gesture control comes to amazon drones…

Amazon has been testing drones for 30 minute or less deliveries for a couple of years now. We’ve seen their patents for other drone-related ideas, but the latest is one describing drones that would respond to both gestures and commands. In effect, they’re trying to make the drones more than sentient technological vessels, and more human-friendly, so if the drone is headed toward the wrong spot you could wave your hands to indicate its error, or tell it where to set your item down for final delivery. As described in the source article:

Depending on a person’s gestures — a welcoming thumbs-up, shouting or frantic arm waving — the drone can adjust its behavior, according to the patent. As described in the patent, the machine could release the package it’s carrying, change its flight path to avoid crashing, ask humans a question or abort the delivery.

Among several illustrations in the design, a person is shown outside a home, flapping his arms in what Amazon describes as an “unwelcoming manner,” to showcase an example of someone shooing away a drone flying overhead. A voice bubble comes out of the man’s mouth, depicting possible voice commands to the incoming machine.

“The human recipient and/or the other humans can communicate with the vehicle using human gestures to aid the vehicle along its path to the delivery location,” Amazon’s patent states.”

Why it’s hot:

This adds a new layer to the basic idea of small aerial robots dropping items you order out of the air. The more they can humanize the robots, the more they mimic actually deliverymen. And given the feedback we have seen on social about Amazon’s own human delivery service, this could be a major improvement.

[Source]

Amazon is taking a photo of your front door to show you where your package is

Amazon is delivering more than just your packages these days — it is also delivering photos. As part of the company’s efforts to make it even easier for you to receive your online orders, Amazon has taken to taking photos of your doorway to show exactly where your packages are being deposited. This will hopefully cut down on customer confusion, and also serves as photographic evidence of the successful delivery of your precious cargo.Amazon’s new picture-taking practice might also allow delivery folks to leave packages in more inconspicuous spots, like behind a bush or in a flower pot, as USA Today notes. Given the rise in package stealers, having a safe and somewhat surprising place to put your packages may not be such a bad idea and being able to document where that place is makes things easier.The new service is called Amazon Logistics Photo on Delivery and according to a company spokesperson, is “one of many delivery innovations we’re working on to improve convenience for customers.” Amazon Logistics in and of itself is one of those delivery innovations — it’s an Amazon-owned delivery network that is completely separate from other delivery services like FedEx or UPS. And while the Photo on Delivery program has been rolling out in batches for the last six months, it’s becoming more widespread. Now, folks who receive packages in the Seattle, San Francisco, and northern Virginia metro areas will likely be receiving photographic notifications of their delivery’s safe arrival.

 Of course, if the thought of someone taking a photo of your property doesn’t really sit all that well with you, don’t worry — Amazon is giving you a way to opt out of the feature, too. Simply head over to the Amazon website and navigate to the help and customer service tab. From there, you should be able to tell Amazon folks not to take an unapproved photo (assuming the photo-taking option is even available to you). But if you’re interested in seeing exactly where your packages are at the end of the day, Photo on Delivery may be the feature you have been waiting for.
Why Its Hot
Could this be data collection disguised as innovation? Or a way to cut down on false claims of lost packages and package stealing? In any case, I have always wanted my packages to be more inconspicuously placed and now they can be. Plus, why not gameify it? “Alexa, where’s my package”?

You can’t buy me love…but you can buy loyalty

Spending on loyalty programs is through the roof – experiencing an annual compounded growth rate of nearly 21 percent. And no wonder – returning customers spend up to 67 percent more than first-time customers.

But most loyalty programs don’t generate loyalty. One recent study found that customers of retailers that offer a loyalty program were not more loyal than customers of those that don’t. Another recent study found that only 42 percent of loyalty program members are active or engaged. While it pays to have loyal customers, you can’t simply pay customers to be loyal.

Loyalty

What if instead of paying customers to be loyal, those same customers actually paid the companies they want to be loyal to?

It’s a concept Amazon understands well. In the latest quarter, Prime membership grew by 47 percent. Prime members spend 250 percent more a year than non-members. And while standard loyalty programs tend to bleed engagement over time, Prime members actually become more engaged.

What companies like Amazon, GameStop, Sephora and Restoration Hardware understand is that there’s a difference between loyalty and love. Loyalty simply means you’ve managed to put a card in the customer’s wallet. Paid membership means you’ve secured a place in the customer’s heart. At the same time, charging a membership fee creates an onus on the part of the company to deliver value against the heightened expectations the fee creates.

Read more: Business of Fashion

Why It’s Hot
Expanded notions of loyalty in CRM can benefit both the company and consumer – a mutual value exchange that can breed longer-lasting brand love.

Amazon appeals to my furbaby emotions

This week I received an email from Amazon:

Well, ok!

