Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Shaun White, Shawn Mendes get behind Shelf Engine

Shelf Engine’s mission to eliminate food waste in grocery retailers now has some additional celebrity backers. The company brought in a $2 million extension to its $41 million Series B announced in March.

Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Shaun White and Shawn Mendes are the new backers, who came in through a strategic round of funding alongside PLUS Capital to bring the Seattle-based company’s total funding to $60 million since the company’s inception in 2016. This includes a $12 million Series A from 2020.

Shelf Engine’s grocery order automation technology applies advanced statistical models and artificial intelligence to deliver accurate food order volume so that customers can reduce their food waste by as much as 32% while increasing gross margins and sales of more than 50%. The company has already helped retailers divert 1 million pounds of food waste from landfills, Stefan Kalb, co-founder and CEO of Shelf Engine, told TechCrunch.

“We’ve had phenomenal growth last year, some of it from our mid-market customers, but mostly from customers like Target and Kroger,” Kalb said. “Our other big news is that we hired a president (Kane McCord) in the past six weeks, which is cool to have the reinforcement on the leadership side.”

Over the past 12 months, the company, which works with retailers like Kroger, Whole Foods and Compass Group, saw over 540% revenue growth. At the same time, it grew its employees to 200 from 23, Kalb said. He expects to more than double Shelf Engine’s headcount over the next 12 months.

As a result, the new funding will be used to scale with current customers and accelerate further investment in R&D of its AI systems and automation capabilities.

Meanwhile, Amanda Groves, partner at PLUS Capital, said her firm works with about 65 individuals who are in film, television, sports and culture, including the four new investors in Shelf Engine.

She says many of her clients are looking to participate in business as an investor or with sweat equity. Her firm works with them to determine interests and will then source opportunities and invest alongside them.

Shelf Engine fits into one of PLUS Capital’s core investment areas of sustainability. The firm looks across different sectors like food, energy, apparel, packaging and recycling. Shelf Engine’s approach of leveraging technology to aid in sustainability efforts was attractive to all of the investors, as was their method of scaling within grocery clients without affecting consumer behavior.

“When Shelf Engine is installed in the grocery store, they can reduce spoilage by 10% right off the bat — that immediacy of the impact was what got our clients excited,” Groves added.

One of Shelf Engine’s first celebrity investors was Joe Montana, and Kalb said partnering with celebrities enables the company’s mission to eliminate food waste and address the climate crisis to be made more aware.

“B2B software is not as glamorous, but the climate has become a big issue and something many celebrities care about,” he added. “Shawn Mendes has over 60 million followers, so for him to share about this issue is extremely meaningful. Where he invests will lead to his followers knocking on the doors of stores and saying ‘this matters to me.’ That is the strategy shift from B2B to a movement for our community.”

The company is not alone in tackling food waste, which globally each year amounts to $1.3 trillion. For example, Apeel, OLIO, Imperfect Foods, Mori and Phood Solutions are all working to improve the food supply chain and have attracted venture dollars in the past year to go after that mission.

Shelf Engine is already in over 3,000 stores nationwide in the areas of grocery, food service and convenience stores, which “is a large lift from 18 months ago,” Kalb said. Next up, the company is progressing to open new categories and managing more projects. He is specifically looking at what the company can manage in the store and manage for the customer.

“We are getting to the point where we can manage more of the store in complex categories like meat, seafood and deli that are mainly custom,” he added.

#artificial-intelligence, #b2b-software, #compass-group, #ellen-degeneres, #enterprise, #food, #food-service, #food-supply-chain, #food-waste, #funding, #greentech, #grocery-store, #joe-montana, #kroger, #plus-capital, #portia-de-rossi, #recent-funding, #retailers, #shaun-white, #shawn-mendes, #shelf-engine, #startups, #stefan-kalb, #target, #tc, #whole-foods

Shipt’s new feature pairs members with their favorite, 5-star shoppers

Target’s same-day delivery service Shipt is launching a new feature that will pair customers with their favorite shoppers on future orders. This “Preferred Shoppers” feature will be available as a membership-only perk at no extra charge, offering customers a more reliable shopping experience, where more of their orders are directed towards people they already known and trust to do a good job.

The feature arrives at a time when the online grocery delivery market is booming due to the pandemic. But this market shift has also led to a number of newer shoppers joining the gig economy who don’t have the same level of experience as others. Today, you’ll come across some shoppers who excel at picking quality items, making great substitutions, and staying in close communication with their customers. Others, meanwhile, are checking out before you even have time to respond to their text about the product replacements they’ve made or the refunds they’ve put through. That can leave consumers feeling like online grocery shopping is an unreliable experience.

The Preferred Shoppers feature aims to change that.

As Shipt explains, customers who rate their shopper with five stars after their order is complete will be presented with the option to add the shopper to their Preferred Shoppers list. If the shopper accepts this request, they’ll be prioritized to shop for those customers in the future. (If the shopper declines, however, that won’t be shown the customer.) This list can be edited at any time, and if a customer downrates a shopper on a future order, they’ll be removed.

Image Credits: Shipt

The feature was developed in response to feedback from both shoppers and Shipt regulars, the company says. Consumers, in particular, had been asking for a way to be paired with their favorite shoppers who they already trusted to handle their orders correctly. But until now, whether or not that shopper would be available to grab the customer’s order was left mostly up to chance. The shopper would have had to see the order come in as it arrived, then grab it before someone else did.

During early tests, which included the Detroit metro, Shipt found the feature impacted its own bottom line and increased shoppers’ tips. Without providing specific metrics, the company said that customers using the feature would order more often and would rate their experience highly. Shoppers also benefitted because they were now serving customers who valued their work and who were expressing their appreciation with a larger tip.

“The more often a shopper shops for a customer, the more they learn about that customer’s wants and needs and are able to deliver a tailored shopping experience,” said Karl Varsanyi, Chief Experience & Product Officer at Shipt, in a statement. “Preferred Shoppers helps customers get the exceptional service they enjoy again and again,” he added.

The feature could also motivate shoppers to focus on building up a quality clientele, so they had a better shot at being assigned orders from customers they enjoyed working with and where they could expect to see higher tips. Over time, as customers add more shoppers to their Preferred Shopper list, the likelihood of being paired with a highly-rated shopper would improve, too. This could perhaps help to address some gig workers complaints over their work being undervalued, where bonuses are placed out of reach and customers are stingy with tips.

The idea for personal shoppers is not new. A startup called Dumpling has been developing a platform that allows gig economy workers to transition their clients off apps like Shipt and Instacart to a service where shoppers set their own rates and get to keep all their tips. But many consumers aren’t aware of Dumpling unless a shopper they know markets the service to them directly and usage of Dumpling isn’t free. In addition, while Shipt offers delivery from a number of top retailers, being owned by Target has other advantages. The service is now integrated into Target’s own website and mobile app, and Target products aren’t marked up on an individual basis, like you’d see on other services.

Currently, Shipt’s membership is $99 per year, offering free delivery on all orders over $35. The Preferred Shoppers feature will be made available to all U.S. members, starting today.

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #instacart, #marketing, #merchandising, #online-shopping, #personal-shopper, #retail, #retailers, #shipt, #shopping, #target, #united-states

Amazon expands same-day Prime delivery to 6 more U.S. cities

Amazon announced this morning it’s expanding its faster, same-day delivery service to half a dozen more U.S. cities. The service, which the retailer has been working to make same-day delivery even faster over the past year, now offers consumers in a number of markets the ability to shop up to 3 million items on Amazon.com, then receive their orders in only a few hours.

