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Food War

Amazon stunned everyone with its $13.7bn acquisition of grocer Whole Foods. The news was greeted with a flurry of analysis about ‘disruption’ in the space, yet arguably this is a data deal, one that helps Amazon to further understand a customer segment with a relatively high disposable income that is not particularly price conscious. A lucrative bunch, Whole Foods can provide unrivaled insight into their spending habits. These consumers are arguably more likely to utilise voice search too – make no mistake, spoken word is central to everything that Amazon does. Indeed, right on cue, the $20 Dash Wand was released this month. Available to Prime Members, it can be stored in the fridge and owners can ask it to suggest recipes or order ingredients.

Soon brands will be able to buy $2.8m ad packages for Thursday night NFL games. As the service is for Prime members only, Amazon will already know the user’s spending profile and purchase history. Ads could therefore be hyper-targeted with Alexa incorporated to monetise the experience: “Alexa, order Domino’s.” “Alexa, ask Fandango for Spiderman showings.” (Having shown the trailer.) It will be interesting to see if Amazon pivots on alcohol; the NFL has.

Next, a patent filed reveals Amazon‘s vision of drone delivery. Imagine a hive with trucks delivering goods at the bottom and parcel-laden contraptions flying around up above. It raises so many interesting questions: Will there be delivery hours (to combat noise pollution)? Will police require machines to have a ‘disable’ option? Will they be programmed to crash land in a secure location?

Bloomberg revealed that Amazon has issued over $1bn in loans to its Marketplace merchants. Algorithms are used to identify good sellers, who repay the debt via sales made on site. Also, in an effort to reduce credit card fees the company is offering members a 2% bonus if they use their debit card to transact. A lower $5.99 monthly fee for Prime has been introduced (usually $10.99) for people who receive financial assistance from the government. It is being seen as a move against Walmart. ‘Prime Wardrobe‘ was revealed: customers who order more than 3 items can have them delivered to their door (in a return-ready box) with 7 days to try them. The twist? Customers are only charged after they have made their returns or the time elapses. However, the biggest fervour was reserved for the news that sports behemoth Nike will start selling on Amazon – having resisted for years. It is being positioned as an attempt to control their brand and reduce counterfeiting. (Ps. Nike manufactures all NFL kits.)


Tech Talk

Snapchat have copied Facebook! ‘Snap Map‘ allows friends to share their location, then search the world to find connections and click their Bitmoji avatar to reveal snaps. Whilst you have to opt-in, the service has attracted concern as younger users might connect with people without knowing who they are, inadvertently revealing sensitive information such as their route home from school. (Other Snap UX updates can be found here.)

The iPhone turned 10: here is how it changed the world. Next, Apple aired ‘Planet of the Apps‘, a TV program that is essentially Shark Tank for app developers. Contestants present concepts to a panel of celebrity judges; those who progress are mentored by one of the stars, who help them pitch a private equity firm for investment. It is Apple’s first probe into this increasingly competitive space – the show has been met with ‘mixed’ reviews. Time Warner meanwhile, are banking on Snapchat and 5-minute programs to engage viewers.

After months of controversy Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, was forced to step-down by investors. The very real fact is, like other leaders before him, Kalanick’s antics led to a negative perception of the brand that was gaining momentum (as consultancy cg42 reveals). A new threat looms with news of an alliance between Curb and Via to offer car-pooling for New York’s yellow cabs.

Facebook has hit the 2bn user mark. However, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced “What we really care about is being able to connect everyone”. He will no doubt be pleased then that their drone Aquila, which aims to bring high-speed internet to all areas of the globe, had a successful second test flight. Also, they are testing image verification in India in an attempt to prevent people’s pics being repurposed on fake profiles; it may be rolled-out globally. Instagram has released ways for influencers to clearly label sponsored content, rather than relying on ‘#s’. It comes following pressure from the FTC. Messenger’s AI now speaks Spanish. Twitter has had a UX facelift. Finally, Google has moved into job search, adding filters, allowing Gmail alerts, and mapping commute distances, all to help people find the perfect role.