Why It’s Hot

The value proposition is relevancy and savings — I’ll get coupons for exactly what my pets need. But there’s also an emotional element to being able to create profiles for my babies! I think they’ve displayed an understanding of target audiences — ie pet owners — in a way that is uniquely possible with Amazon’s data engine. I assume it will get smarter over time as I search and purchase and use coupons. This could actually be enough to get me moving my pet purchases from Chewy.com to Amazon if the value is high enough.

it’s just an ad…BUT WHY IS IT JUST AN AD?!?!

Amazon revealed its Alexa Super Bowl spot this week, and as you can see above, the premise is – imagine what it would be like if you were speaking to various celebrities instead of what at this point is a borderline monotone, virtually personality-less Alexa. There’s the anthemic 90-second version above, plus 30-second editions focused on specific personalities like you see below.

Why It’s Hot:

In a world where we’ll inevitably rely on speaking to digital assistants, why wouldn’t Amazon, Google, or any others give you the ability to choose your assistant’s voice and personality? And, why didn’t Amazon do it as part of this campaign? We’ve seen it in concept videos, but is this more than just an ad? Having GPS directions read to you by Arnold Schwarzenegger is one thing, but a true assistant you can interact with is a much different scenario. When can we expect this eminently possible future?

[Source]

What Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway have in common?

“JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway have joined forces with Amazon to form a new healthcare company for all U.S. employees. Right now details are so sparse there’s not even a name associated with the new company. However, this is big news for the industry, and it could possibly have ramifications not only for health insurance giants, but also smaller tech companies that are open to either partnering with the company — or even being acquired by it.

The decision didn’t come overnight. According to reports, the heads of each company — Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos — have chatted for years about how to fix the problem of high costs and a broken healthcare system.

‘The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,’ Buffet said in a statement out this morning. ‘We share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country’s best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes.”

Why it’s hot:
If the system is not working, you have to break the system – probably that’s what these companies and its leaders have in mind.

Source: TechCrunch

Amazon’s Alexa may eventually serve up ads…maybe, maybe not?

It was only a matter of time, folks.

According to a report from CNBC, Amazon is in talks with brands and advertisers to include ads on the Echo through via Alexa. The report says that Amazon is discussing these opportunities with Procter & Gamble and Clorox.

Just as ads found their way to the newspaper, the radio, the television, the internet, and even to our inbox and inside our apps, it only makes sense for advertisers to follow us to the next frontier of voice-powered AI.

There are two obvious paths to potentially advertising on Alexa.

The first is to let brands pay for placement when users are shopping through Alexa. For example, Proctor & Gamble could pay for Bounty to be the first brand recommended when a user asks for Alexa to purchase paper towels. Of course, these ads could be ultra-smart given the data Amazon already has about each individual user’s buying history.

The second channel for advertising could come via Alexa Skills. For example, a skill that tells users movie showtimes could suggest buying tickets through Fandango.

Paid search ads via voice could be much more effective than the paid search ads you see on the web, as with Google. On the web, many have grown numb to ad search results and can easily scroll past them to real search results. On a voice platform, it takes far more work to ‘scroll past’ the first result presented. Plus, depending on how Amazon presents paid results, it may be more difficult to decipher paid results from actual results.

Amazon, however, responded to CNBC saying that “the company has no plans to add advertisements to Alexa.” Obviously, this is just a rumor at the moment but it would be far from shocking if ads hit the Alexa platform. An Amazon spokesperson responded to request for comment with the same quote they gave CNBC: “There are no plan to add advertising to Alexa.”

Source: TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Regardless of whether this is real news now or not, it’s still interesting to consider and potentially inevitable. Brands are bound to want in on this expanding space — can the Amazons and Google’s of the world hold them back? Should they?

From smart homes to smart offices: Meet Alexa for Business

During AWS Reinvent Conference in Las Vegas, Amazon announced Alexa for Business Platform, along with a set of initial partners that have developed specific “skills” for business customers.

Their main goal seems to be aimed at making Alexa a key component to office workers:

 
– The first focus for Alexa for Business is the conference room. AWS is working with the likes of Polycom and other video and audio conferencing providers to enable this.

– Other partners are Microsoft ( to enable better support for its suite of productivity services) Concur (travel expenses) and Splunk ( big data generated by your technology infrastructure, security systems, and business applications), Capital One and Wework. 

But that’s just what they are planning to offer and the new platform will also let companies build out their own skills and integrations.

Why It’s hot: 
We are finally seeing those technologies give a step to being actually useful and mainstream. 
Since Amazon wants to integrate Alexa to other platforms, It can be an interesting tool for future innovations. 
Source: TechCrunch

Amazon Is Using AR To Help People See Before They Buy

Amazon joins the augmented reality scene with a feature on their application called AR view. This allows customers to virtually view how an item would look in their home prior to their purchase.

