This week’s news: Showrooming, China, Ghost

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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Showrooming is one of the side-effects of the rise of e-commerce. The terms refers to a scenario during which customers walk into local stores to choose products to buy, but then go online with their smartphone to get the items at lower prices from an e-commerce site. The local store becomes a “showroom”, losing out on revenue and risking its own existence.

A study released by Columbia Business School and the loyalty management company Aimia might be able to calm down concerned store managers a bit: According to the research, only 6 percent of people try to purchase products with their smartphones after having seen them in a store. Many use their smartphone instead to find reviews and customers feedback to make a qualified buying decision.

A possible conclusion could be that stores actually should encourage customers to find reviews about the products sold, or even enable them, by providing in-store web access. If they realize that other customers like the specific item, the likelihood for an in-store purchases increases.

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Ever visited a Chinese online shop and got a shock about the amount of clutter, colours, banners and massive link lists? It has to be that way: “Our consumers like a page that is very crowded, busy with a lot of links so they can open lots of windows at the same time”. That’s a quote from a Chinese e-commerce entrepreneur published in a CNN piece about the “mad, mad world of China e-commerce”. It’s a world where the rules of the West simply don’t apply – an important fact that every online shop that plans to expand to China has to keep in mind.

And the differences don’t stop with the customers’ expectations on the “shopping experience”. Logistics and the integration of social media into the buying process are following different patterns than in Europe and the U.S as well. And there is one more point to consider: Competition is extremely fierce. Or how CNN describes it: “In China, e-commerce is a bloodsport.

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There is a new blogging tool in town called Ghost. At least almost, because it gives limited access for now. Humbly billed “Just a Blogging Platform”, Ghost follows a minimalistic approach, removing many of the elements found at increasingly bloated content-management systems and blog services.

The founder, John O’Nolan, targets slightly more tech-savvy people with his free open source service, since users have to take care of hosting for themselves – at least for now.

Wired has a write-up about Ghost, its features and main differentiation points to competitors.

This week’s news: Fashion blogs, subscription commerce, e-commerce growth and more

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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Last week we mentioned Germany’s most popular fashion blogger Jessica Weiss. A couple of days ago The Hyperland blog of Germany’s public television station ZDF published an overview about the country’s fashion blogger scene, that grew quickly after Weiss had proved that you don’t need to be a major publishing company to launch a successful site covering fashion. In case you want to dive more into the German fashion scene, here are the blogs mentioned in the piece: Stil in Berlin, Modepilot, LesMads, Journelles, Two for Fashion, Styleproofed, Dandy Diary.

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At Twingly we are obviously convinced about the many pros of blogging. But for everybody who has doubts, The Huffington Post has a list of 6 things that you get better at while blogging.

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Now back to e-commerce: Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is said to be preparing an IPO in the U.S.. According to Forbes, it would be the most anticipated U.S. tech debut since Facebook.

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Subcription commerce has lately become a pretty popular niche within e-commerce. Instead of ordering items online when customers need them, they “subscribe” on an ongoing basis, getting the specific product(s) delivered straight to their door on an ongoing basis. Now Target, one of the U.S.’ major “offline” retailers, is jumping on the subscription trend, offering about 150 items that can be ordered on a subscription basis.

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Forrester has analyzed the e-commerce growth opportunities for a couple of countries. The result: The U.S. offers the biggest potential to retailers, with a score of 73.4, compared to the runner-up China (51.1 score). Also in the top 10: Japan, South Korea, Uk, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore and Sweden.

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PayPal-owner eBay is acquiring Chicago-based PayPal competitor Baintree for $800 million.

This week’s news: iPhone, Groupon, Medium and more

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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Apple has presented two new iPhones – the 5S and a little bit cheaper model made out of plastic, the 5C. The main feature-addition is a fingerprint scanner that is able to recognize the user with a quick scan of his or her fingerprint. For now, the fingerprints are stored on the phone and can’t be used by 3rd parties, thus won’t be available for websites or apps as an authentication tool. For now. That will likely change in the future and open up possibilities for online retailers to implement frictionless payment methods, as described by Businessweek. Another improvement relevant for the retail industry is a new iOS 7 feature called iBeacon, which lets the phone communicate with sensors nearby. One obvious use case would be to let stores enable coupons or mobile payments when customers with an iPhone walk in.

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Groupon has news again: The coupon giant has acquired the last-minute hotel-booking app Blink, making clear it does want to keep diversifying its business.

In other, a bit more entertaining Groupon news, the company’s Indian website recently offered a discount on onions – which apparently is a very popular vegetable in the country: The demand was so high that the Website went offline for a while. Within 44 minutes, 3,000 kilograms of onions were purchased.

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At the end of last week, a rumour appeared saying that Amazon would launch its own smartphone and providing it to people for free! Even if nothing seems to be impossible in the world of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, that story turned out to be incorrect – at least according to a statement issued by the company explaining that if it would offer its own smartphone, it would not give it away for free.

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Meanwhile, PayPal continues its foray into the retail sector, testing a hardware gadget for retailers that would auto-recognize when customers walk into the store, letting them pay via their PayPal accounts without having to pull out their phones or wallets.