Small But Important

  • In the same month that LVMH launched their ‘24 Sevres‘ eCommerce site (early opinion), Conde Nast announced they were closing their own shopping portal, Style.com, striking a partnership with online retailer FarFetch instead. Conversely, fashion content site ‘Who What Wear’ has announced a shopping app.
  • Even bigger news stateside was J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler’s decision to step-down. There have been many professional obituaries written – this is one of the better ones – the fact is, he lost sight of who the customer was and what they wanted.
  • Transparent banks are aiming to satisfy the millennial customer. One example, Aspiration, has created ‘Aspiration Impact Measurement’ which rates businesses on their employee welfare and diversity. It passes this onto their customers so that they can make ethical purchases. Another area of interest is transparent pricing within manufacturing; the theory being that people would rather know what the underlying costs are, even if the mark-up is significant. (However, this article claims that ethical trading is going to become increasingly important for millennials.)
  • Venmo, the P2P payment app, is experimenting with a debit card that allows in-store purchase but draws funds from a user’s online profile.
  • Airbnb are planning a top-tier service ‘Lux‘. Full details are yet to be released but it will likely be by-invitation only and is being seen as a challenger to high-end hotels.
  • Space is at a premium, so MIT have developed a $10,000 piece of furniture which reconfigures itself to hide unused items, for example, the desk is tucked under the bed at night time. Fully automated, it can even be controlled by Alexa.
  • Another bad month for the Jenners. First Kylie was accused of ripping-off PluggedNYC for her camo-inspired range, then both received fierce criticism for featuring legendary musician’s faces on t-shirts – overlaid with their own – without asking permission to do so.
  • Jay-Z dropped his 13th album ‘4:44‘ exclusively through Tidal / Sprint – but that did not stop it going platinum within a week.
  • great piece on the impact of mannequins on body consciousness.
  • Here are the best campaigns from Pride Month.
  • The European Union hit Google with an eye-watering $2.7bn fine, declaring its ‘Shopping’ listing uncompetitive because their results are promoted over any other provider’s.
  • Blue Apron went public but the reception was lukewarm… Shares for the food delivery company fetched around $10 rather than the expected $15. Investors were possibly put-off by the news that new customer acquisition apparently costs around $460 per person!
  • The new ‘it’ job? Being an influencer’s ghost-writer, really.
  • It was only a matter of time… Now Netflix have replicated the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ concept on TV! The new episode of ‘Puss In Book’ has over a dozen decision points. It is an experiment for now but may be developed in the future.
  • Universal Standard, a plus size brand, recognises that people’s weight fluctuates, so they are offering a full exchange within a year of purchase, with returned items donated to charity.
  • Domino’s Pizza celebrated Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s 31st birthday by live-streaming the film on Facebook.
  • McDonald’s has ended its relationship with the Olympics. Not lovin’ it.
  • Jeff Bezos took to Twitter to crowd-source philanthropic ideas.
  • Starbucks is to hire 2,500 refugees throughout Europe and a further 7,500 worldwide. The move was part of ex-CEO Schultz’s reaction to President Trump’s travel ban.
  • New emojis! Breastfeeding and modest-wear have been included.
  • George Clooney sold his ‘Casamigos’ tequila brand to Diageo for $1bn.
  • Ken, long-time partner of Barbie, is having a revamp, including different body types and a man bun. Yup.
  • Taco Bell is now letting people marry in its flagship Las Vegas restaurant. Who says romance is dead?
  • And finally! Delta, recognising that people have a penchant for exotic photos on their dating profiles, teamed-up with Tinder to paint murals of famous locations on a Brooklyn building. People can pose in front of landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, and then add them to their profile to appear well travelled and up their chances of a right-swipe!