When a customer gets on the Amazon application they access the feature through the small camera icon located at the top right of the screen, and then choose the AR view option. From there, they can locate thousands of products to virtually place into their home to see how they would look. The customer viewing the item can rotate it around in a 360 degree fashion to see how it would look from multiple different angles in their home. This feature was announced alongside Amazon opening their Black Friday Deals Store.

The feature comes exclusively to Amazon application users who have an iPhone with the iOS 11 update. Amazon plans to make the feature available for Android phones sometime in the future.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Expanded application to something IKEA offered years ago!

Hi Alexa. I need you to drop off my prescription.

Buzz, such as reports this week and last, around the increasing number of states in which Amazon has acquired wholesale pharmacy licenses, currently at 12, as well as forays into redefining other aspects of the healthcare experience, has been increasing.

The challenge is that these licenses lack an additional component, a Verified Accredited Wholesale Distributor (VAWD) Certification which is authorized by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and officially permits companies to distribute pharmaceuticals. The current level of certification limits them instead only to distribution of medical-surgical equipment, devices, and other healthcare related equipment which they currently already offer.

Why It’s Hot

Current estimates state that only 10% of scripts are filed via Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) leaving plenty of room for expansion in that market with the vast majority of scripts being filled by local pharmacies.

The biggest potential benefit Amazon can bring is its core excellence in product distribution. Just as applying their infrastructure to Whole Foods offers people anywhere the opportunity to engage with the Whole foods brand, prescription drug distribution offers the opportunity for patients to experience the customer experience they expect with Amazon.

Even the biggest advantage the local pharmacy can offer, its ability to give the patient face to face access to their pharmacist, has the potential to be challenged. Considering Amazon’s significant investment in voice-activated tech, Alexa, or her virtual co-worker name TBD, can surely provide quicker, friendlier service with the ability to access a catalog of knowledge larger than any human pharmacist can manage.

It will also force significant portions of a US $440 billion market to rethink how it serves its customers. After all, why shouldn’t the process of having your Advair script refilled be just as simple as clicking your Bounty paper towel or Scott toilet paper Amazon Dash Button?

Any way you slice it, Amazon should be able to win in the pharmaceutical distribution experience.

Amazon Amps Up AR

Amazon announced a new augmented reality (AR) functionality for the Amazon App that will give shoppers a chance to envision real-world products around their homes before deciding to buy them.

Amazon didn’t specify exactly which of its offerings will be optimized for the app, but it claims that “thousands” of items across multiple product types will be viewable in AR. You can check out exactly how the tool works in the video below.

The app update is now available for the Amazon app on iOS 11 via Apple’s ARKit, so for now AR View is strictly for shoppers that have iPhones dating back to the 6S. Amazon didn’t share any plans to expand to Android phones.

AR visualization is a growing trend as the tech becomes more common, thanks to new efforts from Apple and Google. Home goods giant Ikea offered one of the first apps using the new ARKit for its customers back in September, while Google teamed up with Wayfair to show off a similar functionality for Tango phones on a mobile version of Chrome at the I/O conference in May.

Amazon is ramping up the tech offerings, giving us voice ordering with Alexa, AI style guidance with the Echo Look, and now AR functionality. The services are all cool shortcuts to make shopping easier than ever — which is exactly what Amazon wants to drive sales.

Why It’s Hot

  • For someone who is 15 steps ahead of the tech game, this is quite a lag for Amazon
  • Though late, Amazon continues to extend its world-class UX experience
  • This is yet another big ripple made created by iPhone’s ARKit

 

Source

Mayor to review 1,000 Amazon products in bid for company’s new HQ

It’s been about a month since Amazon announced it was accepting bids from US cities to host its second major headquarters. A city that comes away with a new Amazon campus could potentially see a significant economy boost, so competition will certainly be fierce. And with the deadline for cities to submit their proposals exactly one week away, Kansas City, Missouri has emerged as perhaps the city with the most creative strategy. As noted by VentureBeatKansas City mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 products from Amazon for charity and is reviewing every single one — and the reviews very quickly pivot into why his city would be a great place for the company’s new HQ.

James explained his plan with a few videos on Twitter and also set up a URL that lets interested parties (like Amazon) see everything he’s reviewed. Products run the gamut from 22-inch wind chimes priced at only $14.99 (“I live in beautiful Kansas City where the average home price is just $122K, so I know luxe living doesn’t have to cost a ton”) to the classic kids story Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (“Alexander had a really bad day, but here in KC, we’re ranked as one of the 20 happiest cities to work in right now…”). You get the idea.

