e-commerce

Europe agrees platform rules to tackle unfair business practices

Posted by | Amazon, Android, antitrust, competition, e-commerce, eBay, EC, eCommerce, Europe, european commission, european parliament, european union, General Data Protection Regulation, Google, google search, Google Shopping, Margrethe Vestager, microsoft store, online marketplaces, online platforms, search engine, search engines, search results | No Comments

The European Union’s political institutions have reached agreement over new rules designed to boost transparency around online platform businesses and curb unfair practices to support traders and other businesses that rely on digital intermediaries for discovery and sales.

The European Commission proposed a regulation for fairness and transparency in online platform trading last April. And late yesterday the European Parliament, Council of the EU and Commission reached a political deal on regulating the business environment of platforms, announcing the accord in a press release today.

The political agreement paves the way for adoption and publication of the regulation, likely later this year. The rules will apply 12 months after that point.

Online platform intermediaries such as ecommerce marketplaces and search engines are covered by the new rules if they provide services to businesses established in the EU and which offer goods or services to consumers located in the EU.

The Commission estimates there are some 7,000 such platforms and marketplaces which will be covered by the regulation, noting this includes “world giants as well as very small start-ups”.

Under the new rules, sudden and unexpected account suspensions will be banned — with the Commission saying platforms will have to provide “clear reasons” for any termination and also possibilities for appeal.

Terms and conditions must also be “easily available and provided in plain and intelligible language”.

There must also be advance notice of changes — of at least 15 days, with longer notice periods applying for more complex changes.

For search engines the focus is on ranking transparency. And on that front dominant search engine Google has attracted more than its fair share of criticism in Europe from a range of rivals (not all of whom are European).

In 2017, the search giant was also slapped with a $2.7BN antitrust fine related to its price comparison service, Google Shopping. The EC found Google had systematically given prominent placement to its own search comparison service while also demoting rival services in search results. (Google rejects the findings and is appealing.)

Given the history of criticism of Google’s platform business practices, and the multi-year regulatory tug of war over anti-competitive impacts, the new transparency provisions look intended to make it harder for a dominant search player to use its market power against rivals.

Changing the online marketplace

The importance of legislating for platform fairness was flagged by the Commission’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, last summer — when she handed Google another very large fine ($5BN) for anti-competitive behavior related to its mobile platform Android.

Vestager said then she wasn’t sure breaking Google up would be an effective competition fix, preferring to push for remedies to support “more players to have a real go”, as her Android decision attempts to do. But she also stressed the importance of “legislation that will ensure that you have transparency and fairness in the business to platform relationship”.

If businesses have legal means to find out why, for example, their traffic has stopped and what they can do to get it back that will “change the marketplace, and it will change the way we are protected as consumers but also as businesses”, she argued.

Just such a change is now in sight thanks to EU political accord on the issue.

The regulation represents the first such rules for online platforms in Europe and — commissioners’ contend — anywhere in the world.

“Our target is to outlaw some of the most unfair practices and create a benchmark for transparency, at the same time safeguarding the great advantages of online platforms both for consumers and for businesses,” said Andrus Ansip, VP for the EU’s Digital Single Market initiative in a statement.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship, and SMEs, added that the rules are “especially designed with the millions of SMEs in mind”.

“Many of them do not have the bargaining muscle to enter into a dispute with a big platform, but with these new rules they have a new safety net and will no longer worry about being randomly kicked off a platform, or intransparent ranking in search results,” she said in another supporting statement.

In a factsheet about the new rules, the Commission specifies they cover third-party ecommerce market places (e.g. Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Fnac Marketplace, etc.); app stores (e.g. Google Play, Apple App Store, Microsoft Store etc.); social media for business (e.g. Facebook pages, Instagram used by makers/artists etc.); and price comparison tools (e.g. Skyscanner, Google Shopping etc.).

The regulation does not target every online platform. For example, it does not cover online advertising (or b2b ad exchanges), payment services, SEO services or services that do not intermediate direct transactions between businesses and consumers.

The Commission also notes that online retailers that sell their own brand products and/or don’t rely on third party sellers on their own platform are also excluded from the regulation, such as retailers of brands or supermarkets.

Where transparency is concerned, the rules require that regulated marketplaces and search engines disclose the main parameters they use to rank goods and services on their site “to help sellers understand how to optimise their presence” — with the Commission saying the aim is to support sellers without allowing gaming of the ranking system.

Some platform business practices will also require mandatory disclosure — such as for platforms that not only provide a marketplace for sellers but sell on their platform themselves, as does Amazon for example.