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A little more than a year ago, the Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone launched the blogging platform Medium, focusing on longform writing. While the site that gives publishing rights only to selected users has caught the attention of many bloggers and tech pundits, questions about monetization and the status of the site (platform or publication) still wait for answers.

This week’s news: PayPal, Drones, Pixmania, BuzzFeed

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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PayPal is not finished trying to change the way commerce and payments are done: The company, known for its tools to process payments between people and online merchants or eBay sellers, has launched a new mobile app including features to see nearby stores that accept PayPal payments as well as to pay in restaurants. PayPal, owned by eBay, seems to be serious about “offline” payments.

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Here is a completely new approach for delivery of goods bought online: Drones! At least that’s what a Chinese delivery company experiments with, making use of Drones that can carry as much as 6.6 pounds and fly 330 feet in the air (via).

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The online electronics shop Pixmania has been sold by its previous owner, the British retail chain Dixons, to the German company Mutares. The latter paid about 69 million Euro for the online retailer that has making losses for a while.

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BuzzFeed, the growing blog/media outlet known for its compilations of cute animal pictures, is growing strongly, forcing lots of media observers to change their assumption that online publishing and successful business models don’t go well together. Then again, some might not see the often rather short-lived, rather cheaply produced content as the saviour of journalisms in the digital age.

This week’s news: Groupon, Facebook, same day delivery

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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Groupon, the famous (or infamous) coupon giant, is eyeing at a more traditional e-commerce business. The company has started to directly sell products a while ago, unlike what it has become known for, only providing discounts to goods and services provided by other retailers. Because this new approach is working pretty well with a revenue of $186 million in the most recent quarter, Groupon is now planning to open its own warehouses to reduce shipping times. Currently, most products are shipped through third-party companies, which can lead to up to 7 days until items arrive at the customers’ houses. With own warehouses Groupon would become somewhat of a Amazon competitor, although the main difference remains: Groupon only sells a selection of products and doesn’t plan to change that.

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Last year Facebook launched an e-commerce initiative, allowing users to send physical gifts – real products to their contacts. Turns out, demand was rather weak, which is why the social network has decided to ramp down its physical gifting service. Going forward, available gifts will only comprise of digital goods and gift cards. According to the company, 80 percent of gifts sent on Facebook were digital, so the move makes sense. What works for Groupon doesn’t seem to work for Facebook.

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Same day delivery is en vogue, even though some observers claim that customers do not care enough about getting something they bought online at the same day to pay extra for it. But startup executive and former Amazon employee Michael Hart argues that the potential of same day delivery is not only huge, it also could help brick and mortar retailers regain some market share due to the physical proximity to the customers.

This week’s news: ShoeDazzle & JustFab, mobile image recognition, Tictail

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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The purchase of the Washington Post by Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos has put the unconventional entrepreneur (once again) into the spotlight. But who is he, what motives and drives him, and why is he willing to invest 250 million dollar into a ageing newspaper? This New York Times portrait is trying to give answers.

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ShoeDazzle and JustFab, two Los Angeles based fashion websites selling women shoes, have announced a merger, creating the “world’s largest fashion subscription e-commerce company”. Together, both sites have 33 million members and generate more than $400 million in annual revenue. Both brands will continue to exist, because “no woman shops at one fashion retailer”, as JustFab co-CEO Adam Goldenberg put it.

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What would happen if people had the option to take a photo of products or clothes they see somewhere “in the wild” and instantly getting the chance to purchasing them from their smartphones? Clearly, mobile image recognition could revolutionize e-commerce. Practical Ecommerce explains that this kind of technology will become possible in the next years.

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Stockholm-based Tictail is one of the most outstanding and prominent e-commerce startups right now. The company enables everybody to set up an online shop within minutes, for free. More than 20.000 stores have been created until now. Venture Village has met the Tictail-team and asked a couple of questions.

This week’s news: Facebook, Jeff Bezos, online motivation

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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There is an interesting news floating around about an upcoming payment feature to be launched by Facebook. AllThingsD first wrote that the social network is testing something like a “PayPal competitor” for mobile purchases. Later, TechCrunch published a piece confirming that it had heard similar rumours, but that the feature in fact would play well with PayPal and all other payment solutions currently being used by online retailers.

According to TechCrunch, what Facebook is testing is a solution which would enable users to fill out credit card and billing address information on e-commerce websites based on what they have stored on Facebook. So instead of having to enter all this data manually every time they buy something from an online retailer through their smartphone, they would be able to use a function saying something like “Let Facebook Input My Billing Info” to skip that effort. The payment would then be processed as usually through PayPal or whatever other payment provider is being used. The goal would be to improve the efficiency of ads on Facebook and to be able to tell retailers what advertising investments led to which revenues.

Interesting stuff for sure.

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It’s unlikely that you haven’t heard yet, but Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has bought the renowned Washington Post for $250 million. Not through Amazon but as a private person. There is a lot of speculation out there what his goals are, and whether Bezos will try to use the Post to sell more stuff on Amazon, or whether he’ll use Amazon to sell more newspapers (or if maybe the Post stops to print news). To get a better understand about Bezos possible motives, read MG Siegler’s great analysis.