Video here

Site here

James just kicked the program off earlier this week, but he already has posted dozens of reviews — though a read through his entertaining Twitter feed makes it sound as if he’s not actually doing all the posting himself. But there’s little doubt this goofy but heartfelt venture is driving some positive buzz for Kansas City. Whether or not that’ll make a difference in the bidding process remains to be seen, but the city does meet enough of Amazon’s criteria that it should be in the running.

Source: Engadget

Why it’s Hot:

Going all out for your city’s economic growth means more than formal pitches, apparently. Taking to social to find humorous and creative ways to stand out is a solid idea — let’s see how it pans out for KC’s chances!

 

Walmart Puts Its Eggs in a Time-Saving Basket: Grocery Pickup

In today’s installment of the the ongoing food/convenience/price/partnership saga…

Seeking an edge against Amazon, Walmart is pushing a service that delivers your order to your car. Customers never have to step inside the store.

A personal shopper is something you might expect at Bergdorf Goodman or a boutique on Madison Avenue.

Not at the Walmart on Route 42 in Turnersville, N.J.

But that’s where you will find Joann Joseph and a team of Walmart workers each day, filling up shopping carts with boxes of Honeycomb cereal, Cheez-Its and salted peanuts.

The customers select their groceries online, and then the shoppers pick the items off the store shelves and deliver them to people when they arrive in the parking lot. Customers never have to step inside the store.

“It’s about saving people time,” Ms. Joseph said as she helped load groceries into the back of a minivan one morning.

Walmart, which is one of the largest food retailers in the United States, sees grocery pickup as a way to marry its e-commerce business with its gigantic network of stores — a goal that has eluded many other retailers. The company started ramping up the service two years ago, and it is now available in about 1,000 of Walmart’s 4,699 stores across the country.

The initiative is the latest salvo in Walmart’s retail battle with Amazon, and the centerpiece of its strategy to gain the upper hand in the pursuit of consumers looking to streamline their food shopping.

Many retailers are focused on new ways to deliver groceries to people’s homes — particularly in big cities. Walmart is betting big on the millions of Americans in suburban and rural areas who drive everywhere. The company is trying to make ordering groceries online and then picking them up in your car as seamless as a fast-food drive-through.

Amid this heated competition, Walmart has been experimenting with different ways to get an edge. In a few cities, it works with Uber to deliver groceries to homes.

And last month, Walmart said it would begin testing a home-delivery service in which a worker loads the food into the refrigerator, even when no one is home. The customer can watch the process remotely from a home security camera and track when the delivery worker enters and leaves the house.

While these initiatives are limited to only a few states, the company’s grocery pickup is widespread. Walmart is betting that a big part of the country (“from Scranton to Sacramento,” one Walmart executive said) is more of a drive-through than delivery culture.

Source (and interesting longer article): NY Times

Why It’s Hot

This is business-model interesting! There is a lot going on in the grocery industry to deliver on customer demand for convenience. Walmart, as king of retail, needs to innovate while ensuring that they can maintain their fundamental model and prices. Fresh Direct, then UberEATs then Amazon + Whole Foods — create interesting pressures. Will Walmart stay ahead?

Have Amazon and Walmart met their match?

German discounter Aldi is betting billions it can win over American shoppers. How? By offering them way fewer choices than rival retailers.

Aldi

The unlikely proposition has worked nearly everywhere Aldi has set foot. The company is now one of the biggest retail groups in the world with more than 10,000 locations, businesses in 18 countries and annual revenues approaching €70/$83 billion.

The American grocery market, one of the largest and most competitive in the world, is on the cusp of dramatic change since Amazon.com Inc. acquired Whole Foods Market Inc. this summer and Google struck a partnership with Wal-Mart.

But the Germans have a plan, forged in the rubble of World War II. Aldi offers a deliberately pared-down selection – most stores stock between 1,300 and 1,600 items. By comparison, Wal-Mart’s Supercenters have in recent years carried around 120,000 items. On a basket of 30 typical household items, Aldi’s prices are on average almost 17% lower than Wal-Mart’s.

Aldi is gambling it is more in tune with the American tastes, rolling out small, nimble stores instead of sprawling warehouses and supermarkets that take longer to navigate.

Why It’s Hot
It’s another example of how major players are betting on simplicity, standardization and speed. And a reason to pause and consider the trade off between choice and control versus convenience and ease.

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon

Google and Walmart are testing the notion that an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com.

But working together does not ensure that they will be any more successful. For most consumers, Amazon remains the primary option for online shopping. No other retailer can match the size of Amazon’s inventory, the efficiency with which it moves shoppers from browsing to buying, or its many home delivery options.

