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Black Friday on track for $8.9B+ in online sales as shoppers stay away from brick-and-mortar stores

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Black Friday — the day that launched 1,000 other shopping holidays — may have lost its place as the “start” of the Christmas shopping season by now (it gets bigger and earlier with each passing year). But the day after Thanksgiving still pulls in a crowd of buyers looking for a bargain and remains a major bellwether for tracking how sales will progress in what is the most important period for the retail and commerce sector.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year was definitely slimmer when it came to actual, in-person crowds — kind of a refreshing break from those times when you feel like it’s the worst of humanity when people are breaking out into fights over TVs at a local Walmart — but online it seems that sales did not disappoint.

Figures from Adobe, which is following online sales in real-time at 80 of the top 100 retailers in the U.S., covering some 100 million SKUs, said that we are “on track” for a new sales record for the day, with between $8.9 billion and $9.6 billion expected in sales online for Black Friday, a jump of 20%-29% on last year.

For some context, in 2019, Adobe tracked $7.4 billion in online sales, and yesterday it said that shoppers spent $5.1 billion on Thanksgiving, with more than $3 billion spent online each day in the week leading up to Thursday.

Adobe was still tallying the final numbers for the day as of this morning European time, so we’ll update this post with the final numbers as and when we get them.

Its analysts say that the evening tends to be big for online shopping — which makes sense since people might have been either going out in person during the day, or just doing something else on a day off.

Not all are in agreement that night time is the right time, however. Figures from Shopify — which analyses activity from the 1 million-plus merchants that use its e-commerce platform — said that the peak shopping hour on its platform was actually 9am Eastern, when there were as many as $3 million in sales per minute. The average cart size for US shoppers was $95.60, it added.

Interestingly, Shopify’s per-minute sales number underscores how the long tail of merchants are still quite a ways behind the very biggest: Adobe noted that its figures, across the sites that it tracks (which have at least $1 billion in annual sales) tally to $6.2 million spent per minute on Black Friday.

In either case, smartphones continue to be a major driver of how sales get made. Adobe said that as of 4pm Eastern some 41.5% of all sales were on handsets, a bit lower than the day before but 7% higher than in 2019. And just as was the case yesterday, it seems that smaller retailers are attracting more shoppers on mobile: Shopify said that some 70% of its sales are being made via smartphones.

We’ll see how all of that plays out later today also with the initial figures from “Small Business Saturday”, which is the latest of the shopping designations added to the holiday weekend, this one trying to hone focus more squarely away from major chains and big box merchants.

One big takeaway from the bigger weekend figures will be that offering items — electronics, tech, toys and sports goods being the most popular categories — at the right price will help retailers continue to bring in sales, in what has proven to be an especially strong year for online shopping after many have opted to stay away from crowded places due to the pandemic, but also a critical year for retailers because of the drag that the pandemic has had on the wider economy.

Cyber Monday is likely to continue to be the biggest of them all, expected to bring in between $11.2 billion and $13 billion in e-commerce transactions, up 19%-38% year-on-year.

Perhaps because of the shift to more online shopping, and the concern over flagging sales, it’s interesting that “holiday season” has also been extended and now comes earlier. Adobe said a survey of consumers found that 41% said they would start shopping earlier this year than previous years due to much earlier discounts. Recall too that Amazon’s Prime Day was delayed to start in October this year, an ‘event’ that many treated as a moment to get a jump start on holiday shopping.

“Black Friday is headed for record-breaking levels as consumers flock online to shop for both holiday gifts and necessities,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights. “Concurrently, it’s also worth noting that this year, we’re seeing strong online sales momentum across not only the major shopping days like Thanksgiving weekend, but throughout the holiday season as consumers spread out their shopping across several weeks in reaction to continued, heavy discounting from retailers.”

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/28/black-friday-online-sales-numbers/

Automotive

End-to-end operators are the next generation of consumer business

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At Battery, a central part of our consumer investing practice involves tracking the evolution of where and how consumers find and purchase goods and services. From our annual Battery Marketplace Index, we’ve seen seismic shifts in how consumer purchasing behavior has changed over the years, starting with the move to the web and, more recently, to mobile and on-demand via smartphones.