To do so, Amazon invested in what it called “mini-fulfillment centers” closer to where customers lived in select U.S. markets, initially in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, and Dallas. Those customers could then shop across a dozen merchandise categories, including Baby, Beauty & Health, Kitchen & Dining, Electronics, Pet Supplies, and more. As the pandemic continued to impact Amazon’s business, in November 2020, Amazon expanded its faster same-day service to more cities, to include Nashville and Washington, D.C.

With today’s expansion, Amazon is rolling out same-day delivery to Prime members in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa, Charlotte, and Houston, bringing the total markets served to 12. In these markets, shoppers will be able to place orders online throughout the day then have items on their doorstep in as fast as 5 hours, Amazon says. Customers can also place orders by midnight to have their orders arrive the following morning.

The service continues to be free with no additional charges on orders over $35 that qualify for same-day delivery. Orders under $35 have a $2.99 fee for Prime customers, and a $12.99 fee for non-members. Prime membership, meanwhile, is $12.99 per month or $119 per year.

The time frame commitments for same-day delivery are the same as those Amazon promised last year when it first announced its plans to speed up Prime delivery. Orders placed between midnight and 8 AM will arrive today by 1 PM. Orders placed between 8 AM and 1 PM arrive by 6 PM; those placed between 1 PM and 5 PM will arrive by 10 PM; and those placed between 5 PM and midnight will arrive overnight by 8 AM. That means customers can place orders fairly late and receive their items before they head out of the house the next day.

Faster same-day delivery has been one of the most significant services Amazon has used to challenge rivals like Walmart and Target, who both benefit from having a large brick-and-mortar footprint that allows them to more quickly serve their customers through same-day order pickup, curbside pickup, and same-day delivery services. While Walmart partners with third-parties on its same-day service, Express delivery, largely focused on grocery, Target acquired delivery service Shipt in 2017 to bring its fast delivery services in-house.

In response to the growing competition, Amazon has been recently acquiring smaller warehouse space inside major urban metros, including in these six new markets where it’s now announcing same-day delivery, as well as larger markets, like New York, and even suburban neighborhoods. It also acquired Whole Foods for $137.7 billion in 2017, not only to more fully participate in the online grocery business, but also in part because of its large retail footprint.

As Amazon has sped up the pace of what’s available under “Prime” delivery, it has wound down its older “Prime Now” business, which was retired Aug. 30 and will be fully shut down by year-end. The separate app had allowed customers to shop items that were available in one or two hours for an additional fee.

The news follows Amazon’s earning miss last week, when the retailer fell short of Wall St.’s estimates for revenue, and gave a weaker than-expected outlook for the quarter ahead, which Amazon attributed to difficult comparisons with a time frame that included Covid lockdowns during height of the pandemic in 2020. The company reported $113.08 billion in revenue and earnings of $15.12, versus expectations of $115.2 billion and $12.30.

#amazon, #amazon-prime, #amazon-com, #baltimore, #charlotte, #chicago, #dallas, #delivery-services, #detroit, #ecommerce, #food-delivery, #houston, #nashville, #new-york, #online-grocery, #online-shopping, #orlando, #philadelphia, #phoenix, #prime, #prime-now, #retailers, #shipt, #tampa, #target, #united-states, #walmart, #washington-d-c, #whole-foods

TikTok wants you to send video resumes directly to brands to land your next gig

A new pilot program from TikTok would inject a little LinkedIn into the youthful video-based social network.

TikTok announced that, starting today, it will invite users to submit video resumes to participating companies, including Target, Chipotle, Shopify, Meredith, NASCAR and the WWE. The company encourages applicants to show off their skills in a creative way while tagging the content with the hashtag #TikTokResumes.

The pilot program is TikTok’s latest effort to streamline the relationship between brands and creators, giving both even more reason to invest time and cash into the platform.

“#CareerTok is already a thriving subculture on the platform and we can’t wait to see how the community embraces TikTok Resumes and helps to reimagine recruiting and job discovery,” TikTok Global Head of Marketing Nick Tran said of the pilot.

TikTok resumes sample page

The new pilot program will be discoverable through the dedicated hashtag and on standalone site tiktokresumes.com, which also has some tips for applying and sample videos. On that site, anyone can browse job listings by employer and fill out a short questionnaire, attaching their video link. And yes, for better or worse, pointing potential employers to your LinkedIn profile is still encouraged.

TikTok views the new pilot as a “natural extension” of its college ambassador program, which recruits students to serve as on-campus representatives promoting the social network’s brand. The pilot program will accept TikTok resumes through July 31.

Of the participating brands listed on the new site, many openings are just for regular ol’ jobs, like NASCAR seeking a sales rep and Target hunting for hourly warehouse workers to cover the night shift. (Should we really be encouraging unemployed people to jump through more hoops to land gigs like this?)

Some listings are more tailored to the TikTok skill set, like an opening at All Recipes for on-camera talent to teach viewers how to make fluffy biscuits or a supervising social producer role at Popsugar.

The traditional resume hasn’t changed much over the years — list the stuff you did, keep it on one page — but any brand hiring a social media manager or any other kind of content creator could be well served by TikTok’s latest creator economy experiment.

#ambassador, #bytedance, #computing, #linkedin, #nascar, #pilot, #shopify, #social, #social-media, #social-network, #software, #target, #tc, #tiktok, #wwe

The best Prime Day 2021 tech deals from everywhere besides Amazon

Wireless white earbuds on a marble surface.

Enlarge / Apple’s AirPods Pro are discounted across retailers this Prime Day. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Not looking to send any more business Amazon’s way on Prime Day? We can’t blame you. If you’re still hoping to snag a nice price on a good gadget, though, one side effect of Amazon’s manufactured holiday is that it has spawned a number of competing sales from other retailers. Target has kicked off a three-day “Deal Days” sale to directly counter Amazon’s event, for instance, while Walmart is advertising its own “Deals for Days” promotion.

As with Prime Day, most of the offers here aren’t particularly notable, but for the ones that are, these sales price-match much of what’s available on Amazon’s site. So if you’d rather opt out of Amazon’s summer cash grab, you don’t need to miss out on a discount that’s caught your eye.

To help you out, we’ve gathered up the best non-Prime-Day deals we can find that are currently going on at Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and other online tech outlets. The offers include good prices on Google’s Nest smart home gear and new Roku media streamers a recently launched back-to-school sale from Apple that bundles a pair of AirPods with various Macs and iPads, the lowest price we’ve tracked on Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones, a good drop on Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, and more. You can check out our full roundup below.

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#amazon, #amazon-prime-day, #prime-day-2021, #staff, #target, #walmart

Upsie’s direct-to-consumer swing at the warranty space nets $18.2M

Upsie, a consumer warranty startup, has raised $18.2 million in a Series A round led by True Ventures. 

The financing brings the total raised for the St. Paul, Minnesota-based startup to $25 million since its 2015 inception.

A large group of investors participated in the round, including Concrete Rose VC, Avanta Ventures, Kapor Capital, Samsung Next, Massive, Backstage Capital, Awesome People Ventures, Draft Ventures, Matchstick Ventures, M25, Silicon Valley Bank and Uncommon VC, among others. A number of angels also put money in the round. 

Clarence Bethea (pictured below) founded Upsie after realizing the significant markup that retailers were placing on warranties.

His goal was to focus not on the retailer, but rather the end user and making the process more transparent, more affordable and simpler. For example, Upsie claims that it saves its customers anywhere from 50% to 90% compared to competitor warranty plans. Most other companies in the space, such as SquareTrade, offer warranties at the point of sale via retailers.

