Amazon Is Not A Commerce Company

Amazon is not a commerce company at all. It’s a big data company that has developed a cloud infrastructure that is profitable and subsidizes its retail operations.

TechCrunch

Same-day shipping became the big retailer craze this holiday season. Why? As the New York Times points out, retailers are living in fear of Amazon.com and trying to match what the online retailer offers.

The fear factor — Wal-Mart once had a trance on retail. Now it’s Amazon.com. But it’s not just retail that has begun to show deeper anxiety about Amazon. It’s the enterprise giants, too, that pay far more attention to the moves Amazon makes. Commerce came first, and now Amazon is prepping to have the same impact on big data and the software markets.

It’s why 2013 will be the big year for the retail and computing giant. It’s all coming together with its growing cloud infrastructure, voluminous data streams and content. It’s what Ray Wang of Constellation Research calls “matrix commerce.”

Wang argues that Amazon is not a commerce company at all. It’s a big data company that…

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Is Omni-Channel the answer for retail?

There have been a few articles around recently warning retailers not to rush into multi-channel or omni-channel retail, given the differences in the model and challenges in distributing product.  In fact, one commentator who I admire and normally agree with on most things labeled “Omni-channel is a pipe dream”.  In the article he states retailers should focus instead on “being the best physical retailer there is”, and “Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean that it is right for you”.

Online-shopping-cartWhilst I agree with the sentiment expressed above, the article misses a fundamental point.  That is retail is undergoing a massive structural change which is being driven by a move by consumers to shop online and on mobile devices.  Retailers who don’t respond to the change will indeed be in danger.   Just doing more of the same, better – will not work with structural change.  Retailers need to respond to the change or face the prospect of being left behind or worse.

In a report titled “The Future of Retail – Consumer adaptive retailing” the authors from PWC and Frost & Sullivan state “Online retail is now embedded in consumers behaviour and will force changes to the traditional retail operating mode; those retailers that do not move to the new model will not survive.”

A new approach is required, which is hinted at in the PWC report. It is an adaptive and agile approach to utilising technology to implement a new responsive business model which addresses how consumers will be shopping in the future.  This model is characterised by new open, cloud based offerings covering all of the retailers customer facing systems (in store, online and mobile).  Structural change is not going to be addressed by just putting up an online store (ticking the multi-channel or omni-channel box) and hoping that it will work.

Re-visioning all of the retailers customer facing systems is required; from in-store Point of Sale, to an integrated Online Store and Consumer Apps for smart phones and tablets.  All these customer facing systems should be integrated, sharing the same cloud based back-end pricing and promotions engines and sharing all customer information and insight from each of the channels.  This will provide in-store staff with the tools and information in their hands (with mobile Point of Sale) when customers first enter their store,  letting them know what the customer was interested in and discussing online and on their mobile device before they arrived.

Retailers must give customers the convenience and flexibility to shop the way that they want.  The flexibility to browse online, on mobile or in-store; to buy online, on mobile or in-store; to pick-up in-store or have delivered and provide ongoing after-sales services for returns and refunds so that the customer has confidence to shop when, where and how they want.  All with the same great, consistent customer experience of course.

Technology is driving structural change in retail as it is in other areas of life.  It is disruptive change, the fuse is short and the bang will be big for retail.  For retailers to survive the structural change they must also respond with technology – focusing on how the customer shops, now and in the future to ensure customers have the consistent, convenient experience across all channels.

So is Omni-Channel the answer for retail?  I think it is definitely part of the answer, the full answer is to ensure that the customer experience is consistently great, where ever and when ever they shop that will keep them coming back for more.

With $10M In The Bank, Cardfree Launches To Take On LevelUp And Square In Mobile Payments

Cardfree is a mobile merchant platform that wants to make it easy for small businesses to drive traffic into their stores, increase incremental visits, ticket size and allow for more meaningful engagement. It accepts payments from mobile devices, browsers, or at the point of sale.

TechCrunch

The mobile payments space already has its fair share of players, but lately some new names have been making big waves (like LevelUp), finally taking on veterans like Starbucks. The coffee giant recently inked a huge partnership with Square, which will bring the payments processors to 7,000 coffee shops across the U.S. But a few of the people behind Starbucks’ successful payments system have today launched another mobile payments option: Cardfree.

Cardfree is a mobile merchant platform that wants to make it easy for small businesses to drive traffic into their stores, increase incremental visits, ticket size and allow for more meaningful engagement. It accepts payments from mobile devices, browsers, or at the point of sale.

Small business owners can offer personalized promotions, mobile payments, loyalty, order-ahead and social media engagement, backed by reporting and analytics that lets them see whether it’s working. Another big appeal for merchants:…

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Mobile payments pioneer Square adds gift cards, integration with Apple’s Passbook

Square may have just landed a massive deal with Starbucks, but that’s not stopping the company from innovating. Today Square launched gift cards on the latest version of its Wallet app for the iPhone and Android, allowing you to send and use gift cards without carrying around a piece of plastic
Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2012/12/09/square-launches-digital-gift-cards/#sAPtQ2JMPGzx3jHv.99

The Subscription Economy Is About Strengthening Customer Relationships, Not Just Recurring Revenues

The other perspective from Tien Tzou, It’s not about subscriptions versus pay-per-use. Just as industries have different needs, businesses and customers are different and so have varying needs.

TechCrunch

Editor’s note:Tien Tzuo is the CEO of Zuora, a subscription billing company. Follow him on Twitter @tientzuo.

TechCrunch recently ran a post by Ray Sobol, founder and CEO of EvidencePix, called It Might Be Time To Ditch The SaaS Monthly Subscription Model. In it he argues that a pure pay-as-you-go approach is better than a monthly subscription model because customers only pay for what they use.

But Sobol is missing the point. One hole in his argument is that it undervalues the importance of predictability for customers. For instance, in the mobile phone world, many consumers like unlimited voice or data plans, because they don’t want to feel like they are constantly “on the clock.” In addition, he seems to be advocating for a reduction of options for customers. In the same mobile phone world, customers enjoy a buffet-style approach to pricing: prepaid, monthly usage buckets + overage…

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