The evolution looks like this in a nutshell: In the early days, listing sites like Craigslist, Angie’s List* and Yelp effectively put the Yellow Pages online — you could find a new restaurant or plumber on the web, but the process of contacting them was largely still offline. As consumers grew more comfortable with the web, marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, Expedia and Wayfair* emerged, enabling historically offline transactions to occur online.

More recently, and spurred in large part by mobile, on-demand use cases, managed marketplaces like Uber, DoorDash, Instacart and StockX* have taken online consumer purchasing a step further. They play a greater role in the operations of the marketplace, from automatically matching demand with supply, to verifying the supply side for quality, to dynamic pricing.

The key purpose of being end-to-end is to deliver an even better value proposition to consumers relative to incumbent alternatives.

Each stage of this evolution unlocked billions of dollars in value, and many of the names listed above remain the largest consumer internet companies today.

At their core, these companies are facilitators, matching consumer demand with existing supply of a product or service. While there is no doubt these companies play a hugely valuable role in our lives, we increasingly believe that simply facilitating a transaction or service isn’t enough. Particularly in industries where supply is scarce, or in old-guard industries where innovation in the underlying product or service is slow, a digitized marketplace — even when managed — can produce underwhelming experiences for consumers.

In these instances, starting from the ground up is what is really required to deliver an optimal consumer experience. Back in 2014, Chris Dixon wrote a bit about this phenomenon in his post on “Full stack startups.” Fast forward several years, and more startups than ever are “full stack” or as we call it, “end-to-end operators.”

These businesses are fundamentally reimagining their product experience by owning the entire value chain, from end to end, thereby creating a step-functionally better experience for consumers. Owning more in the stack of operations gives these companies better control over quality, customer service, delivery, pricing and more — which gives consumers a better, faster and cheaper experience.

It’s worth noting that these end-to-end models typically require more capital to reach scale, as greater upfront investment is necessary to get them off the ground than other, more narrowly focused marketplacesBut in our experience, the additional capital required is often outweighed by the value captured from owning the entire experience.

End-to-end operators span many verticals

Many of these businesses have reached meaningful scale across industries:

All of these companies have recognized they can deliver more value to consumers by “owning” every aspect of the underlying product or service — from the bike to the workout content in Peloton’s case, or the bank account to the credit card in Chime’s case. They have reinvented and reimagined the entire consumer experience, from end to end.

What does success for end-to-end operator businesses look like?

As investors, we’ve had the privilege of meeting with many of these next-generation end-to-end operators over the years and found that those with the greatest success tend to exhibit the five key elements below:

1. Going after very large markets

The end-to-end approach makes the most sense when disrupting very large markets. In the graphic above, notice that most of these companies play in the largest, but notoriously archaic industries like banking, insurance, real estate, healthcare, etc. Incumbents in these industries are very large and entrenched, but they are legacy players, making them slow to adopt new technology. For the most part, they have failed to meet the needs of our digital-native, mobile-savvy generation and their experiences lag behind consumer expectations of today (evidenced by low, or sometimes even negative, NPS scores). Rebuilding the experience from the ground up is sometimes the only way to satisfy today’s consumers in these massive markets.

2. Step-functionally better consumer experience versus the status quo

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/01/22/end-to-end-operators-are-the-next-generation-of-consumer-business/

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D2C Brand Wakefit.Co Offers Rs 15 Crore ESOPs Buyback Options To Its Employees

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  • The announcement comes after Wakefit.co recently raised Rs 185 crore in funding from Verlinvest and Sequoia Capital India.
  • Wakefit is an online D2C store that provides quality sleep and home-solutions products at affordable prices.
  • To date, The company has raised over Rs 250 crore in funding.

Bengaluru-based online D2C brand Wakefit.co, on January 22, announced that it is offering an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) buyback option to its employees’ worth Rs 15 crore.

The announcement comes after Wakefit.co recently raised Rs 185 crore in its Series B funding round led by investment management firm Verlinvest and Sequoia India Capital. With that investment, Wakefit valuation reached Rs 1,900 crore (or about $260 million).

In December 2018, Wakefit had raised Rs 65 crore in its Series A funding round led by Sequoia Capital. To date, the company has raised over Rs 250 crore in funding.

According to the company, The new ESOP buyback plan would benefit 15-20 employees, providing meaningful wealth creation opportunities for them. Further, the scheme will allocate 6-7% of the company’s shares to the employees’ part of the school.

