said Evan Lucas, chief market strategist at fund manager InvestSmart.

“Amazon is not the kind of company that accepts failure – they have a longer term goal.”

Amazon hit logistical snafus in Australia’s vast interior and handed eBay Inc – market leader in Australia – some victory after a move last month to block Australians from shopping on its foreign websites drew customer backlash.

A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment on the filing and directed Reuters to previous commentary about record Australian sales during a promotion in July without quantifying them.

The filing was lodged in April but the results were not reported at the time. They were first reported on Friday by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Last week, Amazon forecast strong fall sales for its overall operations and posted a $ 2.5 billion quarterly profit that was double Wall Street targets on the back of its younger businesses – cloud computing and advertising.

($ 1 = 1.3569 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Manolo Serapio Jr.

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Amazon hands goodwill to eBay with move to shut Australians out of overseas sites
July 19, 2018 6:57 am|Comments (0)

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian home entertainment installer Paul Boon has relied for years on Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) U.S. website for cheap wall racks and other parts to keep his costs down.

FILE PHOTO: A web page featuring Amazon’s Australian URL is pictured in this photo illustration April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Illustration/File Photo

But Amazon’s recent move to stop Australians from shopping on its foreign websites, due to a new law that requires it to collect taxes, is turning away once-loyal customers like Boon.

He’s considering a switch to eBay Inc (EBAY.O), adding that prices for wall mounts were 40 percent higher on Amazon’s Australia site if they appeared there at all.

“I’ll be going somewhere else to get that regular stuff,” said Boon by telephone from the northern city of Brisbane, where he runs his business.

Amazon’s launch of an Australian site in December, followed by last month’s introduction of its Prime service for faster delivery, has been heralded as a game changer for the country’s retail industry. But it has gotten off to a choppy start.

For customers like Boon, the retail giant has lost years of goodwill by forcing shoppers onto a local site with a product range roughly one ninth of the U.S. site and which sells some goods at higher prices.

It has also given online marketplace eBay, Amazon’s bigger and more established rival in Australia, the opportunity to swoop in and capture that goodwill, building its first automatic tax collection and payment system and wooing local customers with discounts.

TAXING ISSUES

Australia is the first market where Amazon, the world’s second-most valuable company worth $ 890 billion, has responded to a sales tax on internet purchases by shutting out customers based on where they live.

An Amazon spokesman said in an email the company would continue to build its range of goods and services through its Australian site, and that it was “thrilled with the reception it has received from Australian customers” since introducing Amazon Prime.

The Australian government extended its 10 percent goods and services tax (GST) to all goods bought online from overseas, effective July 1, requiring online retailers to collect the tax. It was previously applicable only to overseas purchases over A$ 1,000 ($ 745).

Amazon also gave Australians just one month’s notice that they would be shut out of its global network – sales are cut off when an Australian delivery address is entered – even though the government’s plans were announced a year ago.

Critics say the decision was an excuse to drive traffic to its new local site and promote its Amazon Prime service.

“I’ve no doubt that Amazon will be successful here in time, but I don’t believe that this strategy is what’s going to catapult them to success,” said Ryan Murtagh, CEO of Neto, a provider of data and logistics support for about 3,000 online retailers in Australia.

“I think actually it potentially could damage them in the long term.”

Amazon has some 550 million products on its U.S. site including those sold by Amazon and third-party sellers, according to Boomerang Commerce, an artificial intelligence technology firm in California. That compares with the 500-600 million offers from third-party sellers on eBay, which includes duplicate products.

EBAY’S EDGE

Ebay said the decision to build the new tax collection and payment system had paid off with early figures suggesting Australian shoppers were not swayed by the new tax.

“It was a big change and it was a global change that needed to be done,” said eBay’s local managing director, Tim MacKinnon, adding that the effort was led by its California headquarters.

“A lot of people worked on it, a lot of different teams. We’re really proud that we hit the July 1 deadline.”

He added its decision to offer Australian shoppers a 10 percent discount on its local, British and U.S. websites for the first week of July had helped generate business.

“All of our sites have accelerated,” said MacKinnon.

While neither Amazon nor eBay provide data on visitors to their sites and estimating their share of Australia’s A$ 26 billion-a-year online retail market is difficult, customer dissatisfaction with Amazon Australia is not hard to find. Its Facebook page is overrun with negative comments.

Amazon’s move has also prompted non-Amazon freight forwarders who buy items from the U.S. store domestically and mail them to Australia to seize new opportunities. One such firm, New York’s Big Apple Buddy, this week set up a new site for Australian shoppers.

Securities analysts argue, however, that Amazon plays a long game and that given its track record in dominating online retail in many countries, whatever missteps it makes can be fixed over time.

