The past week’s news in e-commerce & the battles of the giants.
CommerceWars log. Week 2. It is science-fiction week in commerce-world, with both Google and Amazon making some super cool hardware/AI moves (so as a bonus you’ll get some free Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quotes this week). Also, everyone is doubling down on logistics in the run for world domination: Amazon experimenting with independent logistics capabilities in the US, Walmart is buying a logistics startup and Alibaba announcing a $15b global logistics investment plan. Also: Sears gets life-supporting cash injection, Amazon growing Israeli R&D center and Alibaba pushing Kindle sales in China. Such an interesting week.
· According to FT, Amazon’s first wearable device will be a pair of smart glasses with the Alexa voice assistant built in. The device will look like a regular pair of glasses but will not have a camera — it use bone-conduction so that the user can hear Alexa without the need for earphones or speakers. My personal bet (you can comment if you want to make this interesting…): by 2022 we’ll hear of be a tiny transplant-able chip so we can just talk to Alexa 24/7…
· Google isn’t waiting for Amazon. The new Pixel Buds promise on-the-go translations in 40 languages at the touch of a button, bringing to life what many sci-fi authors have envisioned (my favorite: The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy). Google also revealed a bunch of other cool hardware such as the Google Home Mini and Max, and the somewhat creepy Google Clips.
· Amazon buys Body Labs, a 3D body-scanning tech startup. Supposedly to help their fashion efforts but honestly, who knows.
· Alibaba is preparing to open its first smart gas station in its home city of Hangzhou, China by the end of the month. The station will feature a robotic arm to fuel up the vehicles and will also have an unstaffed convenience store, a model that Alibaba showcased in July, which allows patrons to enter by scanning a QR code at the entrance, pick up their items and automatically pay at the checkout gate.
· Walmart announced it has acquired the logistics startup Parcel (price undisclosed). Parcel is a 24/7 operation that delivers packages the same-day, overnight and in scheduled two-hour windows.
· Amazon is running a giant Kindle promotion across Alibaba’s shopping sites on Alibaba’s “Super Brand Day”. It’s another strong signal that Amazon gave up (for now) the war over China’s ecommerce. China has become Kindle’s largest market.
· According to Bloomberg, Amazon is launching its own logistic service in the US (starting with the West Coast). If true, Amazon will become a direct rival to Fedex and UPS.
· Amazon Announces Israeli Alexa Development Outpost. According to CTech, The company plans to hire a 100 person team to develop Alexa’s shopping features.
- Sears Holdings has received a $100 million loan from its CEO Eddie Lampert.
· Alibaba has acquired a controlling stake in logistics company Cainiao (currently executing 57 million deliveries a day). Alibaba, which had owned 47% of Cainiao, has invested a further US$807 million to increase its stake to 51%. The company announced an intention to invest 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) in its global logistical capabilities over the next five years.
“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.