eCommerce News of the Week – March 28th 2016

Welcome to the News of the Week for March 28th, 2016.  This week I focus on: Google doing what Google does, Shopify’s plan for the future, Amazon partnering to use it’s reach for the dark side, Alibaba’s new alternative to eCommerce shopping, and Living Social’s layoffs.

Google eyes big names for next acquisition

There is a rumor going around the web that Google is going to continue the trend of purchasing solid, stable companies and spin them into their pre-existing services.  The rumored companies to be acquired are Namely (Payroll), Xactly (Sales), and most notable to me, Shopify (eCommerce Platform).   What I find most interesting about this news is when it was released, which was the same day as Shopify’s first ever developer and partner conference (Unite) was set to kick-off (more of that to come).  According to Re/Code, the idea is [for Google] to buy companies that sell business service apps and integrate their offerings with Google’s own cloud data storage businesses and leverage the power they already have which is analytics and a large user base.  While I don’t think Shopify or any of the others will be cheap, I do think they have a price.

Hmm….an eCommerce platform owned by Google and operated by Shopify staff.  That has a nice ring to it, and it solidifies capital question marks for Shopify who would never need to raise money again with a large investment from Google proper.

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Google lands the big fish…

In other notable Google news, it was rumored that Apple has left Amazon and joined Google’s cloud service to host it’s iCloud system.  Apple would be looking to diversify it’s hosting and cloud requirements, which is smart, but it does offer some complexity as to what is stored where, and why.  What this effectively means for retailers is more competition for your dollar and increasing competition means better performance for stores.   No eCommerce client’s of ours run their eCommerce infrastructure on Google, Amazon, Azure, etc, but if you mix this with the news of an acquisition of Shopify and eCommerce investments it could be an option for our retailers.

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Shopify’s Unite Conference from a bird’s eye view…

Gauge’s team was at the Shopify Unite Conference and will most likely do a Blog Post just for our thoughts, but I wanted to talk about some of the high points.

  • Shopify’s big announcement comes with the investment in 3rd party marketplaces and plugins native to the platform.  Last year Shopify invested heavily in 3rd party platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.  Now they are touting native integrations with Ebates, Houzz, and Wanelo (which used to have an app integration).
  • Shopify truly understands commerce and while they don’t have the huge fish (only 8 in the IR 1000 stores) they actively are going after SMBs (small, medium businesses) and to make it easier for them to focus on growing their companies rather than the technical debt they incur with other platforms.
  • Lastly, they are focusing on mobile first methodologies and removing friction through the buying process by making it less steps, and easier to checkout with multiple integrated payment partners.

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Amazon is using their forces for evil.

For the first time Amazon has partnered with another company to use their platform to sell services.  That company is Comcast. Amazon is now reselling Comcast’s Internet and television service on its site, via a newly launched section called Amazon Cable Store – a branding that implies Comcast may be the first of other cable providers yet to come. The Cable Store allows customers to browse a variety of packages, from Internet-only deals up to combined Internet/TV/phone bundles, complete a credit check, and then schedule an installation – all from Amazon.com.  What makes this move interesting is that other service based companies could leverage Amazon’s reach to hawk it’s product mix such as payment processing, credit cards, digital media and more.  If you sell digital products online you may want to take note.

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Alibaba invests in Virtual Reality.

There is a large shift to eCommerce and retail players looking to the future in Virtual and Augmented Reality to reach customers from home and in the best way possible. Alibaba has now formally thrown its billion dollar hat into the virtual reality ring after the e-commerce giant announced its own virtual reality research lab, dubbed GnomeMagic Lab (10 points for that name).  For a company that sells products via the web they have made a massive investment in 360 imagery and VR to be on the leading edge of commerce.  While the first thought is “how cool it would be to shop in Times Square” Alibaba has stated that it is merchant first, allowing merchants to better display, communicate features, and do customer service via VR.  With many many many headsets available the market is saturated with hardware, now it’s time to see who takes advantage of their eCommerce platform the fastest.

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Living Social is barely living at all…

In another round of layoffs, Living Social has announced another slash of their team, this time 280 people and more than 50% of their workforce. The daily deals site has been struggling since 2013 to transition their site and brand to something other than daily deals which is saturated by many other players and is as unique as 2012 Ford Explorer.   The goal of telling you this horror story is that you must consistently be iterating as a retailer and as soon as you feel comfortable the landscape change.  We learn the hard way…

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