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Industry News - February 10th 2014



Amazon Reportedly Opening Brick-and-Mortar Store This Year

Digital retailing pioneer Amazon.com will reportedly open a brick-and-mortar store in its home town of Seattle later this year, stocking it with high-end products and Amazon exclusives, including its Kindle Fire tablet.

Amazon's plans were first reported in the industry blog Good E-Reader and have been covered in numerous news outlets, but the company had not confirmed the reports as of press time.

Amazon has taken small steps into physical-world retailing but this would be the first Amazon-branded store. Last fall, Amazon placed storage lockers in a Seattle 7-Eleven store and in Rite Aid, Gristedes and D'Agostino stores throughout New York City to facilitate buy online/pick up in store services. In addition, Amazon's Quidsi subsidiary operates a beauty salon in the high-end Americana Mall in Manhasset, NY.

The retailer's move comes amid mounting criticism and concern from a number of quarters, including the contention that Amazon is in the business of "hijacking" customers from other retailers. Target spoke for many brick-and-mortar retailers when it sought help from its suppliers to battle "showrooming," where consumers browse for items in their stores but then purchase from lower-cost online retailers such as Amazon.

Amazon's Price Check App is seen as a key facilitator of the profit-draining showrooming trend, particularly after Amazon promoted the app with a one-day 5% discount during the 2011 holiday season.

Others that have Amazon in their sights include brick-and-mortar book retailers, who object to Amazon's dual role as both a publisher and a retailer. Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Indigo have all said they will not stock titles from the retailer's Amazon Publishing division.

According to industry analysts, Amazon's desire to add physical stores to its portfolio may have been prompted by the success of Apple's retail stores. In addition, Amazon may be seeking to provide customers with a place where they can try out the Kindle, as well as other technology devices Amazon develops.

The move is also a sign that Amazon has more than simply lower prices and strong recommendation algorithms up its competitive sleeve. Amazon's competitors will need to pay attention to multiple fronts in order to retain their customers and maintain profitability.

Staples Debuts Tablet-Optimized E-Commerce Site

This week, Staples will debut a tablet-optimized e-commerce website that emphasizes visual navigation and minimizes the need to type on a touchscreen keyboard. Consumer tablet users will be automatically routed to the tablet site at t.staples.com, according to published reports.

Users of the new tablet site will be able to navigate to popular product categories from the site's home page by tapping on oversized visual images or drop-down menus with large areas, avoiding the problem of "fat-fingered" shoppers mistakenly tapping for an option they don't want.

Staples also announced that it will open a new E-Commerce Innovation Center located in Cambridge, MA in May. The retailer is adding IT, product management, usability and creative positions, housing teams responsible for designing and implementing innovative new e-commerce solutions for its business customers.

Like Walmart, which launched its @WalmartLabs division in 2011 to focus on the intersection of social media and digital commerce, and Amazon with its Amazon Web Services, Staples may be adding solution development to its retailing role.

The new tablet site, developed with mobile technology provider Skava Inc., is purposely designed to keep users from typing anything, because the touchscreen keyboard takes up nearly half the screen size on a typical tablet. The retailer doesn't want to give up this valuable e-commerce real estate, according to Staples director of mobile strategy Prat Vemana, quoted in Internet Retailer.

Vemana added that its consumer research indicated that this was the right time to launch a separate site specifically for tablet users. "People want to be able to easily navigate the site, for it to be more touch-friendly and visually engaging," he said. "They also want to be able to quickly navigate it like on the desktop site."

Fresh & Easy Tests Mobile Shopper Scanning Solution

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market will test a mobile scanning solution at a location in California. The "Scan As You Shop" handheld device will allow shoppers to scan products as they shop, keeping track of what they spend.
"We are always looking at innovative ways to make our customer's shopping trip even easier," says Brendan Wonnacott, spokesman for Fresh & Easy.
Compatible with the Fresh & Easy Friends loyalty card, two checkout lanes have been set up in the California location to confirm scanning accuracy before a customer pays. With this, a store employee will randomly check six items to ensure they have scanned properly on the handheld device before the customer pays.
Tesco, the parent company of Fresh & Easy, has been testing a similar system in several UK stores. In the U.S., 350 Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover stores have already rolled out the product which also offers targeted discounts.


Oracle Acquires Cloud Talent Management Provider for $1.9B

Oracle has entered into an agreement to acquire Taleo Corporation, a leading provider of cloud-based talent management, for approximately $1.9 billion. Taleo's Talent Management Cloud helps organizations attract, develop, motivate and retain human capital to improve performance and drive growth.
"Human capital management has become a strategic initiative for organizations," said Thomas Kurina, executive vice president, Oracle Development in a statement. "Taleo's industry-leading talent management cloud is an important addition to the Oracle Public Cloud."
Together, Oracle and Taleo plan to create a comprehensive cloud offering for organizations to manage their human resource's operations and employee careers. The combination is expected to empower employees and managers to effectively manage careers throughout their entire employment, enable organizations to retain talent and optimize costs, and improve the employee experience through faster onboarding and better collaboration with team members via social media.
The transaction was unanimously approved by the Oracle board of directors and is expected to close by mid-2014, subject to Taleo stockholder approval and other customary closing conditions.


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