MOBILITY

Report: Facebook testing digital stores

BY Dan Berthiaume

Menlo Park, Calif. – Facebook is increasing its buy-in for the high-stakes poker game of social commerce.

According to BuzzFeed, Facebook has begun piloting online storefronts located within the pages of a number of retailers.

Some of the storefronts allow direct purchases from within Facebook using the social platform’s buy button, which Facebook began piloting in July 2014. The buy button lets desktop or mobile consumers click the “buy” call-to-action button on ads and page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook.

A Facebook spokesperson said the number of Facebook storefronts is currently in the “double digits” and will expand. Facebook does not currently take any percentage of sales conducted through its pages.

Facebook’s push into social commerce comes as Google is deploying the “buy” buttons it announced earlier this year on a test basis in the next few weeks. The feature, called Purchases on Google, will allow consumers to purchase products directly from ads in select promoted mobile search ads.

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FINANCE

Will Amazon buy start-up rival even before it takes off?

BY Dan Berthiaume

Seattle –Amazon.com may be preparing a pre-emptive strike against a rival e-commerce platform before it even officially takes off.

According toCNBC, Piper Jaffray Internet analyst Gene Munster says Amazon s considering a purchase of Jet.com, a subscription-based e-commerce site that is currently in beta and set to officially launch next week.

Munster said that Jet.com does a good job in gamifying the online shopping process and in selling fast-moving consumer goods, two things Amazon has not historically done well.

Jet.com hopes to compete with the Amazon Prime membership service using “profit-free” pricing. Jet promises to offer the best price on more than 10 million items, every time. Retailer partners will sell through the Jet platform on a varying commission schedule. Jet also promises to refund the difference if a customer finds a lower price elsewhere (but doesn’t specify a time limit). Membership is $50 a year, but Jet says the average member will save $150 per year. Shipping and returns will be free.

Because Jet only makesprofiton membership fees, the retailer does not attempt to make any money on product prices, hence the lowest price guarantee. A real-time pricing engine will find the lowest price on any item and calculate savings in real time.

Jet CEO Marc Love has experience in cutting lucrative deals with Amazon. He founded Diapers.com, which he eventually sold to Amazon for $550 million.

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OPERATIONS

Top 3 reasons we need robots in malls

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Coming soon to a mall near you…robots?

Mike Kercheval, president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, is making the case for the use of robots in shopping malls. In an op-ed commentary on CNBC.com, Kercheval says the robot's potential on the front lines of retail is limitless—and soon, he adds, “it will be difficult to imagine a visit to the local mall without them.”

Here are three reasons Kercheval says we need robots in malls:

1. Shoppers are tech savvy and there is no turning back.
Shoppers have already demonstrated their desire for a more tech-integrated experience through their adoption of new digital channels and tools. Robots are just the next logical step. In fact, it’s already happeng. Kercheval cites an ice cream shop in a shopping mall in China, where a smiling robot runs the show. Customers order through a computer and then watch as the robot creates their treat.

2. Provide a leg up on the competition.
Properly leveraged, the capabilities and benefits of robots can help improve a retailer’s business strategy and bolster bottom lines. As an example, Kercheval references the RFSpot Pro robots that roam Tesco stores and, using RFID technology, do a fast (one hour) inventory check.

3. Offer a meaningful service.
Sure, robots can provide such assistance as carrying a shopper’s purchases around the mall. But they can also help shopping centers with more dangerous tasks of keeping stores and customers safe.

To read Kercheval’s full commentary, click here.

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