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The global media agency Mindshare has released the results of a study looking at the motivations for the use of digital media by 33 nations across the globe. 14 nations were above “normal” in their use of digital communications across the four motivation areas self –expression / entertainment / information gathering and transacting. Self-expression of course is what drives many bloggers, whereas information gathering could be what drives readers to blogs. Twingly motherland Sweden turned out to be second most advanced in Europe in regards to those motivation areas. Globally, Singapore, Portugal and China are leading the motivations table.

This week’s news: Amazon, mobile card readers, Austrian blogosphere

As we have shown last week, Pinterest is growing rapidly and having an increasing impact on e-commerce sales. Even the world biggest e-commerce retailer, Amazon, can’t ignore that. And it doesn’t. This week, the Seattle-based company has launched what seems to be its very own Pinterest competitor: On “Amazon Collections”, users can see what other customers like, want or recommend – presented in the typical Pinterest layout with lots of rectangle-boxed showing photos of products which users can add to their own collections. Of course, all items presented can be purchased directly on Amazon. That can be both an advantage or a disadvantage for the service, since users will already be logged in to Amazon while browsing through collections, but will be limited to what’s available on Amazon.

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In the past years, a host of startups and companies has followed Square in offering mobile card readers for smartphones, making it easier and cheaper for local retailers to accept card payments. Now an astonishing report from BIA/Kelsey finds that 40 % of small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. already accept payments with mobile credit card readers. Another 16% of the businesses plan to add capability within the next year. If true, that means that smartphone card readers have reached mass market appeal and cannot be considered a niche business anymore.

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Austrian newspaper derStandard.at has published some facts about the local blogosphere, based on a survey among 236 persons. The results are being presented in an infographic. If you understand German you might want to read them.

This week’s news: Pinterest, mobile coupons

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs, commerce and e-commerce.

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Pinterest, the popular and steadily growing visual bookmarking site, has an increasing impact on e-commerce sales. ReadWrite published a nice piece explaining in detail why it is worth to have an eye on Pinterest and its future development. Already 70 million users strong, the site now sends more people to e-commerce sites than Facebook. Also, an average shopper visiting an online shop coming from Pinterest spends on average twice the amount of money than a user referred to a shop via Facebook. Have a look at the original article to learn more about the startup’s rapid growth.

This week, Pinterest also announced a new approach to improve personal recommendations for existing and new users coming to the site: The company now tracks visits of people to websites that have embedded the Pinterest button to understand their fields of interests and personal preferences. This data is then analyzed and will lead to improved recommendations within Pinterest. It remains to be seen whether this potentially sensitive feature that is set to be launched within the next weeks will lead to any protests among users.

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A survey showed: At least in the U.S., shoppers like to receive coupons on their mobile phones from stores near their current location. But most merchants seem to ignore this potentially effective instrument to attract new customers and increase sales. That is a bit odd considering that the technology needed exists. But terms like geo-fencing, geo-targeting, and indoor positioning are likely to confuse the average merchant. Streetfight.com has compiled a handy list of 8 tools that local retailers can use to satisfy consumer demand and drum up additional sales with mobile coupons.

This week’s news: Card payments special

Welcome to the new edition of “This week’s news”, a selection of links to interesting articles and news from the worlds of blogs and ecommerce.

Today, by coincidence, with a little card payment special – a hot topic for most online retailers.

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Transaction fees can be a major obstacle in retail, both offline and online. Now the European Commission has announced plans to set a ceiling on the transaction fees that banks charge retailers for purchases with credit and debit cards. The move might save retailers 6 billion euros a year according to estimations by EU officials.

Whether consumers will benefit from such a step is far from clear though. The New York Times points out that while the change might motivate retailers to reduce prices, there is a likelihood that banks would try to generate the lost revenue through other channels, such as higher bank and credit card fees or reduced quality in access.

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While we are at it: TechCrunch reported this week that the payment company iZettle – like Twingly based in Sweden – plans to slash transaction prices for card payments from 2.75 % to 1.5 %. To start with only in the UK and only if a small business that uses iZettle’s Smartphone-based card reader to receive card payments generates a revenue of more than £2000 per month. Interesting is the background on this move: The article quotes an iZettle executive saying that the 2.75 % rate which has been widely adopted by most of iZettle’s competitors is a “hangover from the U.S.”, introduced by mobile payment pioneer Square based on local cost structure. That is quite different from Europe though.

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Something that online retailers don’t have to deal with: The question of whether customers authorize their payments by PIN or signature. In most of Europe, PIN has become the prevalent method, whereas in the US signature is being used above certain amounts. Meanwhile, in Australia the two major credit card companies Visa and MasterCard want to see signatures banned by June 30 next year.

PIN authorization requires cards to be equipped with an EMV chip storing that and other information. It’s widely considered being much more secure than the basic magnetic strip. The European Central Bank has just released figures stating that card fraud has been declining steadily since 2007, referring to widespread use of EMV chip-based payments as one reason.