“It is highly likely they will get it right in Australia over the longer term, and prices will be competitive, service will be outstanding, and they will eat eBay’s lunch,” Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities, said by email.

Reporting by Byron Kaye and Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Nicholas Ford in Sydney; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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6 Weird and Awesome Amazon Prime Day Deals
July 17, 2018 6:55 pm|Comments (0)

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, it’s likely that you’ve had a shopping list ready for weeks. But if you’re just browsing today through July 18, we have a few Prime Day deals on weird or quirky items that you might not have even considered. From robots you can keep in your home to Japanese-style toilet seats, here are the strangest, coolest discounted items we’ve seen this Prime Day.

Jibo, The Social Robot

JIBO

Jibo is kind of like an Alexa speaker… if Alexa had a body, face, and could dance. When we reviewed Jibo a year ago he brought us joy and creeped us out in almost equal order, but we kept him around. In the year since, he’s learned how to play a couple games, give you a daily report, play the radio, tell slightly better jokes, and communicate back and forth just a little.

He’s nowhere near perfect, but for $ 500, it’s a lot easier to give Jibo a try if you’d like to be one of the first homes with an actual robot. He’s the only product you’ll feel guilty about unplugging.

Buy Jibo for $ 500 (Was $ 900)

Nuraphones

Nuraphone

The Nuraphones are the strangest, and most interesting headphones you can buy, as we discovered when we reviewed them. They’re a hybrid between an earbud and over-ear design, and that’s because of their central feature: they use NASA-grade microphones to scan your ear and map out your hearing. Once the Nuraphones know how sensitive each of your ears is to each of a range of high and low frequencies, it makes a custom sound profile just for your ears.

It takes some time to get used to the probing feeling of earbuds inside headphones, but the sound speaks for itself. We also like that Nura just sent out a free firmware update to all users that adds active noise cancelling, more button functionality, and ambient noise pickup, so you can hear the outside world better, if you want.

Buy the Nuraphones for $ 300 (Was $ 400)

Furbo Dog Camera

Furbo

Is your stay-at-home dog so over frozen dog food in Kongs? We loved the Furbo when we reviewed it. It’s clean, simple, easy to use, and you can also remotely toss Cheerios at your crawling infants in a pinch.

Buy the Furbo Dog Camera for $ 139 (was $ 249).

Walabot In-Wall Imager

Vayyar Imaging

We tried the Walabot at CES 2018. It gives you X-ray vision when you’re remodeling your house, letting you spot studs, wires, or even moving rats (er, objects). Nota bene: It doesn’t work for iPhone users.

Buy the Walabot In-Wall Imager for $ 56 (was $ 70).

PicoBrew Model C Beer Brewing Appliance

PicoBrew

Homebrewing is a lot of fun, but unless you have a lot of friends, it’s hard to drink a full keg of beer every other week. The PicoBrew lets you fine-tune your recipes five liters at a time.

Buy the PicoBrew Model C Beer Brewing Appliance for $ 280 (was $ 400).

Toto Washlet Electronic Bidet

Toto

Do you want a fast and easy way to spruce up your bathroom routine? Toto’s washlet electronic bidet toilet seats are heated, and have customizable washing temperatures and pressure settings. Add your pick (out of many!) to your cart to see the discount.

Toto Washlets are 20% Off, starting at $ 257.

More Prime Day Coverage

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Cisco sinks on report Amazon wading into networking equipment
July 13, 2018 6:48 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Shares of Cisco Systems Inc and other network equipment makers fell on Friday after a report that Amazon.com Inc’s cloud services business was considering selling its own network switches to business customers at much lower prices.

FILE PHOTO: Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Cisco’s shares were down 5 percent, wiping off nearly $ 11 billion from its market capitalization. Shares of Juniper Networks Inc and Arista Networks Inc fell 4 percent as investors feared that Amazon’s scale and pricing power could disrupt the sector.

The report comes days after Amazon sent shockwaves across the drug retailing sector with its move to buy small online pharmacy PillPack.

The networking devices will consist of open-source software and unbranded hardware known as “white-box” switches and come with built-in connections to AWS cloud services, such as servers and storage, the Information said.

Amazon Web Services could price its white-box switches 70-80 percent less than comparable switches from networking giant Cisco, the report said, citing one of the people with direct knowledge of the unit’s plan.

“If true, we think this would be a notable negative for the networking equipment space going forward,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mitch Steves wrote in a note.

AWS expects to launch the switches for sale within the next 18 months, according to the report.