Image Credits: Upsie

“I’m sure you’ve walked into a Best Buy or a Target, and when you’re checking out somebody at the register is offering you a warranty. But what most customers don’t know is that you’re paying as much as 900% more for that warranty than you should,” Bethea said. “There’s no transparency at the register and you never get to ask what’s covered and what’s not covered, or what should you do if you need to make a claim.”

Just like many other companies, Upsie saw a bump in business last year thanks to the COVID-pandemic and resulting increase in consumer electronics sales (17%, according to the NPD Group Retail Tracking Service). In particular, there was a spike in demand for laptops, desktops and tablets for distance learning and remote work. As a result, Upsie’s revenue surged by 2.5x over the past 12 months, although Bethea declined to reveal hard revenue figures.

“With people working from home, devices were no longer a luxury but a necessity,” he told TechCrunch.

Rather than at the point of sale, Upsie gives consumers an opportunity to purchase a warranty for a product via its website or mobile app after the transaction has taken place. The company offers protection for thousands of devices — from smartphones to appliances to gaming consoles to lawn and garden tools — or about 60% of the warranty market, according to Bethea.

Consumers have up to 120 days to purchase smartphone protection, 11 months to purchase appliance, TV and fitness equipment protection and up to 60 days for other consumer electronics. All warranty information, including a copy of the product receipt, is stored and accessible on demand. Upsie says it also aims to offer same-day repairs on many devices.

The process, according to Bethea, is straightforward. Consumers need only upload an image of their receipt and provide purchase price and serial/IMEA numbers. When they need to file a claim, it’s a matter of pressing a button. And to make the process even easier, it will give consumers the ability to say, take their items directly to the Apple store for repair, and then get reimbursed afterwards by Upsie.

“We want more people to be able to protect what they buy with their hard-earned money,” Bethea said. “Removing the worry around paying out of pocket to repair, say, your kid’s laptop is huge for families who have had to go with remote learning when the system doesn’t make this easy for everyone.”

Upsie plans to use its new capital to increase customer awareness and continue building out its warranty product offerings and verticals, as well as to double its current headcount of 15.

“We want to continue to grow our presence online through digital channels such as Facebook and Google, for one thing,” Bethea told TechCrunch.

Puneet Agarwal, partner at True Ventures, says his firm doubled down on its investment in Upsie after witnessing its solid growth over the years. (True Ventures led the startup’s $5 million seed round in April of 2019.)

True Ventures was initially attracted to the sheer size of the warranty industry (estimated at $100 billion globally) and “how broken it was from the consumer experience perspective.” The firm also viewed Bethea as a “very special entrepreneur” who “exudes authenticity,” which must be refreshing to VCs who get inundated with pitches.

“We love to invest in old, staid industries where companies can disrupt from a business model and product perspective,” Agarwal said. “Upsie has done that in a big way.”

He went on to describe Bethea’s move to go direct to consumer in the warranty space as “bold.”

“Upsie is the only one doing that, and it’s the biggest swing to take in this type of industry,” Agarwal said. “We believe he’s cracked the code and that’s why we doubled down.”

Bethea’s background is not the same as a “typical” startup founder, which also was viewed as an advantage by True Ventures.

“He came from the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, and had to overcome so much in his life,” Agarwal told TechCrunch. “Clarence is the type of person that when we started True, we wanted to fund. We admire his perseverance and grit to come to this point.”

#allstate, #apple-store, #apps, #atlanta, #backstage-capital, #consumer-electronics, #distance-learning, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #georgia, #google, #kapor-capital, #large, #matchstick-ventures, #minnesota, #puneet-agarwal, #recent-funding, #samsung, #silicon-valley-bank, #smartphone, #smartphones, #squaretrade, #st-paul, #startup, #startups, #target, #tc, #true-ventures, #upsie, #venture-capital, #warranty

Google Pay update adds grocery offers, transit expansions, and spending insights

Following November’s overhaul of Google Pay, which saw the service expanding into personal finance, the company today is rolling out a new set of features aimed at making Google Pay more a part of its users’ everyday lives. With an update, Google Pay will now include new options for grocery savings, paying for public transit, and categorizing their spending.

Through partnerships with Safeway and Target, Google Pay users will now be able to browse their store’s weekly circulars that showcase the latest deals. Safeway is bringing over 500 stores to the Google Pay platform, and Target stores nationwide will offer a similar feature. Google Pay users will be able to favorite the recommended deals for later access. And soon, Google Pay will notify you of the weekly deals when you’re near a participating store, if location is enabled.

Image Credits: Google

Another update expands Google Pay’s transit features, which already today support buying and using transit tickets across over 80 cities in the U.S. New additions arriving soon now include major markets, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. This follows Apple Pay’s recently added and much welcomed support for the Bay Area’s Clipper card. The company is also integrating with Token Transit to expand transit support to smaller towns across the U.S.

Soon, the Google Pay app will also allow Android users to access transit tickets from the app’s homescreen through a “Ride Transit” shortcut. They can then purchase, add, or top up the balance on transit cards. Once purchased, you’ll be able to hold up your transit card to a reader — or show a visual ticket in the case there’s no reader.

The final feature is designed for those using Google Pay for managing their finances. With last year’s revamp, Google partnered with 11 banks to launch a new kind of bank account it called Plex. A competitor to the growing number of mobile-only digital banks, Google’s app serves as the front-end to the accounts which are actually hosted by the partner banks, like Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union.

As a part of that experience, Google Pay users will now gain better access into their spending behavior, balances, bills, and more via an “Insights” tab. Here, you’ll be able to see what your balance is, what bills are coming due, get alerts about larger transactions, and tracking spending by either category or business. As Google is now automatically categorizing transactions, that means you’ll be able to search for general terms (like “food”) as well as by specific business names (like “Burger King”), Google explains.

Image Credits: Google

These features are a part of Google’s plan to use the payments app to gain access more data on users, who can then be targeted with offers from Google Pay partners.

When the redesigned app launched, users were asked to opt in to personalization features which could help the app show users better, more relevant deals. While Google says it’s not providing your data directly to these third-party brands and retailers, the app provides a conduit for those businesses to reach potential customers at a time when the tracking industry is in upheaval over Apple’s privacy changes. Google ability to help brands reach consumers through Google Pay could prove to be a valuable service, if the is able to grow its user base, and encourage more to opt in to the personalization features.

To make that happen, you can expect Google Pay to roll out more useful or “must have” features in the weeks to come.

#android, #apple-pay, #bank, #chicago, #finance, #google, #google-pay, #mobile-payments, #online-payments, #personal-finance, #safeway, #target, #united-states

Walmart drops the $35 order minimum on its 2-hour ‘Express’ delivery service

In a move designed to directly challenge Amazon, Walmart today announced it’s dropping the $35 minimum order requirement for its two-hour “Express” delivery service, a competitor to Amazon’s “Prime Now.”  With Walmart Express Delivery, customers can order from Walmart’s food, consumables or general merchandise assortment, then pay a flat $10 fee to have the items arrive in two hours or less.

The service is useful for more urgent delivery needs — like diapers or a missing ingredient for a recipe, SVP of Customer Product, Tom Ward, noted in an announcement. They’re not meant to sub in for larger shopping trips, however — Express orders are capped at 65 items.

Today, Express Delivery is available in nearly 3,000 Walmart stores reaching 70% of the U.S. population, Walmart says. It builds on top of stores’ existing inventory of pickup and delivery time slots as a third option, instead of giving slots away to those with the ability to pay higher fees.