The two companies said the partnership was less about how online shopping is done today, but where it is going in the future. They said that they foresaw Walmart customers reordering items they purchased in the past by speaking to Google Home, the company’s voice-controlled speaker and an answer to Amazon’s Echo. The eventual plan is for Walmart customers to also shop using the Google Assistant, the artificially intelligent software assistant found in smartphones running Google’s Android software.

Walmart customers can link their accounts to Google, allowing the technology giant to learn their past shopping behavior to better predict what they want in the future. Google said that because more than 20 percent of searches conducted on smartphones these days are done by voice, it expects voice-based shopping to be not far behind.

“We are trying to help customers shop in ways that they may have never imagined,” said Marc Lore, who is leading Walmart’s efforts to bolster its e-commerce business.

Google is a laggard in e-commerce. Since starting a shopping service in 2013, it has struggled to gather significant momentum. Initially, it offered free same-day delivery before scrapping it. It also tried delivery of groceries before abandoning that, too.

If Amazon is a department store with just about everything inside, then Google Express is a shopping mall populated by different retailers. There are more than 50 retailers on Google Express, including Target and Costco. Inside Google Express, a search for “toothpaste” will bring back options from about a dozen different retailers.

Google said it planned to offer free delivery — as long as shoppers met store purchase minimums — on products purchased on Google Express. Google had charged customers a $95 a year membership for free delivery. Amazon runs a similar program called Amazon Prime, offering free delivery for members who pay $99 a year.

Source: NY Times

Why it’s Hot

Amazon has been considerably powering forward of late — when it comes to partnerships, integrations, and expansions — and one was left wondering where the competition would net out. The future implications about data and voice integration are more interesting than the retail implications today, since Google is king at data integration.

Amazon makes their own version of the P.O Box

Amazon now it wants to play an even more involved role in how packages are delivered. The company’s latest product, called Hub, is designed to act like a mailbox–not just for Amazon mail, but for any packages or deliveries. While it does not have AI-powered capabilities and it is not a large acquisition, it is a look at where Amazon is headed.

Hub is targeted primarily at residential building owners, and it promises that all packages from any sender will be stored safely and securely. Instead of having packages left at your door, in your lobby, or with a concierge desk, they’re placed within Hub, which has differently sized compartments designed to accommodate most packages. To access your package, you simply enter an access code and one of Hub’s doors will pop open.

Hub aims to fix one of the few areas of package delivery that Amazon doesn’t yet control: the final step between delivery and your actual home. It provides a convenient solution for packages getting delayed because of building hours, lost packages, or theft.

Why it’s hot:

  • One more step to Amazon take-over of all consumer retail interactions – you do not even have to shop on Amazon to interact with them now
  • Might have special implications for Amazon Prime subscribers
  • Whole Foods implications – could make grocery delivery even more appealing – helping food stay fresh

Source: Fast Company

Amazon’s next big industry conquest

Amazon has a has a “secret” skunkworks lab called 1492, dedicated to health care tech and complementing another Amazon unit announced earlier this year to disrupt the world of pharmaceuticals.

Jeff Bezos

The new team is currently looking at opportunities that involve pushing and pulling data from legacy electronic medical record systems. It is also looking to build a platform for telemedicine and exploring health applications for existing Amazon hardware, including Echo and Dash Wand. It’s not clear whether Amazon is building any new health devices, but sources didn’t rule it out.

1492 isn’t the only team inside Amazon that is working in health and life sciences. Amazon Web Services has also hired a slew of health experts to beat out Microsoft and Google for contracts with large hospitals and pharmaceutical vendors. The company has also invested in a health startup called Grail, an early cancer-testing startup founded by a Google exec.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/26/amazon-1492-secret-health-tech-project.html

Why It’s Hot
Um do you really need to ask?

Amazon, not content to ship a mere 1.6m packages per day, announces new service

Amazon has introduced a new service called Prime Wardrobe. Users can get between 3-15 clothing items shipped for free, pay for the stuff they keep and ship the rest back (also for free).

Story on TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Not only will this be a huge win for the USPS, but we will now be able to use the phrase “Warby Parkerization” at client presentations….or not.

Amazon Goes Offline with a Physical Bookstore

After helping drive many U.S. bookstore chains out of business, Amazon has been opening its own retail stores recently.

Its first Amazon Books location in New York City opened in Manhattan’s Shops at Columbus Circle, which was previously home to a pretty large — and now closed — Borders Books and Music.

A customer review, the number of total Amazon.com reviews and a star rating are displayed under each book on the shelf. All the books in the store either received four-star ratings and above on Amazon.com, or come from lists of best sellers or a hand-curated selection of new, yet-to-be reviewed titles.