Amazon and Juniper did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cisco and Arista declined to comment.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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Build it or Buy It: Will Amazon or Walmart Win the Retail Innovation Battle?
July 1, 2018 6:26 am|Comments (0)

Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg

Amazon’s recent news that it will be replacing more humans with yet another algorithmic solution is the latest example of the company’s thrust to innovate through self-built technology. 

With Amazon’s patent count rising again last year, it’s clear the company’s “build it” strategy is largely meant to out-invent, rather than outbid, the next big idea. Amazon received 1,963 patents in 2017 according to the latest data released by the IFI Claims office, and holds more patents than any other retailer in the industry (7,096). In fact, at $ 22.6 billion, Amazon spent more in R&D than any other U.S. company last year (up 41 percent from 2016), topping Microsoft, Intel, Facebook and even Apple according to a recent story in Recode.  

Amazon has a deep history of effectively chasing patents, which stems from lessons learned in the dot-com era. For example, Amazon’s patent for one-click shopping was issued in 1999 and set the norm for the entire retail industry.

Fast forward nearly twenty years. Today we have Amazon Prime and Amazon Marketplace, and the company is still three steps ahead, inventing what is possible by both shaping and anticipating the needs of consumers. According to a recent CNBC article, Amazon was issued patents last year for augmented reality mirrors that would enable users to try on clothes virtually by projecting different outfits onto the user. They’ve also patented a “smart” sensor-studded package delivery air vehicle, an option that would mute the Amazon Echo’s video mode for user privacy and even one that would detect hacked self-driving cars.  

Walmart, by comparison, currently holds only 349 patents, and the company has largely based its innovation strategy around buying the latest and greatest new ideas. 

According to a TechCrunch story late last year, the company considers acquisition core to its innovation model, particularly in the technology, retail and digital native brands categories. Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S, who founded Jet.com (bought by Walmart in 2016), noted in recent comments that in Walmart’s view, “specialist positioning is better than mass,” and that the acquisition spree will continue. Recent acquisitions include ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, Bonobos, Parcel, Hayneedle and ModCloth.

Walmart has also started its own incubator, Store No. 8, which aims to “nurture startup businesses,” allowing them to run just like other startups but be “ring-fenced by the rest of the organization and backed by the largest retailer in the world,” according to Lore. 

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Amazon Replaces Merchants with Bots: How Levi's, Wolverine Worldwide and Saks Can Compete
June 24, 2018 6:14 am|Comments (0)

Shutterstock

I came across an interesting article in Bloomberg last week. Amazon has been synonymous with robotics and automation, but for the most part that has been relegated to stocking the shelves and other operational tasks in the warehouse. Interestingly, according to the article, automation is starting to take over the roles of the white collar workforce as well. The article states:

“Machines are beating people at the critical inventory decisions that separate the winners and losers in retail. For the staffers deciding how many books, games or plastic pool toys to peddle, the tradeoff can be stark: Order too little and you miss out. Order too much and you’re forced into costly clearance sales. Amazon’s algorithms, refined through years of monitoring customer behavior, are getting the Seattle-based company out of the guessing game.”

Data-backed decisions are a topic that I discuss a lot on Forbes. It’s something that I firmly believe in. Retailers and brands can no longer rely solely on intuition given the power that the consumer has at his or her fingertips. Customers can find any product they want at the price they want, so how are retailers and brands going to deliver that differentiated product AND keep up with Amazon?

Not all retailers can be as fortunate as Walmart, who has the ability to purchase other companies to keep pace with Amazon. Acquisitions like Jet.com and Flipkart are enabling Walmart to compete on the web and in India, respectively. I will be writing more about this next week on the BUILD vs BUY mentality that Amazon and Walmart are exhibiting. For now though, its partnership with Lord & Taylor and acquisitions of ModCloth and Bonobos are also enabling the company to stake a firm claim in fashion. I expect Walmart is already on the prowl for its next acquisition, which likely would be similar to Amazon’s new technology.

So, while Amazon’s strategy has been to develop technologies internally and Walmart’s is to acquire technologies, how can the rest of retailers and brands like Levi’s, Wolverine Worldwide and Saks Fifth Avenue keep pace? Not everyone’s checkbook can afford a multi-million or even billion dollar investment, but you MUST compete.

It’s the same principle as any other facet of your life. If you’re heading on a trip and you need a GPS system to navigate you there, your first thought isn’t, “I should develop something.” Instead, you log onto the App Store, read reviews and download what you think is the best GPS solution for your needs.

The same is true in this scenario. As I’ve stated before, there are numerous technologies that retailers and brands should be doubling down on to compete with Amazon and position themselves best against their competition. Technologies that aid in critical product development and inventory decisions are just the latest that Amazon has shined a spotlight on.

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