1) Walmart is making its website more sleek, but where does that leave Jet?

What happened

  • Walmart, which continues to devote more resources to its ecommerce operation, plans to debut a resigned website that spotlights its higher-end brands and induces shoppers to spend more time browsing product offerings. Gone are the bright blue and the omnipresent Walmart banner in favor of a more sophisticated yellow “spark”—the company’s logo.
  • At the moment, Walmart’s website comprises 3.6% of the company’s sales in the U.S., with 100 million unique visitors each month—80 million fewer than Amazon.com.

Why it matters

  • Walmart’s website upgrades are not only about competing with Amazon by launching a more speciality experience for shoppers, but are also rooted in data: the company found that customers who shop at both its brick-and-mortar stores and online spend twice as much.
  • But at the same time, the company is consciously turning away from Jet.com—its more upscale offering that targets higher-income urban consumers. Walmart recently reduced Jet’s marketing expenses and saw traffic on the site fall by the millions. These advertising expenses were high to begin with, but the move might also mean that Jet isn’t performing well and that the marketing expenditure was actually inflating Jet’s customer base and sales—the same issue that caused Nasty Gal’s demise.
  • Marc Lore, Walmart’s head of ecommerce and founder of Jet.com, says that the decision behind directing more attention to Walmart is to build its core customer base—the idea is that it will be cheaper to acquire new customers with the Walmart brand while also bringing existing or potential Jet customers onto Walmart’s platform. But questions abound. For one, the website redesign is bringing the Walmart brand closer to the Jet brand. Even if the company is streamlining its operations in order boost Walmart, then what explains the launch of new standalone brands that are only available via Jet? Moving forward, Walmart will have to decide whether to incorporate Jet and its brands into Walmart’s ecosystem, which will likely uplift both brands, or keep them as separate operations.

2) Fast fashion is moving from click-to-buy to click-to-buy-and-make.

What happened

  • As customization and immediacy become increasingly important to consumers, some fashion and apparel companies are transforming their technological and manufacturing capabilities and supply chains to provide bespoke click-to-buy-and-make products.
  • Shoes of Prey built its own factory to create bespoke shoes, made in China and shipped within two weeks of an order; Isabella Wren co-developed a software called Bespokify to create work-friendly customizable dresses; and Amazon obtained a patent in 2017 for a fully automated apparel manufacturing process.

Why it matters

  • The direct-to-consumer ecommerce explosion made it possible for shoppers to purchase items with the click of a button, but it has also led to a massive number of returns and bloated inventories (just look at H&M). In contrast, bespoke models mean that companies won’t have to deal with surplus inventory and can place smaller, more cost-effective orders—a supply chain model with faster lead times, less cash flow in inventory and more full-price sales. As more developments in the automation sector are applied to consumer product goods, these capabilities will be further streamlined.

3) b8ta expands “retail as a service,” but its tech-driven model shouldn’t sideline the importance of sales associates.

What happened

  • b8ta, a company known for its store-within-a-store and “retail as a service” model, launched a new program called Built by b8ta—a store build-out service, which centralizes all elements of running a retail operation from inventory management to checkout.
  • b8ta’s store-within-a-store model has helped brands and product manufacturers to enter new types of retail spaces, and worked with retailers to incorporate fresh brands and products in dedicated corners of their brick-and-mortar locations. Now Built by b8ta will help digitally-native brands enter the brick-and-mortar space and expand their offline presence.

Why it matters

  • On the one hand, b8ta’s programs help to evolve the offline consumer landscape, filling out vacant real estate at malls and in department stores, both of which continue to suffer from falling foot traffic and sales. On the other, the programs facilitate the move from online to offline, especially for digitally-native smaller or younger brands seeking smaller-format stores or standalone shops. Both of these models fit well in today’s retail economy, where pop-ups continue to sprout, offering a temporary and de-risked brick-and-mortar option. Because b8ta controls the process with a streamlined supply chain for fixtures and modular designs, the build out is quick and more cost-effective.
  • The company is competing with both Shopify, which provides digital storefronts to brands and retailers, and Square, whose software centralizes financial and merchant services for companies. But because b8ta is in the brick-and-mortar realm, its ability to provide the most effective infrastructure, appearance and in-store services will depend on how well the company customizes each build out to prevent creating an army of cookie-cutter-like shops. Even as technology moves forward, the people in the store will matter more than ever, something b8ta needs to keep in mind.

4) Domino’s now delivers to customers en route, elevating its on-demand capabilities and status as a tech-driven company.

What happened

  • Domino’s can now deliver to more than 150,000 “Domino’s Hotspots”: addressless locations like a park or a beach. Ordering online or on the app, customers can choose the geotagged hotspot on a map where they’d like their pizza delivered, as well as write down more specific directions to their whereabouts.

Why it matters

  • Delivering pizzas where customers want them is core to Domino’s tech-driven business, and at the same time, it’s accomplishing a feat that most other direct-to-consumer companies only aspire to: meeting customers en route. While companies like UNIQLO, Benefit Cosmetics and Best Buy are entering airports and other high-traffic spaces with vending machines and sports venues are using apps for seat-side food and beverage services, few others—aside from car sharing apps—have figured out a way to deliver to a moving target. The companies that do will flourish more as an increasing body of customers expect on-demand gratification—especially those that view themselves at least equal parts technology companies and product and service companies.