Like Walmart’s grocery and pickup orders, Express orders are shopped and packaged for delivery by Walmart’s team of 170,000 personal shoppers and items are priced the same as they are in-store. This offers Walmart a potential competitive advantage against grocery delivery services like Instacart or Shipt, for example, where products can be priced higher and hurried or inexperienced shoppers aren’t always able to find items or search the back, having to mark them as “out of stock.”

In theory, Walmart employees will have a better understanding of their own store’s inventory and layout, making these kind of issues less common. It will also have direct access to the order data, which will help it better understand what sells, what replacements customers will accept for out-of-stocks, when to staff for busy times, and more.

In addition to grocery delivery, Express Delivery competes with Amazon’s Prime Now, a service that similarly offers a combination of grocery and other daily essentials and merchandise. Currently, Prime Now’s 2-hour service has a minimum order requirement of $35 without any additional fees in many cases — though the Prime Now app explains that some of its local store partners will charge fees even when that minimum is met, and others may have higher order minimums, which makes the service confusing to consumers.

Walmart’s news comes at a time when Amazon appears to be trying to push consumers away from the Prime Now standalone app, too.

When you open the Prime Now app, a large pop-up message informs you that you can now shop Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh from inside the Amazon app. A button labeled “Make the switch” will then redirect you. Meanwhile, on Amazon’s website touting Prime’s delivery perks, the “Prime Now” brand name isn’t mentioned at all. Instead, Amazon touts free same-day (5 hour) delivery of best sellers and everyday essentials on orders with a $35 minimum purchase, or free 2-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods and Fresh.

When asked why Amazon is pushing Prime Now shoppers to its main app, Amazon downplayed this as simply an ongoing effort to “educate” consumers about the option.

Walmart, on the other hand, last year merged its separate delivery apps into one.

After items are picked, Walmart works with a network of partners, including DoorDash, Postmates, Roadie, and Pickup Point, as well as its in-house delivery services, to get orders to customers’ doorsteps. This last-mile portion has become an key area of investment for Walmart and competitors in recent months — Walmart, for example, acquired assets from a peer-to-peer delivery startup JoyRun in November. And before that, a former Walmart delivery partner, Deliv, sold to Target.

This is not the first time Walmart has dropped order minimums in an attempt to better compete with Amazon and others.

In December, Walmart announced its Prime alternative known as Walmart+ would remove the $35 minimum on non-same day Walmart.com orders. But it had stopped short of extending that perk to same-day grocery until now.

To some extent, Walmart’s ability to drop minimums has to do with the logistics of its delivery operations. Walmart has been turning more its stores into fulfillment centers, by converting some into small, automated warehouses in partnership with technology providers and robotics companies, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric.

And because its stores are physically located closer to customers than Amazon warehouses, it has the ability to deliver a broad merchandise selection, faster, while also turning large parking lots into picking stations — another thing that could worry Amazon, which is now buying up closed mall stores for its own fulfillment operations. 

Walmart today still carries a $35 minimum on other pickup and delivery orders and same-day orders from Walmart+ subscribers.

#amazon, #ecommerce, #food, #grocery-store, #instacart, #prime, #prime-now, #retailers, #shipt, #target, #united-states, #walmart, #whole-foods

PepsiCo signs on to sponsor new founder-in-residence program from M13

The budding venture studio being built inside M13 has signed PepsiCo as its first new corporate partner.

Through the deal, PepsiCo has agreed to bankroll the first founder-in-residence program from the New York and Los Angeles-based firm, which poached former Techstars Los Angeles managing director Anna Barber to lead its new initiative.

The initial M13 Launchpad program will leverage PepsiCo executives and advisors to take entrepreneurs-in-residence on a 12-week long program in ideating and launching a health and wellness-focused startup.

“Today there is a wealth of data available to consumers about their own health, and the movement toward home testing has put ownership over health data more firmly in their hands. This creates exciting opportunities for people to use nutrition even more effectively as a source of consistent, overall health and wellness,” Barber wrote in an email. “This spring, we will be looking at everything from snacks, meal replacement foods, drinks and supplements to software platforms for optimizing nutrition, and connected devices for collecting and managing data.”

It’s a deal that compliments work M13 is already doing alongside corporate partners like Procter & Gamble Ventures, which was instrumental in developing companies like include the premium beauty tech OPTE, Kindra’s menopause products and Bodewell for sensitive skin care.

Independently, the Launchpad program was able to build up Rae, which sells affordable women’s wellness products available at Target, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters.

Under the 12 week virtual Launchpad program, entrepreneurs will receive a $10,000 monthly stipend and enough cash for testing product market fit when they graduate. Upon leaving the program, each company will also receive a small seed round to ensure that they can continue to grow the business, M13 said.

#advisors, #anna-barber, #articles, #business, #companies, #launchpad, #los-angeles, #m13, #new-york, #rae, #target, #tc, #techstars, #wellness

New York-based indoor ag company Gotham Greens raises $87 million

Lettuce celebrate the rise of indoor agriculture.

In the past few months AppHarvest, a developer of greenhouse tomato farms went public through a special purpose acquisition vehicle, vertical farming giant Plenty raised $140 million, and now Gotham Greens, which is developing its own network of greenhouses, is announcing the close of $87 million in new funding.

These new agriculture companies certainly have a green thumb when it comes to raising a cornucopia of capital.

Gotham Greens latest round takes the company to a whopping total of $130 million in funding since its launch. Investors in the round included Manna Tree and The Silverman Group.

While App Harvest has taken to tomatoes in its attempt to ketchup with the leading agricultural companies, Gotham Greens has decided to let its hydroponically grown leafy greens lead the way to riches.

The company said it would use the latest funding to continue developing more greenhouse across the U.S. and bring new vegetables to market.

“Given increasing challenges facing centralized food supply chains, combined with rapidly shifting consumer preferences, Gotham Greens is focused on expanding its regional growing operations and distribution capabilities at one of the most critical periods for America,” said Viraj Puri, the co-founder and chief executive of Gotham Greens, in a statement. 

The company already sells its greens in over 40 states and operates greenhouses in Chicago, Providence, R.I., Baltimore and Denver. From those greenhouses the company distributes to 2,000 retail locations including Whole Foods Markets, Albertsons stores, Meijer, Target, King Soopers, Harris Teeter, ShopRite and Sprouts. 

And Gotham Greens has already begun to expand its product portfolio. The company now sells packaged salads, cooking sauces, and salad bowls in addition to its greens.

Assorted packages of Gotham Greens lettuces on a white field. Image Credit: Gotham Greens

#agriculture, #albertsons, #america, #baltimore, #chicago, #denver, #gotham-greens, #greenhouse, #greens, #hydroponics, #king, #plenty, #providence, #rhode-island, #target, #tc, #united-states, #urban-agriculture, #whole-foods

Everlywell raises $175 million to expand virtual care options and scale its at-home health testing

Digital health startup Everlywell has raised a $175 million Series D funding round, following relatively fast on the heels of a $25 million Series C round it closed in February of this year. The Series D included a host of new investors, including BlackRock, The Chernin Group (TCG), Foresite Capital, Greenspring Associates, Morningside Ventures and Portfolio, along with existing investors including Highland Capital Partners, which led the Series C round. The startup has now raised over $250 million to date.

