TECHNOLOGY

The 10 most valuable brands are…

BY Marianne Wilson

Amazon has replaced Google in the top spot in an annual ranking of the world’s most valuable brands.

The e-commerce giant’s brand value increased by 42% on a year-over-year basis, to more than $150 billion, according to Brand Finance Global 500 report. The brand consultancy reviews marketing investment, stakeholder investment, and business performance in determining brand value.

For the first time since the inception of the Brand Finance study, technology brands took all top five places in the ranking. Amazon was followed by Apple, Google, Samsung and Facebook.

Apple’s brand value rebounded to $146.3 billion after a 27%-decline last year. But its future looks bleak, according to BrandFinance.

“Apple has failed to diversify and grown over-dependent on sales of its flagship iPhones, responsible for two thirds of revenue,” the report said. “With the advent of emerging world brands like Huawei, Apple’s increasing focus on what are effectively luxury products may cost the brand a fair share of the global mass market, limiting the potential for brand value growth.”

Google came in third after losing the top spot to Amazon. It had a relatively slow brand value growth of 10% to $120.9 billion. Google’s online ads generated more traffic than expected as aggregated paid clicks rose by 47% in its most recent third quarter, boosting revenues. However, to compete with the world’s most valuable brands, presenting a solid performance is not always enough.

“Google is a champion in internet search, cloud and mobile OS technology but, similarly to Apple, its focus on particular sectors is holding it back from unleashing the full potential of its brand,” the report stated. “Google’s investments in self-driving cars and handsets still lack the scale and audacity demonstrated by Amazon’s new ventures.”

Rounding out the top 10 were AT&T (brand value of $82.4 billion), Microsoft ($81.2 billion), Verizon ($62.8 billion), Walmart ($61.5 billion) and China’s ICBC ($59.2 billion).

More information about the methodology as well as definitions of key terms are available in the Brand Finance Global 500 report.

The dominance of digital is set to grow even more in the coming years as other brands make their way up the Global 500. Google-owned YouTube more than doubled its brand value to $25.9 billion, jumping 70 places to 42nd. Chinese technology brands, taking advantage of captive market conditions, can also boast high brand value growth, with Alibaba (12th), Tencent (21st), WeChat (49th), Baidu (57th), JD (65th), and NetEase (121st), going up by an average of 67% year on year.

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The states with the highest holiday returns rates are…

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Processing holiday returns were “big business” for retailers during a majority of the 2017 post-Christmas week.

The highest rate of nationwide returns occurred on Tuesday, Dec. 26, with returns hitting nearly twice the normal rate seen during the holiday season. However, because of their relation to both Christmas and New Year’s Day, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of that same week saw returns nearly 50% above the normal holiday season rate, according to new data from Appriss Retail, a provider of retail performance improvement solutions, including return authorization technology.

According to data, the Midwest states once again had the highest rate of returns, when comparing total dollars purchased to total dollars returned and exchanged. Missouri had the highest rate of returns with 22.3%, while Illinois had the second highest at 20.3%.

Minnesota had the least rate of returns with 5.8%.

“Now that the holidays are concluded, retail executives can again focus on a wider set of business metrics, including shrink and margin,” the study said. “While consumers rate the convenience of returns as positive, poorly managed return processes and outdated policies can contribute significantly to shrink by permitting fraudulent and abusive returns.”

One culprit of this experience can be tied to buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS) returns processes. As companies look to improve their performance and profitability, eliminating friction at the return counter can help attract and retain best customers and increase their long-term value, while still reducing the risk of margin eroding loss, according to the study.

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Amazon’s Alexa gets comfortable with another ‘smart device’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon’s digital assistant is making a smart TV even more intelligent.

Though its partnership with Vizio, Amazon is integrating its digital assistant Alexa into the manufacturer’s SmartCast TVs. The Alexa skill enables users to use their voice to control 2017 and 2016 SmartCast P-, M- and E-Series 4K display collections.

Alexa enables users to voice-control volume, channel and input settings, as well as turn the display on and off. The Alexa skill will also be available to 2018 Vizio SmartCast Full HD and HD display customers in the coming weeks, according to Vizio.

Alexa allows users with Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Echo Show and other Alexa-enabled devices to pair Alexa to the TVs — the catalyst that enables them to voice-control their Vizio SmartCast displays.

The smart TVs already have similar capabilities through an integration with Google Home, according to The Verge.

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