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Fast Five: The race is on to one-up Amazon Go!

Happy Friday everyone!

This week’s headlines were exceptionally strong. We saw important announcements from big players in both the retail and the tech industries, with Walmart and Macy’s, especially, continuing their innovation PR runs.  And, the biggest news? Microsoft. The race is on to one-up Amazon Go, and we here at Omni Talk are rooting for them.

We hope you enjoy this week’s Fast Five productions!

For those that prefer video, here you go . . .

For those that prefer our podcasts, here you go . . .

For those that prefer prose nowhere near on par with Kierkegaard, here you go . . .

Fast Five

#1) Macy’s takes aim at Amazon with push for checkout-free retail (Reuters)

The race for the checkout-free store has officially begun. Amazon Go’s opening was just the tip of the spear. Walmart is partnering with Microsoft to develop its own version of Amazon Go-like technology.

I have been a big fan of Microsoft for sometime now. Microsoft’s cloud services are formidable, compared to Amazon, and comprise one leg of the three-legged stool that will power next generation retail (i.e cloud commerce, mobile applications, and location analytics). Microsoft’s Retail Experience Center is top notch too. They get where the future is going.

While it may be hard to believe, given my past diatribes about Walmart, I really like this partnership. Walmart has to protect its grocery business, and Microsoft could be a great partner for them.

#2) Jet.com founder Marc Lore spends $44M on New York penthouse (New York Business Journal)

Yes, you read this headline right. Marc Lore just spent $44 million on a New York apartment in a celebrity-filled building (rumor has it — Jennifer Lawrence is a neighbor).

So, let me get this straight — a man who works for a company whose main offices are in Arkansas and California just plunked down $44M for a home in New York?

I don’t get it.

And, sure, you might say, “Don’t forget about Jet.com in New Jersey.”

But, please, shut the front door on that one too. Jet.com is just the gnat on the gnat on the ass of Walmart’s overall operations.

While this announcement makes one wonder where Lore’s heart lies as well as how long he intends to work for Walmart, one thing is definitely more clear — the rationale behind Jetblack.

There is 0% chance Lore’s new apartment does not have a doorman.

Nothing says Save More.Live Better like a $44 million Manhattan apartment.

#3) Macy’s and b8ta partner to grow new concept shops (Retail Dive)

Macy’s has formed a partnership and invested a minority stake in b8ta, the upstart electronics retailer, to deploy b8ta’s technology within Macy’s Market @ Macy’s concepts (i.e. their pop-up retail shop-in-shops).

I must not be feeling well again too because I like this move as well.

I have derided Macy’s often this year, but this move makes sense.

Having a tech platform that small, long-tail brands can plug into easily in order to do business inside of or, better said, alongside of Macy’s likely rubberband ball-like IT architecture will make Macy’s more nimble.

I have one word of advice though, Macy’s — be careful the customer experience inside your pop-shops does not stand too far afield of the rest of the Macy’s experience. It could confuse your customers and cause more harm then good.

New fangled tech in one part of your store could seem cool but also could be more trouble than its worth. The right approach is to design an entirely new Macy’s experience fresh from the ground up, where your pop-up shops are just one part of an overall better experience, as opposed to just designing a better experience in one part of your store.

The former approach is new retail. The latter approach is old retail.

#4) Rakuten acquires mobile commerce startup Curbside (TechCrunch)

As stated in the above article, Japan’s Amazon, Rakuten, recently purchased Curbside — the Bay Area startup formed by former Apple engineers with experience in location technology.

In a nutshell, Curbside makes it convenient for people to pick up their purchase on the “curbside” of local retailers.

I have used the service many times on my travels to California. Every time it has been a great experience. I have been surprised that the concept has not spread faster throughout the country.

While some retailers are trying to recreate Curbside’s technology on their own, it won’t be easy and nor will mall-based retailers find this process simple to deploy inside of the cumbersome physical architectures of malls either.

There still is likely a big niche for Curbside both here and abroad.

Kudos to Rakuten for seeing the potential.

#5) Amazon to launch indie beauty shop within its marketplace (Beauty Independent)

From the weekly file of “Oh shit, that is a brilliant move, Amazon,” Amazon is set to launch its own beauty shop/mall within its e-commerce marketplace with . . . a catch — the featured brands cannot be available at large retailers, like Walmart and Ulta.

This move is REALLY smart. The beauty business is hot right now, fueled by long-tail brand startups that crop up faster than a Lebron hand cast after a Warriors sweep.

Amazon on its own, acting as a virtual mall, is all these retailers need to flourish in their early days of operations. Amazon offers them a first foray into direct-to-consumer retail, and, in exchange, Amazon keeps these social gadflies out of the hands of the competition.

Shrewd and very scary.

Be careful out there,

Chris

P.S. Be sure to check out Part II of my series with Uberall on location marketing and mobile retailing. This week’s post is entitled The New Mental Gymnastics of Mobile Retailing. Lots of people are out on social media claiming my idol Scott Galloway is wrong, but few people have
the class and the guts to argue that the man is only two-thirds right. See what I did there?

P.P.S. Benedict Cumberbatch is a badass.

P.P.P.S. If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive more great content like this each and every week, please click here to subscribe to Omni Talk.

 

 

Chris Walton View All

Chris Walton is an accomplished Senior Executive with nearly 20 years of success within the retail and retail technology industries. He is well-versed in merchandising, store operations, inventory management, product design, forecasting, e-commerce, pricing and promotions, and tech product development.

Chris was most recently a Vice President with Target, where he led the retailer’s Store of the Future project and also ran the Target’s home furnishing division for e-commerce. He previously worked for GAP, Inc., as a Distribution Analyst and Manager.

Chris holds a BA in Economics and History from Stanford University, and a MBA from Harvard Business School.

He likes to dress as Darth Vader for Halloween, and his wife also frequently asks him to ask Alexa, "to turn off the music."

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