Everlywell, which launched to the public at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 as a participant in Startup Battlefield, specializes in home health care, and specifically on home health care tests supported by their digital platform for providing customers with their results and helping them understand the diagnostics, and how to seek the right follow-on care and expert medical advice.

Earlier this year, Everlywell launched an at-home COVID-19 test collection kit – the first of this type of test to receive an emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its use that allowed cooperation with multiple lab service providers over time. The COVID-19 test kit joins its many other offerings, which include tests for thyroid hormone levels, food and allergen sensitivity, women’s health and fertility, vitamin D deficiency and more. I spoke to Everlywell CEO and founder Julia Cheek about the raise, and she acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was definitely behind the decision to raise such a large amount so quickly again after the close of the Series C, since the company saw a sharp increase in demand coming out of the coronavirus crisis – not only for its COVID-19 test kit, but for at-home digital health care options in general.

“We obviously have a very successful COVID-19 test,” she said. “But we’ve also seen three-fourths of our test menu just explode at well over 100% year-over-year growth, and several of our tests are at 4x or 5x growth. That is really representative of this shift in consumer health behavior that will continue in a big way in many different verticals that include testing, and making things more convenient, digitally-enabled, and in the home.”

Like other companies built on solving for a shift to more remote and virtual care options, Cheek said that Everlywell had already anticipated this kind of consumer demand – but COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the pace of change, which is why the startup put together this round, at this size, this quickly (she says they started the process of putting together the Series D just in September).

“We’ve been talking about the digital health movement, and the consumer-directed movement probably for a decade now,” she told me. “I do believe that this will be the watershed moment, unfortunately. But hopefully, we will come out on the other side of the pandemic and say, ‘There are some good things that happened broadly for healthcare.’ That is the hope of what we lean into everyday, and  fundamentally, why we went out and raised this amount of capital in this tremendous growth year.”

Image Credits: Everlywell

Everlywell has also expanded availability of its products this year, with distribution in over 10,000 retail locations across Target, Walgreens, CVS and Kroger stores across the U.S. The company also landed a number of new partnerships on the diagnostic lab and insurance payer side, as well as with major employers – a key customer group since employers shoulder the largest share of healthcare spending in the U.S. due to employee benefit plans. Cheek says that despite their commercial and enterprise customer wins, the focus remains squarely on consumer satisfaction, which is what distinguishes their offering.

“Our COVID-19 test is 75% new people buying our product, and it has an NPS [net promoter score] of 75,” she said. “And then it’s the most highly-referred product, and also one of our top tests where people buy other tests. Experience matters here – we know that if someone is a promoter of Everlywell, if they rate us a nine or a 10, on NPS, they are five times more likely to purchase again on the platform.”

That’s not new for Everlywell, according to Cheek – customers have always had a high degree of satisfaction with the company’s products. But what is new is the expanded reach, and the realization among many Americans that virtual care and at-home options are available, and are effective.

“What you have is this lightbulb moment for Americans in a new way that care can be delivered where then they definitely don’t want to go back,” she said. “It’s not just for Everlywell. This is all of these verticals, that have really shifted consumer behavior around healthcare in the home, and I think that will be somewhat permanent. That is the main driver here, and is what we’re seeing, and it’s why Everlywell has resonated so well with so many Americans.”

#articles, #battlefield, #biotech, #blackrock, #ceo, #chernin-group, #cvs, #driver, #everlywell, #food, #foresite-capital, #funding, #greenspring-associates, #health, #healthcare, #highland-capital-partners, #kroger, #morningside-ventures, #national-park-service, #occupational-safety-and-health, #portfolio, #recent-funding, #science, #startups, #target, #tc, #united-states, #walgreens

U.S. shopping app downloads on Black Friday reached a record 2.8M installs

Many U.S. consumers spent this year’s Black Friday sales event shopping from home on mobile devices. That led to first-time installs of mobile shopping apps in the U.S. to break a new record for single-day installs on Black Friday 2020, according to a report from Sensor Tower. The firm estimates that U.S. consumers downloaded approximately 2.8 million shopping apps on November 27th — a figure that’s up by nearly 8% over last year.

However, this number doesn’t necessarily represent faster growth than in 2019, which also saw about an 8% year-over-year increase in Black Friday shopping app installs, the report noted. This could be because mobile shopping and the related app installs are now taking place throughout the month of November, though, as retailers adjusted to the pandemic and other online shopping trends by hosting earlier sales or even month-long sales events.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

The data seems to indicate this is true. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 29, U.S. consumers downloaded approximately 59.2 million shopping apps from across the App Store and Google Play — an increase of roughly 15% from the 51.7 million they downloaded in Nov. 2019. That’s a much higher figure than the 2% year-over-year growth seen during this same period in 2019.

Another shift taking place in mobile shopping is the growing adoption of app from brick-and-mortar retailers. During the first three quarters of 2020, apps from brick-and-mortar retailers grew installs 27%. This trend continued on Black Friday, when 5 out of the top 10 mobile shopping apps were those from brick-and-mortar retailers, led by Walmart.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Walmart saw the highest adoption this year, with around 131,000 Black Friday installs, followed by Amazon at 106,000, then Shopify’s Shop at 81,000. Combined, the top 10 apps saw 763,000 total new installs, or 27% of the first-time downloads in the Shopping category.

Because the firms are only looking at new app installs, they aren’t giving a full picture of the U.S. mobile shopping market, as many consumers already have these apps installed on their devices. And many more simply shop online via a desktop or laptop computer.

To give these figures some context, Shopify reported on Saturday it had seen record Black Friday sales of $2.4 billion, with 68% on mobile. And today, Amazon announced its small business sales alone topped $4.8 billion from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, a 60% year-over-year increase, but it didn’t break out the percentage that came from mobile.

Sensor Tower and rival app store analytics firm App Annie largely agreed on the top 5 shopping apps downloaded this Black Friday. They both saw Walmart again beating Amazon to become the most-downloaded U.S. shopping app on Black Friday — as it did in 2019. The two firms reported that Amazon remained No. 2 by downloads, followed by Shopify’s Shop app, then Target. However, Sensor Tower put Best Buy in 5th place, followed by Nike, while App Annie saw those positions swapped.

Image Credits: App Annie

The rest of Sensor Tower’s top 10 included SHEIN, Sam’s Club, Klarna, then Offer Up, while App Annie’s list was rounded out by SHEIN, Sam’s Club, Wish, then Offer Up.

The pandemic’s impact may not have been obvious given the growth in online shopping this year, but the recession it triggered has played a role in how U.S. consumers are paying for their purchases. “Buy Now, Pay Later” apps like Klarna were up this year, even breaking into the top 10 per Sensor Tower’s data. The firm also noted that many new shopping apps launched this year focused on discounts and deals and retailers ran longer sales this year, as well.

#amazon, #app-annie, #app-store, #apps, #best-buy, #black-friday, #business, #cyber-monday, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #google-play, #klarna, #marketing, #mobile, #nike, #online-shopping, #sams-club, #sensor-tower, #shopify, #shopping, #target, #united-states, #walmart

Target grocery pickup service expands nationwide

Target announced today its grocery pickup service is available nationwide, First introduced earlier this summer in the Midwest, Target said it would soon roll out grocery pickup services across the U.S., reaching 1,500 stores in a matter of months. Today, Target says it has reached that goal, which equates to nearly 85% of its locations.

Though the retailer had already offered grocery delivery through Shipt and both online Order Pickup and a same-day curbside service called Drive Up, it hadn’t yet offered the ability to pick up groceries due to issues with storing cold foods. But store remodels and more recent expansions to the pickup area inside some Target stores addressed the problem.