The brick-and-mortar locations aim to provide a “mecca of discovery” for book lovers, according to Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books. The books all have the covers, not the spines, facing out, to encourage browsing —even though the store could have fit as many as 5,000 more titles if books were displayed the conventional way, Cast said.

Why It’s Hot:

Though it’s possible to check out like a regular bookstore, Amazon Books offers significant discounts to Amazon Prime members. This provides a strong incentive for customers to join Amazon Prime — a program that analysts say prompts more spending on Amazon.com.

Experts say that by converting just two or three dozen customers a day to Prime would result in a tremendous growth in revenue. Customer lifetime value for most Amazon customers is in the low thousands of dollars.

Not Hot: Amazon’s ironic patent

Amazon’s long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon’s own stores.

The patent, titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways.

The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you’re trying to access a competitor’s website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what’s offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright.

You can read the entire patent here.

Why it’s not hot?
Amazon’s patent also lets the retailer know your physical whereabouts, saying, “the location may be triangulated utilizing information received from a multitude of wireless access points.” The retailer can then use this information to try and upsell you on items in your immediate area or direct a sales representative to your location.

It’s the very sort of thing that Amazon itself protests. Amazon is among companies that signed ‘day of action’ against FCC’s planned rollback of net neutrality rules
https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/6/15745974/net-neutrality-day-of-action-tech-companies

Amazon is rolling out a Dash Wand with Alexa to make you buy everything

ake Amazon wants its Prime subscribers ordering from its online store all the time, so it just cooked up a new device to help them do exactly that — and it’s essentially giving it away for free.

The company just launched a new instant-ordering gadget, the Dash Wand, that lets you fill up your Amazon shopping cart by using voice commands or scanning barcodes on the packages you have sitting in your kitchen cupboards.

The Dash Wand is essentially an updated version of the OG Amazon Dash wand that debuted in 2015, but this newer version crucially adds Amazon’s artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa, to help out. The digital assistant can sync your shopping list across Amazon devices, convert units of measurement, and search for recipes.

This is a huge upgrade for Amazon’s instant-ordering devices. The original Dash was significantly bigger, cost more than twice as much as this new one, and only worked with AmazonFresh orders.

Amazon’s really pushing the Wand, offering a similar deal to previous promotions for its instant ordering Dash buttons. If you buy a Dash Wand for $20,  you’ll qualify immediately for $20 credit for your next purchase after registering the device. It literally pays for itself — and you can opt-in for a free 90-day AmazonFresh trial, which typically costs $15 per month. It’s actually a pretty great deal for anyone with a Prime subscription.

The Wand is also magnetic, so it can live on your fridge close to all of your most frequently ordered foods, and its Alexa access makes it more useful than the Dash buttons, which are restricted to one item instant ordering.

You don’t get the full Alexa experience here, though. The Wand can’t play music, and its press-button functionality means it won’t automatically respond to the genial “Hey, Alexa” wake command.

It might sound ridiculous that the company is essentially giving the Wands away with all the discounts and incentives, but it’s a savvy business move. Making the shopping experience easier and offering a new Alexa toy to play with will only drive up orders, as if Amazon needs any help to keep its business afloat.

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

Connected AI experiences make the virtual assistant craze more useful. Amazon is pushing forward on many different ways to connect Alexa with other platforms, and this is a great example of a type of utility that in a few years we will wonder how we lived without.

 

The Amazon “stock market”

Just beneath the placid surface of a typical product page on Amazon lies an unseen world, a system where third-party vendors can sell products alongside Amazon’s own goods. It’s like a stock market, complete with day traders, code-slinging quants, artificial intelligence algorithms and, yes, flash crashes.

Amazon

Sellers of commodity items on Amazon are constantly monitoring and updating their prices, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times a day across thousands of items, says Mr. Kaziuk nas. Most use “rules-based” pricing systems, which simply seek to match competitors’ prices or beat them by some small fraction. If those systems get into bidding wars, items offered by only a few sellers can suffer sudden price collapses — “flash crashes.”

It’s clear, after talking to sellers and the software companies that empower them, that the biggest of these vendors are growing into sophisticated retailers in their own right. The top few hundred use pricing algorithms to battle with one another for the coveted “Buy Box,” which designates the default seller of an item. It’s the Amazon equivalent of a No. 1 ranking on Google search, and a tremendous driver of sales.

http://news.morningstar.com/all/dow-jones/us-markets/20170326515/the-high-speed-trading-behind-your-amazon-purchase.aspx

Why It’s Hot

Getting under the hood of how retail monster Amazon operates is always fascinating. The idea that prices are updating hundreds of thousands of times a day is nuts.