Founded in 2016 by Ankit Garg and Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, Wakefit (Wakefit Innovations Pvt. Ltd.) is an online D2C store that provides quality sleep and home-solutions products to customers at affordable prices. The company currently manufactures its products in-house across three locations and has 22 warehouses across the country. It had recently opened its experience centers in four cities, including Gurugram, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, and Lucknow.

Commenting on the latest development, Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, Co-founder & Director, Wakefit.co, said, “Our workforce has stood together to set us on course to reach Rs 450 crore by FY2021, and we felt it was only fair that we make senior members of our team part of this growth journey. We hope that the ESOPS buyback option will continue to add value to our employees’ lives and keep them motivated as we venture into a new year poised with exciting challenges.”

Also Read: Food Aggregator Swiggy Introduces ESOP Liquidity Program To Reward Its Employees

“We hope that the ESOPs buyback option will continue to add value to our employees’ lives and keep them motivated, as we venture into a new year poised with exciting challenges,” said Chaitanya Ramalingegowda.

The company said that it will also add another 50-60 employees’ into the existing pool, benefiting early employees for their commitment and hard work.

It further said that it aims to increase its workforce from March 2020 by 400% to 3,000 employees by March 2021. It has already started training programmes for machine operators, carpenters, and other customer experience executives.

Follow IndianStartupNews on FacebookInstagramTwitter for the latest updates from the startup ecosystem.

Source: https://indianstartupnews.com/news/d2c-brand-wakefit-co-offers-rs-15-crore-esops-buyback-options-to-its-employees/

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AI

Google launches suite of AI-powered solutions for retailers

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Google today announced the launch of Product Discovery Solutions for Retail, a suite of services deigned to enhance retailers’ ecommerce capabilities and help them deliver personalized customer experiences. Product Discovery Solutions for Retail brings together AI algorithms and a search service, Cloud Search for Retail, that leverages Google Search technology to power retailers’ product-finding tools.

The pandemic and corresponding rise in online shopping threaten to push supply chains to the breaking point. Early in the COVID-19 crisis, Amazon was forced to restrict the amount of inventory suppliers could send to its warehouses. Ecommerce order volume has increased by 50% compared with 2019, and shipment times for products like furniture more than doubled in March. Moreover, overall U.S. digital sales have jumped by 30%, expediting the online shopping transition by as much as two years.

Product Discovery Solutions for Retail, which is generally available to all companies as of today, aims to address the challenges with AI and machine learning. To that end, it includes access to Google’s Recommendations AI, which uses machine learning to dynamically adapt to customer behavior and changes in variables like assortment, pricing, and special offers.

Recommendations AI, which launched in beta in July and is now generally available, ostensibly excels at handling recommendations in scenarios with long-tail products and cold-start users and items. Thanks to “context-hungry” deep learning models developed in partnership with Google Brain and Google Research, it’s able to draw insights across tens of millions of items and constantly iterate on those insights in real time.

Google Recommendations AI

From a graphical interface, businesses using Recommendations AI can integrate, configure, monitor, and launch recommendations while connecting data by using existing integrations with Merchant Center, Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics 360, Cloud Storage, and BigQuery. Recommendations AI can incorporate unstructured metadata like product name, description, category, images, product longevity, and more while customizing recommendations to deliver desired outcomes, such as engagement, revenue, or conversions. And it lets Google Cloud customers apply rules to fine-tune what shoppers see and diversify which products are shown, filtering by product availability and custom tags.

Product Discovery Solutions for Retail also includes access to Google’s Vision API Product Search, which allows shoppers to search for products with an image and receive a ranked list of visually and semantically similar items. Google says Vision Product Search taps machine learning-powered object recognition and lookup to provide real-time results of similar, or complementary, items from retailers’ product catalog.

Beyond Recommendations AI and Vision API Product Search, Product Discovery Solutions for Retail ships with Cloud Search for Retail. Cloud Search for Retail, which is currently in private preview, pulls from Google’s understanding of user intent and context to provide retail product search functionality that can be embedded into websites and mobile apps.

“As the shift to online continues, smarter and more personalized shopping experiences will be even more critical for retailers to rise above their competition,” Google Cloud retail and consumer VP Carrie Tharp said in a statement. “Retailers are in dire need of agile operating models powered by cloud infrastructure and technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to meet today’s industry demands. We’re proud to partner with retailers around the world and bring forward our Product Discovery offerings to help them succeed.”