To move forward with its plans, the retailer had to work around issues related to the coronavirus outbreak that had delayed Target’s plans to fully remodel hundreds of stores. In stores that hadn’t yet been remodeled, a small construction project allowed the order pickup area to accommodate temperature-controlled storage.

The new grocery pickup service doesn’t offer all of Target’s fresh and frozen items at launch. Instead, Target has made available the most popular 750 fresh and frozen items on top of thousands of non-perishables that were already available to order. These newly added items include produce, dairy, bakery, meat and frozen products. The company said it imposed the limitation based on how it saw customers were using grocery pickup services to shop for essentials between larger trips to the store. It’s unclear, however, if that will remain true in the coronavirus era, when shoppers are now visiting stores less frequently, but stocking up in greater quantities when they do.

In both Target and Walmart’s earnings, announced this week, the retailers reported basket size increases related to this trend. Target, for example, reported customer basket size grew 18.8% in Q2 as people shopped for more items on their Target runs.

If this trend continues beyond the pandemic, retailers may need consider making online order pickup equivalent to shopping inside the store, in terms of product selection.

In addition to fresh and frozen groceries, Target shoppers can also pick from the over 250,000 general merchandise items available for pickup across categories like home, apparel, essentials, and more within their same grocery order. Shoppers don’t have to create separate “carts” in the Target app, nor does the Target website or app separate grocery shopping from other online shopping the way Walmart.com and its app do.

However, the option to build a “Drive Up” order is only available within the mobile app, as before. From the web, you can only create a order you pick up inside the store or choose delivery.

Target is ahead of schedule with its grocery pickup expansions. Originally, the retailer said it would reach 1,500 stores by the U.S. holiday season. The company didn’t offer a timeframe for when it expects to offer grocery pickup at every store.

Online grocery helped fuel both Target and Walmart’s quarterly sales, both retailers reported this week. In Target’s case, same-day services accounted for a majority of its digital growth, with growth of 273% across all services. Curbside pickup grew 734% while Shipt grocery delivery grew 350% during the quarter.

 

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #grocery, #target

Target sets sales record in Q2 as same-day services grow 273%

Following Walmart’s pandemic-fueled earnings beat posted on Tuesday, Target today also handily beat Wall St. expectations to deliver a record-setting quarter across a number of key metrics. The retailer on Wednesday announced its strongest quarter to date for comparable sales, which grew 24.3% in Q2, driving Target’s profit up 80.3% year-over-year to $1.69 billion. Online ordering was particularly popular, Target noted, with digital sales growing 195%. Same-day services like Drive Up, Order Pick Up and Shipt also grew by 273%.

In the quarter, Target topped estimates for revenue, same-store sales, adjusted EPS, and gross margin. It reported $23 billion in revenue, vs. estimates of $19.82 billion. Its record-settinbg 24.3% increase in comparable sales was well above the expected 5.8%. Earnings per share came in at $3.38 vs. the $1.58 forecast. And its GM was 30.9% instead of the expected 28.98%.

The company attributed its sales growth to a number of factors, including its ability to remain open amid the pandemic as an essential business, its customers’ overall trust in the Target brand, its ability to get customers to shop across its product categories, its digital services, and most notably, the return of customers to its stores in Q2.

The latter item doesn’t necessarily mean Target shoppers were walking the aisles, however.

Instead, it speaks the investments Target made ahead of the pandemic in bridging the gap between online ordering and its physical stores. In Q2, Target’s In-store Order Pick Up grew more than 60%, as shoppers headed inside Target to pick up their web orders, for example.

Target’s Drive Up service, which allows customers to shop online then pull up in designated parking spots to have orders brought their car, was up by more than 700% in the quarter.

And Target’s Shipt same-day home delivery service Shipt was up 350% over last year.

That means that for much of what Target customers think of as “online shopping,” their sales were actually being fulfilled by Target’s stores. In fact, Target said its stores fulfilled more than 90% of its second-quarter sales.

Image Credits: Target

To build out its digital fulfillment services, Target took a tech company-like approach in leveraging internal engineering teams capable of iterating quickly on new ideas. A team of eight, including four engineers, originally built Drive Up starting back in April 2017, for instance. By summer 2017, Drive Up was being tested in internally. It then rolled out to Target’s home market by that fall. And as of August 2019, Target’s Drive Up service was available nationwide.

The retailer has also made key acquisitions to aid its e-commerce operations, including its $550 million deal for Shipt in 2017, and more recently, its acquisition of same-day delivery technology from Deliv back in May. It has also integrated Shipt’s same-day service directly into its own website and app, instead of relying only on Shipt’s dedicated brand to reach Target shoppers.

The results of these efforts are now paying off in a pandemic where customers don’t necessarily want to browse stores’ aisles in-person to shop. And that has led to Target seeng what Yahoo Finance today described as “tech company-like growth” for its retail business.

Richmond Drive Up

Store opening at Target Houston – Richmond on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 in South Richmond, Texas. (Anthony Rathbun/AP Images for Target)

Target’s Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell additionally noted the company has added $5 billion in market share in the first 6 months of 2020, during which time it’s added 10 million new digital customers.

“Our second quarter comparable sales growth of 24.3 percent is the strongest we have ever reported, which is a true testament to the resilience of our team and the durability of our business model. Our stores were the key to this unprecedented growth, with in-store comp sales growing 10.9 percent and stores enabling more than three-quarters of Target’s digital sales, which rose nearly 200 percent,” he said. “We also generated outstanding profitability in the quarter, even as we made significant investments in pay and benefits for our team. We remain steadfast in our focus on investing in a safe and convenient shopping experience for our guests, and their trust has resulted in market share gains of $5 billion in the first six months of the year,” Cornell continued.

“With our differentiated merchandising assortment, a comprehensive set of convenient fulfillment options, a strong balance sheet, and our deeply dedicated team, we are well-equipped to navigate the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, and continue to grow profitably in the years ahead,” he said.

The pandemic has played a role in what customers bought, too. Target said its sales were up across all five of its core merchandise categories. This was led by the strongest sales in electronics, a category that was up 70% year-over year due to people staying at home for work, school and entertainment, leading to more purchases of things like computers or gaming systems. Electronics were followed by home products, which were up by 30%, then increases of 20% for the beauty, food & beverages, and essentials categories. Apparel even shifted from a 20% decline in Q1 to double-digit growth in Q2. Customer basket size also grew 18.8%, as people shopped for more items on their Target runs.

Like Walmart, Target also saw a boost from government stimulus checks, which will likely taper off next quarter. But Target declined to offer further 2020 guidance, saying that the COVID-19 crisis makes consumer shopping patterns and government policies unpredictable.

 

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #online-retail, #online-shopping, #pandemic, #retail, #shopping, #target

Target is rolling out fresh grocery pickup nationwide, starting with the Midwest

Target today is joining the growing number of grocery retailers offering curbside and in-store pickup services for fresh and frozen items. The retailer had paused its plans to rollout grocery pickup this spring, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor. It said it didn’t have time to train employees on the new processes. Today, those plans are back in motion. The company now says it expects to have fresh and frozen grocery pickup available across 1,500 stores in the U.S. within a matter of months.

The addition isn’t being powered by Target’s grocery delivery service, Shipt, but will instead utilize store staff to pick and bag items — much as they do today for Target’s existing Order Pickup and Drive Up services.

However, consumers won’t have access to all of Target’s fresh and frozen food items at launch. The pickup services will offer 750 fresh and frozen items on top of the thousands of non-perishables already available. This includes produce, dairy, bakery, meat and frozen products.