Bet You Didn’t Know Starbucks Is Teaming Up With Ford and Amazon…

Starbucks announced that it has created a third-party skill for Amazon Alexa, which allows their customers to reorder their favorite drinks and food through the voice recognition technology when you state, “Alexa, order my Starbucks”.

This Alexa skill works through the Starbucks Mobile Order and Pay feature and give customers the benefits of placing an order on the go and pick it up at a nearby location without the hassle of waiting in line.

This summer, Ford will add Alexa to vehicles with its SYNC 3 in-car technology. Ultimately, this will allow drivers/passengers to press a button to ask for directions, sports scores, weather updates and everything else Alexa would normally do or answer. This also means that Ford drivers will be able to place Starbucks orders while they are in their car in a hands free way!

Learn More: http://www.geekwire.com/2017/starbucks-partners-ford-amazon-allow-car-orders-via-alexa/

Why Its Hotstar

Brands are finding new ways for consumers to purchase products, making it more accessible for them. Considering Starbucks doesn’t deliver and customers must drive to their locations to purchase products, this partnership with Ford is such a great opportunity for the brand to capture more sales and mitigate time for costumers waiting in line to place an order.

Alexa voice technology is becoming increasingly popular so it is interesting to learn about how brands will create “skills” within their tool to connect themselves and the consumer through voice.

Merck aims to put Amazon’s Alexa to work on voice-enabled diabetes tools

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Alexa? Help pharma find patient solutions.

That’s what Merck & Co. is aiming for in its new partnership with Amazon Web Services to develop digital voice-enabled solutions for people living with chronic diseases.

Using the tech behind the Amazon Echo, Merck plans to initially work on diabetes. Its first initiative will be a call to entrepreneurs, techies and industry types for an innovation challenge expected to begin within the next month.

The yet-to-be-named challenge will be run by strategy and innovation consultancy Luminary Labs. While specifics haven’t been released, the call to action will “be open to solutions broadly enough that innovators of all stripes can come up with really novel ideas but being narrow enough to provide guidance and carefully evaluate submissions,” said Sara Holoubek, founder and CEO of Luminary Labs.

An independent jury will evaluate the submissions based on their use of voice-enabled technology that addresses Type 2 diabetes patient issues.

Merck’s long-term plan is to create tools for other chronic diseases using the same Amazon Lex platform and the voice-enabled Alexa home system.

Analysts estimate Amazon will sell more than 110 million Amazon Echo devices over the next four years, and many are already pointing to healthcare as an important item on Alexa’s eventual to-do list.

“Users will soon go far beyond turning on lights or calling an Uber, and will venture deeper into healthcare, helping people better manage treatments and communicate with caregivers,” Luminary notes on its website. “From reminding people of their nutrition plans to scheduling their insulin dosages, the Merck-sponsored Alexa challenge will call on developers to push the boundaries of voice technology for people with diabetes.”

Why It’s Hot

Through recent discussions about how we’ll use Alexa or any voice-enabled assistants, this is extremely smart.  Leveraging technology to assist those that have a lot to manage with their health can potentially keep people more compliant, and therefore keeping themselves healthier.  Taking annoying tasks to remember off people’s plates so they can enjoy more of their life is a great direction to take this technology.  Expect to see more of this in the near future.

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Amazon GO Shopping

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. Amazon has created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so shoppers never have to wait in line. With Amazon’s Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout.

Why It’s Hot:

By eliminating much of the staff needed to operate a store, Amazon keeps costs lower than traditional competitors. It’s also in a strong position to bring together data on its customer’s shopping habits online and offline to make better suggestions in all situations.

The experiment could also be seen as a new technology platform that Amazon could offer retail businesses after working out all of the kinks.  Similar to the way Amazon Web Service provides hosting for sites like Netflix and Adobe, Amazon Go will provide patent-protected technology infrastructure for “self-shopping” brick and mortar stores.

The Future: Brought to you by Alexa

At its launch, Alexa was designed to work with 135 skills. In 2017, its skills has increased to almost 7,000. Alexa can now do anything from order you a pizza, read your kids a bedtime story, and turn your lights on and off. Alexa is always listening, aptly responding to whatever you need, and what started as an experimental device is slowly becoming a household fixture.

As consumers, we’re aware of the devices tracking us. But for most, it’s hard to wrap your head around the foretold dangers of beings surveilled, because most don ‘t feel direct implications. And while privacy remains a hot topic in tech, Alexa promises that anything shared on their servers is 100% safe and undiscoverable to outsiders.

The interesting reality is: I basically give Amazon all of money. I even admit to using Amazon Now when I need toilet paper on a Saturday when I can easily walk to the corner store and pick it up myself. Amazon is the go-to for all my needs as a consumer, and in turn, Amazon knows a lot about me.

