TECHNOLOGY

Online giant pushes up ‘Black Friday’ deals — to Nov. 1

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon is getting a jump on the holiday season by launching a curated sales site — and a new AR tool to snag deals.

The online giant has officially started its holiday season with the opening of its “Black Friday Store.” The micro site, which launched on Wednesday, Nov. 1, is a centralized location that features holiday deals across all categories.

More than 100 million items are featured and eligible for free shipping, as well as up to 30% savings. The deals will be available until Black Friday, Nov. 24.

With more than 70% of Amazon customers worldwide using a mobile device to shop on Amazon last holiday season, the online retailer took steps to make it easier to make mobile purchases this year. Specifically, Amazon launched of its new augmented reality service called “AR view.” The feature is available inside the Amazon App used on iPhone 6S or newer iOS devices.

Using Apple’s ARKit, AR view allows customers to visualize merchandise within their own living space — but products are not just limited to furniture and decor. Rather, customers can virtually position thousands of items across categories including living room, bedroom, kitchen and home office products to electronics, toys and games, home décor, among others.

Here’s how it works: Customers launch the Amazon App, click on the camera icon and choose AR view. They can then select an item, and overlay it onto their existing living space. Using their camera, they can view the merchandise, move it and rotate it 360 degrees.

Amazon also plans to leverage its fleet of Treasure Trucks this holiday season. Customers can opt-in to receive notifications from the Amazon App for special Treasure Truck offers, order the item, and pick-up at the truck throughout the shopping season. Treasure Truck is now available in 25 select cities.

Shoppers that need additional inspiration can also access Amazon’s library of curated gift guides, including ones for toys, electronics and home. The newest is a Business Gift Guide, a curated list of more than 200 items designed for gifting office employees, company clients and colleagues.

Throughout the holiday season, Amazon will continue to enable customers to voice shop with Alexa. In addition to giving customers access to “tens of millions” of Prime-eligible items, many of these products will also be available in the Black Friday Deals Store and the retailer’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guides.

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TECHNOLOGY

eBay kicks off holidays with early deals

BY Marianne Wilson

eBay is putting a new twist on the notion of “last minute” shopping.

The online retailer on Wednesday launched “First Minute” deals, citing its new survey which found that 45% of Americans start holiday shopping well before Black Friday. The promotion, which runs through Nov. 9, offers 30% to 60% off regular prices depending on the item.

“We found that choice and convenience are the biggest reasons shoppers start sooner in the season, so we designed a collection of competitive early deals to offer their pick of top brands across electronics, toys, apparel and more,” said Suzy Deering, chief marketing officer of eBay North America.

In addition, the retailer has launched a Guaranteed Delivery program, with more than 20 million items arriving in three days or less. And eBay’s enhanced browsing experience, which uses artificial intelligence, will customize holiday shopping and present curated products by style, activity or obsession

“We’re continuously enhancing our marketplace with new, intuitive features and services that give eBay shoppers a tailored experience with the power of fast, free shipping on millions of items in our marketplace, whether they’re shopping on desktop, mobile, or on the eBay app,” said Scott Cutler, senior VP of eBay Americas.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Retailers investing in technology that shoppers not ready to embrace

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Retailers are increasing their technology budgets, but they may be investing in enhancements that shoppers don’t want. At least not yet.

That’s according to a report from IFTTT, which found that 60% of retailers are increasing their technology budgets, with significant investments across personalization and social media. The study projects a 53% spending increase in artificial intelligence (AI) technology among retailers by 2020.

However, the average consumer may not be ready to embrace cutting-edge shopping technologies, and may very well require further education on their benefits. For instance, 68% of respondents have never used a retail chatbot, and 23% don’t even know what chatbots are.

Additionally, 83% of people do not trust a robot to shop for them, but would trust a robot (rather than a drone) to deliver their online orders. Drones clearly have their work cut out for them when it comes to winning over customers’ trust — 66% of shoppers would prefer their gifts be delivered by Rudolph this holiday season over the delivery robots.

The promise of virtual reality revolutionizing the customer experience is slowly taking off. The study found that most (59%) of consumers are actually open to virtual shopping, with the most popular use case for home decoration.

In other findings:

• The Amazon effect is in full force thanks to its promise to bring automation and convenience to its customers. In fact, 36% of respondents would rather stay at home and shop with Alexa or Siri than go to the mall with family or friends.

• Thirty-six percent of shoppers use at least one retail subscription service (such as Stitch Fix, Bark Box or Harry’s Razors), and 53% are interested in using such services. However, retailers shouldn’t give up on the in-store experience, as only 34% of consumers report shopping more online than in-store.

• Thirty-five percent of shoppers are banking on Black Friday for the best deals this year, followed by the day after Christmas (29%). More than 57% do the majority of their holiday shopping at mass retailers, like Walmart and Amazon.

• When it comes to hearing about holiday deals, 38% of respondents prefer email. Only 12% said social media posts.

“No matter what time of year, the ideal technology strategy would be to offer consumers the ability to fully customize their shopping experience whether in-store, online, or both,” said Linden Tibbets, CEO of IFTTT. “All consumers are different, but offering them the tools and experiences they want to tailor their shopping experience is key to maximizing retailers’ technology investments.”

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