In the same order, shoppers can also order from the more than 250,000 items available for pickup across categories like home, apparel, essentials and more.

A company spokesperson tells us the decision to limit fresh and frozen product selection to 750 items was related to how the service was used in early tests. The company found that Target shoppers largely used pickup to shop for grocery essentials in between larger trips to the store.

Both Drive Up and Order Pickup will offer the same product selection, we understand.

Target says the fresh and frozen items will be stored in temperature-controlled storage in the pickup area in the front of the store, until the customer arrives for their pickup.

The service is free to use and doesn’t require an order minimum or membership. In addition, Target RedCard holders and Target Circle members will be able to utilize their discounts on the new grocery items, as well.

Target is currently rolling out fresh and frozen grocery in the Midwest region, following its successful tests of grocery pickup in the Twin Cities and Kansas City markets. This will make the service available to 400 stores. It expects to reach 1,500 stores by the U.S holiday season.

The retailer is one of many grocers to now offer pickup services in the U.S. For Walmart, online grocery has played a large role in its growing e-commerce sales. In the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2019, ahead of the pandemic, Walmart’s e-commerce sales grew by 35%. As the coronavirus outbreak drove more shoppers to buy online and pickup outside of Walmart sales, the retailer reported a 74% jump in e-commerce sales in Q1.

Target, meanwhile, reported in Q1 its same-day services were growing in popularity as well, due to the pandemic. It even saw days where its volume of order pickup was twice as high as Cyber Monday. And on the Friday before Easter, it did more volume via Shipt’s delivery service than it did in a typical week.

Also in Q1, Target’s digital sales overall grew 141% while its combination of same-day services (Shipt, Drive Up, and Order Pickup) grew 278%. Of the millions of shoppers using Drive Up, 40% were new to the service — an indication of how the pandemic has shifted consumer behavior.

But Q1 was not all good news for the retailer. It said it was spending more on labor, selling fewer high-margin items, and writing down apparel and other goods that weren’t selling due to the pandemic’s influence on shopper’s needs. The company promised that its investments in online shopping options and its workforce — last week, for example, it raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour — would pay off in the long run.

“The speed and convenience of our fulfillment options are unmatched across the country, and they’ve become even more critical for our guests searching for easy and safe ways to shop during the pandemic. By adding fresh grocery to the pickup services our guests already love, we’re giving them even more reasons to shop at Target, said Target’s chief operating officer, John Mulligan, in a statement. “During a time when even more people are looking for different ways to get the items they need, we’ll continue to invest in making Target the easiest and safest place to shop,” he added.

 

#ecommerce, #grocery, #target

Where to shop online that isn’t Amazon, Target or Walmart

As shutdown orders extend indefinitely, online shopping has become a lifeline for people forced to avoid the outside world. Often times opting to shop with a mega corporation like Amazon, Walmart or Target is the path of least resistance, but there are plenty of reasons to patronize an alternative.

There are the ethical questions currently swirling around things like worker safety, as COVID-19 takes a toll on the often low-paid essential workers who keep these businesses running. It’s also arguably now more important than ever to support small and local businesses, and more and more brick and mortars announce that they simply won’t be able to rebound after the disastrous economic effects of the shutdown.

Not every company listed below is a small business (Chewy, for example, is owned by pet supply giant PetSmart), but the below list compiled by our editorial team should offer a good variety to help you mix up your online shopping.

Groceries/Household

GettyImages 1041147560 1

In this rear view, an unrecognizable woman stands with a shopping cart in front of a shelf full of food in the bread aisle of a grocery store.

Thrive Market: Organic and non-GMO brands of food, home and beauty products, including healthy food, clean beauty and bath products, safe supplements and non-toxic home cleaner.

Great for: Stocking up on healthier grocery items for the pantry and other household needs. 

Grove Collaborative: Eco-friendly home essentials, including cleaners, personal care, bath, baby/kid and pet products.

Great for: Stocking up on concentrated cleaners that reduce plastic waste and save trips to the store. 

Boxed: Online wholesale shopping on groceries, household products and health supplies.

Great for: An online alternative to Costco and Sam’s Club for items you like to buy in bulk. (T.P. is often out-of-stock though!) 

Pet Supplies

A pet cat asleep on the doormat in a conservatory.

Chewy: Online pet store offering food, toys, litter and other pet needs, including both over-the-counter medicine and prescriptions.

Great for: High-quality foods and treats and skipping the vet for prescription refills.

The Farmer’s Dog: All-natural dog food delivery subscription service. Food is proportioned for your dog and delivered to your door.

Great for: Fresh food delivery and those who want a “set it and forget it” option for buying dog food.

Beauty/Baby Supplies

Image Credits: Vladmir Godnik / Getty Images

The Honest Company: Ethical baby and beauty supply company.

Great for: Diapers, baby needs and cruelty-free beauty, bath and body products. 

Ulta: Beauty supply superstore offering ship-to-home and curbside pickup.

Great for: Makeup for your Zoom meetings; skincare products for all that indoor air you’re now living in. 

Sephora: Online beauty store offering direct shipping.

Great for: Makeup, skincare and self-care items, as well as gift sets for someone who needs a boost.

Glossier: Online beauty brand that’s skin-first, makeup second.

Great for: Skincare, body and makeup.

Books & Entertainment

Image Credits: Andersen Ross/Blend Images

Bookshop.org: This newly launched offering is designed specifically to support independent bookstores in a post-Amazon age. You can browse a wealth of titles and designate the specific store you want to support and they’ll get all the profits. With so many bookstores struggling to stay afloat well before the COVID pandemic, this could be Bookshop’s moment.

Great for: Supporting independent bookstores while shopping online. 

Powell’s: For book lovers, few things beat stepping foot inside this Portland mecca. Until things open back up, online shopping is the next best thing.

Great for: Used books galore. 

Amoeba Records: For psychical music releases, going straight to the label is often your best bet. Record stores are a great option, too. California’s Amoeba is one of the greatest small music chains in the world, but it’s among those with an uncertain post-COVID future, having recently announced the expected closure of its Hollywood location.

Great for: New and used vinyl, CDs and books. 

Forbidden Planet: This Manhattan mainstay has become a go-to for mainstream and indie comics lovers alike. The store is one of countless currently struggling to stay afloat during the COVID crisis. They’ve started a GoFundMe, but better yet, go order some comics.

Great for: Comics, from superhero to super indie. 

Trident Bookstore: This gem of a Boston bookstore survived a fire and finals season, so you know it’s a special one. Its selling books all over the United States right now (and if you’re in Boston, it’ll add in brunch too).

Great for: Well-known titles as well as undercover ones. Also, pro tip: You can purchase a “creative add-on” in your package like a surprise puzzle or a bundle of greeting cards, depending on availability. 

Athletic

Los Angeles Apparel: This site is selling three-pack face masks in a variety of colors, and all purchases help fund their ability to donate masks to essential services and provide living wages.

Great for: A comfortable cotton mask that also does good. 

Donkaka.com: Fashionable face masks sold direct to consumer with free shipping.

Great for: Stylist, reusable comfort. 

Tiny pleasures and knick-knacks

Participants play a Magic: The Gathering card game during a weekly tournament at the Uncommons hobby shop in New York, U.S., on Thursday, June 27, 2019. In the battle for gaming dominance, Hasbro Inc. has what it hopes is an ace up its sleeve in a deck of playing cards that hit the market 26 years ago. Photographer: Mark Abramson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Little Market: This nonprofit sells fair-trade goods made by people in need, from individuals with disabilities to women transitioning out of homelessness.