“While Google is working to anticipate your needs, Amazon is readying itself to be the only place you need to go to fulfill them.”

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Why it’s hot?

  • The Everything Store: It’s easy to buy into the Amazon universe. It’ll be interesting to see how their business grows in tech as this device becomes more of a household fixture.
  • Privacy: People are aware of surveillance, but convenience will likely bypass any privacy concerns.
  • Environmental and Cultural implications: Amazon Now, Amazon Prime – both feed the culture of instant gratification that brands and media continue to cultivate. What are the implications of devices like Alexa on consumption and willpower for society?

 

#PrimeDayFail a Huge Success for Sarcastic Tweeters

Amazon’s notorious Prime Day on July 15 promised to have “more deals than Black Friday” but no promises were made about the quality of the items being sold. According to the tweeting masses, it felt more like your parents’ last garage sale. The result was the hashtag #PrimeDayFail and some pretty funny memes.

ABC News Link

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Not everybody, it seems, was jazzed up about buying a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant for $1,361.

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Nor, apparently, for a family pack of brass knuckles, a Diane Keaton t-shirt (size XXL) or a plate of ham.

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Why It’s Hot

Despite Amazon’s assertions that Prime Day was a smashing success, the response on social media was highly critical of the event. Because of the speed and reach of social media, retailers can no longer get away with stunts like this without backlash. Amazon can learn from this and stage a better event next year.

Amazon, Advertising’s Newest Marketing Medium

This past week, Amazon rolled out shipping boxes that looked different from the trAmazon packagingaditional brown boxes.

Media experts say this is a new area of growth potential for Amazon, who provides costly free shipping services for its Amazon Prime users. With that being said, they also view the potential of putting ads on the box as a fine line between providing a new source of revenue for Amazon without overwhelming the boxes with so many advertisements that potential brands don’t see the benefit anymore.

 

Whys it’s hot

Amazon has been very proactive in terms of the expanding services they have been providing to consumers as well as features to enhance these services (such as Prime Day, which claims to be bigger than Black Friday (read here for more). Free shipping is one of the ‘must have” features in the eyes of Amazon Prime users. This offering is costly for Amazon, and by coming up with new ways to make revenue such as embracing ad’s on the boxes, they can continue to offer and enhance their services. This is particularly important for Amazon right now as promising competitors such as Jet.com threaten to steal market share

 

For more advertising on Amazon box’s, read about it here

 

 

 

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Connected TV Penetration at 56%

Leichtman Research Group says 56% of all U.S. homes have at least one television set connected to the Internet from a smart TV, video game set-top box, blu-ray player, and/or an Internet-connected TV-video device, such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire TV. This is up from 44% in 2013, and 24% in 2010. 52% of households have a subscription video on-demand service from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/or Hulu Plus.

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Some 33% of adults on a daily basis, and 58% weekly, watch video on non-TV devices — home computers, mobile phones, iPads, tablets, and eReaders. This is up from 27% daily, and 53% weekly two years ago.

Why It’s Hot: We currently leverage connected data sets (assignment of unique user IDs to all devices used/owned) to understand how people are reached by our TV commercials and to use digital video channels to provide a more optimal video experience to those people; e.g., delivering more exposure to those who are under-reached, exposing those who have been viewing our competitors’ commercials, et al. However, TV still dominates in terms of penetration and offers almost no control over message delivery (e.g., targeting, frequency management). As more HHs convert to connected TVs and as viewing shifts from linear TV to on-demand, subscription-based TV, marketers will have much more control over message delivery and theoretically, will deliver an experience that is better for the consumer (no more message bombardment caused by marketers who are trying to attain 1% more reach) and for business.

Amazon Continues to Up the Loyalty Game

Just announced: Amazon Prime members will get free streaming entertainment on JetBlue. The e-commerce company will let members of Amazon’s $99 annual loyalty program Prime stream its instant video service for free on their Wi-Fi enabled devices via JetBlue’s inflight Wi-Fi service. JetBlue is the only U.S. airline to offer free Wi-Fi on its planes. Called Fly-Fi for Amazon Prime, the service will give Prime members access to original Amazon shows like “Transparent,” its other streaming TV and movies, as well as the ability to rent or buy other titles on Amazon’s Instant Video store. Prime members will be able watch Amazon Instant Video from their laptops, Fire devices, iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets without downloading anything beforehand.

Read more here.

Why it’s hot:

Smart move for both brands. Once again, Jet Blue stands at the forefront in the airline industry. And Amazon continues to rule loyalty as they have been expanding the Prime program’s offerings in an effort to grow its membership with services such as grocery delivery, one-hour delivery in some cities, beefed up video streaming and the creation of a Bluetooth speaker called the Echo that syncs with Prime music.