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/19/google-launches-suite-of-ai-powered-solutions-for-retailers/

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Ecommerce

Infinite Fleet Launches Security Token Offering (STO) on STOKR, Led by…

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Exordium, the publisher of upcoming sci-fi massively multiplayer online (MMO) strategy game Infinite Fleet, today announced the launch of its public security token offering (STO) for select countries that will grant every participant equity in the company and a share in future profits.

The public offering is set to take place immediately on STOKR, an innovative STO platform that provides turn-key solutions for small and medium-sized ventures to obtain access to capital markets, according to EU capital market laws.

The offering round is priced at $0.50 per “EXOeu” token – the security token issued by Exordium (Luxembourg) S.C.S. representing a share in the Exordium parent company. The round is being led by Tether International Limited (“Tether International”), a member of the Tether group of companies, the largest stablecoin issuer in the world. Tether International has invested US$1 million in EXOeu tokens.

“As a former MMORPG game developer myself, I see great potential in the application of crypto assets to multiplayer online games,” said Paolo Ardoino, CTO at Tether International Limited. “It is a perfect match of two rapidly growing digital sectors with tremendous upside. Samson Mow and his team are veterans with proven track records in both fields, with a clear vision of what they want to achieve.”

Infinite Fleet is an online strategy game in which players command fleets of customizable spaceships and play cooperatively to fend off an alien threat, leaving their legacy in the game’s lore via its unique directed narrative feature. The game draws inspiration from space real-time strategy (RTS) and MMO classics like Homeworld and EVE Online, while integrating a crypto asset to power its in-game peer-to-peer economy.

The EXOeu token for the offering is issued via Blockstream AMP, a platform for the tokenization of securities built on the Liquid sidechain of Bitcoin, which has been directly integrated with STOKR.

This funding model allows for the democratization of venture capital access to the general public. Investors will be able to invest directly through the STOKR platform using various currencies such as the euro (EUR), bitcoin (BTC), and Tether (USDt), starting from as little as US$100-equivalent.

“Security tokens like EXOeu are changing the way companies fundraise,” said Arnab Naskar, Co-Founder & Business Lead at STOKR. “Unlike Kickstarter, investors in security tokens receive real financial rights in the company in which they are investing. STOKR is designed to support companies to reach out to their user base and access fundraising from a wider network. With the Ethereum gas fee skyrocketing at the moment, platforms like Blockstream AMP are ideal for issuing tokenized securities.”

Infinite Fleet has previously raised US$3.1 million in a private funding round, backed by several pioneers in the blockchain space such as Litecoin creator Charlie Lee and Keiser Report host Max Keiser.

Infinite Fleet’s development team is led by veteran AAA game developers that have worked on franchises such as Age of Empires, Homeworld, Company of Heroes, Dawn of War, and other top rated games that have collectively grossed over US$1.2 billion globally. The game’s closed alpha is expected to be released in the upcoming weeks.

You can participate in Infinite Fleet’s public security token offering at https://stokr.io/infinite-fleet.

About Exordium Limited

Exordium Limited is a video game publisher founded by a battle-tested team of AAA game developers, producers, and technology early movers. Exordium seeks to be at the forefront of the convergence between online gaming and crypto assets, with a focus on operating and distributing games that are innovative and socially immersive. The team behind Exordium has a wide array of experience and has previously operated games such as Vainglory and Warhammer 40,000: Carnage.

About STOKR

STOKR S.A., headquartered in Luxembourg, provides turn-key solutions to small and medium sized ventures to access capital markets, according to EU capital market laws. From technology support to payment gateways, and investment structuring to wallet registration – STOKR enables opportunities for both issuers and investors to have the most secure, advanced, and user-friendly investment experience. STOKR is led by a diverse team, operating from Luxembourg and Germany. STOKR focuses on supporting projects which are committed to making a positive impact, as well as creating a community of educated investors who are empowered to make better investment decisions.

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Source: https://www.prweb.com/releases/infinite_fleet_launches_security_token_offering_sto_on_stokr_led_by_us1m_investment_from_tether_international_limited/prweb17661500.htm

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