Great for: Candles, tote bags, soaps and sugar scrubs. 

Uncommon Goods: Unique gifts, decor, games and more

Great for: Unusual items to break your quarantine boredom, especially kids’ crafts and toys for parents whose children have now tired of every toy in the house.  

#amazon, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #retail, #target, #tc, #walmart

Daily Crunch: Target acquires Deliv’s delivery tech

Target makes another acquisition, social platforms struggle with a “Plandemic” conspiracy video and Boston Dynamics’ robot Spot encourages social distancing.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for May 8, 2020.

1. Target to acquire same-day delivery tech from Deliv

Target, which already owns on-demand delivery service Shipt, is in the process of acquiring technology assets from same-day delivery service Deliv . The retailer is characterizing the deal as more of an R&D type of acquisition, not one that will have an immediate consumer-facing impact.

Deliv had raised more than $80 million in venture capital funding. The acquisition price is said to be immaterial to Target, which isn’t issuing a press release or an 8-K filing to note.

2. Platforms scramble as ‘Plandemic’ conspiracy video spreads misinformation like wildfire

A coronavirus conspiracy video featuring a well-known vaccine conspiracist is spreading like wildfire on social media this week, even as platforms talk tough about misinformation in the midst of the pandemic. The video took off mid-week after first being posted to Vimeo and YouTube on May 4. From those sites, it traveled to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where it circulated much more widely and racked up millions of views.

3. Boston Dynamics’ Spot is patrolling a Singapore park to encourage social distancing

In a new pilot program, a remote operator will control Spot as it patrols around two miles of Singapore’s Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. A recorded message encourage social distancing will be broadcast from the robot.

4. Microsoft and AWS exchange poisoned pen blog posts in latest Pentagon JEDI contract spat

As you may recall, the DoD selected Microsoft last fall as the winning vendor in the JEDI winner-take-all cloud infrastructure sweepstakes. Amazon took exception to the decision and went to court to fight it. Since then, the two companies have been battling in PR pronouncements and blog posts trying to get the upper hand in the war for public opinion.

5. SaaS stocks defy gravity amid pandemic, record job losses

This week, shares of SaaS and cloud companies reached new record highs following an earnings cycle that came in better than some expected. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. A Chinese city to pump life into local business with WeChat live streaming

Messaging giant WeChat, which commands 1.16 monthly active users, announced this week it’s partnering with the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou to host a live stream shopping festival in June. The initiative, in which a municipal government aims to pump up the local economy through live streaming e-commerce, is first of its kind in China.

7. Student Discount: Join Extra Crunch for $50 per year

Speaking of Extra Crunch: Graduation season is here, and to celebrate we are offering annual Extra Crunch memberships to students for half price. That’s a full year of Extra Crunch for only $50 (plus tax). You just need a .edu or university email address.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #deliv, #ecommerce, #target

Target is looking to buy Deliv’s same-day delivery tech

Target, which already owns on-demand delivery service Shipt, is in talks to buy assets from Deliv, NBC News first reported.

“Deliv is in the process of completing a deal to sell technology assets to Target and Deliv’s CEO along with a subset of the team will be moving over to Target,” a Deliv spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Target is not involved in the wind-down. We are working with our retail partners to transition delivery services to other providers during the next 90 days.”

If the deal goes through, Target will reportedly bring on Deliv CEO Daphne Carmeli and some of Deliv’s employees. This comes just one day after The Wall Street Journal reported Deliv would be ceasing its on-demand delivery operations on or before August 4.

Deliv, founded in 2012, has raised $80.4 million in venture capital and currently operates same-day delivery of things like groceries and prescriptions in 35 markets. Deliv has partnerships in place with companies like Best Buy, Walgreens and Macy’s, but those are not expected to remain intact.

Deliv previously had a partnership with Walmart, but that ended in February 2019. At the time, Deliv said the Walmart partnership did not make up a large chunk of its operations.

If this deal goes through, this would mark Target’s second acquisition in the delivery space. In December 2017, Target bought same-day delivery service Shipt for $550 million. Since then, Target has launched a dedicated shopping site for same-delivery service, powered by Shipt. But as of late, Target has been under fire for its practices toward Shipt workers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In early April, Shipt shoppers walked off work to demand an extended sick pay policy, hazard pay and personal protective equipment.

TechCrunch has reached out to Target and will update this if we hear back.

#deliv, #food, #startups, #target, #tc

Workers prepare to strike May 1, amid strained pandemic working conditions

The global pandemic has tested the bounds of businesses across the world and transformed the way many of us live our lives. For those among us who are unable to leave our homes at all as COVID-19 virus rages, online retail and food services have been a kind of lifeline.

But as contact-free delivery becomes the norm, it can be easy to forgot all the people working to provide those services at risk to their health. And more often than not, employees are working for low wages or tips.

A number of protests have been organized at companies like Amazon and Instagram in the intervening weeks and months, but a wide-scale, cross-company event hasn’t really surfaced. That could change on May 1, as employees mark the longstanding tradition of International Workers’ Day with a May Day general strike.

Material for the event has been circulating online, rebadged “Essential Workers’ Day,” as a nod to the exemptions to stay at home orders for retail and food delivery, among others. The event is framed as a combination strike and boycott, targeted at Amazon/Whole Foods, Instacart and Target/Shipt (as well as Walmart and FedEx, according to various sources). 

Specific demands differ from employer to employer, but workers have broadly asked for essential health protections, sick leave and hazard pay as the pandemic has continued to wear on and profits have spiked for many providers. 

Vice spoke to Christian Smalls, one of the organizers, the Staten Island Amazon employee who was fired after organizing a walkout at one of the company’s fulfillment centers. “We formed an alliance between a bunch of different companies because we all have one common goal which is to save the lives of workers and communities,” he told the site. “Right now isn’t the time to open up the economy. Amazon is a breeding ground [for COVID] which is spreading right now through multiple facilities.”

Amazon workers have been particularly vocal about the retail giant’s response to the pandemic. In addition to Smalls, two other employees who were publicly critical of the company were fired by Amazon — though the company denied the direct link. Instacart employees have also organized boycotts and strikes, including one in late March.

“We remain singularly focused on the health and safety of the Instacart community. Our team has been diligently working to offer new policies, guidelines, product features, resources, increased bonuses, and personal protective equipment to ensure the health and safety of shoppers during this critical time,” the company said in a statement. “We welcome all feedback from shoppers and we will continue to enhance their experience to ensure this important community is supported.”

Other companies have previously issued similar statements regarding employment during the crisis. We’ve reached out to them for additional comment on the planned protests.

Update: An Amazon spokesperson offered TechCrunch the following statement,

While we respect people’s right to express themselves, we object to the irresponsible actions of labor groups in spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. The statements made are not supported by facts or representative of the majority of the 500,000 Amazon operations employees in the U.S. who are showing up to work to support their communities. What’s true is that masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our Amazon and Whole Food Market networks already. Our employees are doing incredible work for their communities every day, and we have invested heavily in their health and safety through increased safety measures and the procurement of millions of safety supplies and have invested nearly $700 million in increased pay. Working globally with our teams and third parties we have gone to extreme measures to understand and address this pandemic with more than 150 process changes to-date. We spend every day focused on what else Amazon can do to keep our people and communities safe and healthy.

#amazon, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #health, #instacart, #shipt, #strikes, #target, #whole-foods