TECHNOLOGY

Pizza chain’s virtual ordering assistant takes on a new task

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Domino’s has a new way to accept phoned in carry-out orders — and it’s not by an associate.

The pizza chain is expanding the functionality of its virtual ordering assistant to accept telephone orders coming into its stores. The company’s artificial intelligence-based assistant, called DOM, will accept orders so associates can continue serving customers in the restaurant.

DOM will also alert customers to where their orders are in the process. Based on the phone number, the system can automatically determine if the call is new or a follow-up call.

“While many of our orders come via digital platforms, there are still millions of customers who like to call in their orders directly to their local stores,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer. “If it’s a follow-up call, DOM will act as a version of Domino’s Tracker and provide customers with the information they’re looking for.”

The technology, which was initially tested in a small group of stores, is now in a 20-location test. More stores are expected to add the service in the coming months, according to Domino’s.

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Walmart’s Flipkart deal reportedly nears closing

BY CSA Staff

Walmart could be buying a controlling stake in Flipkart earlier than expected — way earlier.

The discount giant could reach a deal to become a majority stakeholder in Indian online marketplace Flipkart as early as next week or by the first week of May, according to Reuters.

Walmart has been negotiating with Flipkart for months, with plans to buy a more than 51% stake in the company. Initially, the deal was expected to close in June. However, SoftBank Group, which owns about a fifth of Flipkart through its Vision Fund, was unwilling to sell a part of its stake for the $10 billion to $12 billion that Walmart was offering, the report said.

Two sources told Reuters that the stalemate between Walmart and SoftBank has ended. Once the deal closes however, it could have a final valuation of at least $18 billion, the report added.

To read more, click here.

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One Click Retail: Amazon winning online grocery race

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon is still in the “trial and error stage” when it comes to competing in the online grocery category, yet its efforts are capturing more wallet share.

The online giant’s grocery sales in the first quarter grew by nearly 50% year-over-year, an increase of over $200 million compared to the same period last year, according to “Amazon Grocery Q1 2018 Update: U.S.,” a report from One Click Retail.

“There is no question that Amazon is winning the online grocery race,” said Nathan Rigby, VP sales and marketing at One Click Retail. “While Walmart (Amazon’s top competitor) is actively improving their grocery delivery capa-bilities, that company only captured 9% of the online grocery market in 2017, half of Amazon’s 18% market share.”

Rigby said that Amazon is investing in grocery from numerous angles – Whole Foods, Amazon Go, Prime Now, Pantry – and regardless of what sticks and what doesn’t, “every quarter Amazon’s share of the online grocery sales channel is getting bigger.”

Coffee remains Amazon’s largest grocery category, and one of its strongest growers. Both coffee and the No. 2 category, cold beverages, grew by at least 40% year-over-year to earn more than $140 million in first quarter 2018. Together, these two categories more than quadruple the size of the third top category, snack foods.

Beverages have always been responsible for the bulk of Amazon’s Grocery volume. In the first quarter, they made up nine out of 10 bestselling items on Amazon, the study revealed.

However, not everything is growing for Amazon. Amazon Pantry sales are leveling out, with annual growth falling to 14% in the first quarter. Pantry, which packages everyday consumer packaged goods into a single box deliverable for a flat fee of $6, is also going through a change. In early March, Amazon announced that they will be repurposing Pantry as a subscription service, separate from Prime, for a $5 monthly fee.

Pantry sales are not insignificant. They hit $55 million for the quarter, albeit it is growing much slower than the rest of Amazon’s grocery category.

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