The ecommerce giant’s use of merchant data remains under scrutiny in the EU. Vestager revealed a preliminary antitrust probe of Amazon last fall — when she said her department was gathering information to “try to get a full picture”. She said her concern is dual platforms could gain an unfair advantage as a consequence of access to merchants’ data.

And, again, the incoming transparency rules look intended to shrink that risk — requiring what the Commission couches as exhaustive disclosure of “any advantage” a platform may give to their own products over others.

“They must also disclose what data they collect, and how they use it — and in particular how such data is shared with other business partners they have,” it continues, noting also that: “Where personal data is concerned, the rules of the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] apply.”

(GDPR of course places further transparency requirements on platforms by, for example, empowering individuals to request any personal data held on them, as well as the reasons why their information is being processed.)

The platform regulation also includes new avenues for dispute resolution by requiring platforms set up an internal complaint-handling system to assist business users.

“Only the smallest platforms in terms of head count or turnover will be exempt from this obligation,” the Commission notes. (The exemption limit is set at fewer than 50 staff and less than €10M revenue.)

It also says: “Platforms will have to provide businesses with more options to resolve a potential problem through mediators. This will help resolve more issues out of court, saving businesses time and money.”

But, at the same time, the new rules allow business associations to take platforms to court to stop any non-compliance — mirroring a provision in the GDPR which also allows for collective enforcement and redress of individual privacy rights (where Member States adopt it).

“This will help overcome fear of retaliation, and lower the cost of court cases for individual businesses, when the new rules are not followed,” the Commission argues.

“In addition, Member States can appoint public authorities with enforcement powers, if they wish, and businesses can turn to those authorities.”

One component of the regulation that appears to be being left up to EU Member States to tackle is penalties for non-compliance — with no clear regime of fines set out (as there is in GDPR). So it’s not clear whether the platform regulation might not have rather more bark than bite, at least initially.

“Member States shall need to take measures that are sufficiently dissuasive to ensure that the online intermediation platforms and search engines comply with the requirements in the Regulation,” the Commission writes in a section of its factsheet dealing with how to make sure platforms respect the new rules.

It also points again to the provision allowing business associations or organisations to take action in national courts on behalf of members — saying this offers a legal route to “stop or prohibit non-compliance with one or more of the requirements of the Regulation”. So, er, expect lawsuits.

The Commission says the rules will be subject to review within 18 months after they come into force — in a bid to ensure the regulation keeps pace with fast-paced tech developments.

A dedicated Online Platform Observatory has been established in the EU for the purpose of “monitoring the evolution of the market and the effective implementation of the rules”, it adds.

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With a $10 million round, Nigeria’s Paga plans global expansion

Posted by | africa, alipay, Android, Bank, bank transfers, california, cellulant, ceo, Column, e-commerce, economy, ethiopia, Finance, kenya, M-Pesa, Mexico, mobile devices, mobile payment, money, Nigeria, Omidyar Network, online payments, p2p, PayPal, Philippines, Safaricom, San Francisco, Spotify, Sweden, Uber, vodafone, western union | No Comments
Jake Bright
Contributor

Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa.

Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for an international expansion with $10 million in funding let by the Global Innovation Fund. 

The company is planning to release its payments product in Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines—CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch at Disrupt San Francisco.

Paga looks to go head to head with regional and global payment players, such as PayPal, Alipay, and Safaricom’s M-Pesa, according to Oviosu.

“We are not only in a position to compete with them, we’re going beyond them,” he  said of Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile money product. “Our goal is to build a global payment ecosystem across many emerging markets.”

Founded in 2012, Paga has created a multi-channel network and platform to transfer money, pay-bills, and buy things digitally that’s already serving 9 million customers in Nigeria—including 6000 businesses. All of whom can drop into one of Paga’s 17,167 agents or transfer funds from one of Paga’s mobile apps.

Paga products work on iOS, Android, and basic USSD phones using a star, hashtag option. The company has remittance partnerships with the likes of Western Union and Moneytrans and allows for third-party integration of its app.

Paga has also built out considerable scale in home market Nigeria—which boasts the dual distinction as Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.

Since inception, the startup has processed 57 million transactions worth $3.6 billion, according to Oviosu.

That’s no small feat given the country straddles the challenges and opportunities of growing digital payments. Only recently did Nigeria’s mobile and internet penetration break 50 percent and 40 percent of the country’s 196 million remain unbanked.

To bring more of Nigeria’s masses onto digital commerce, Paga recently launched a new money transfer-app that further simplifies the P2P payment process from mobile devices.

For nearly a decade, Kenya’s M-Pesa—which has 20 million active users and operates abroad—has dominated discussions of mobile money in Africa.

Paga and a growing field of operators are diversifying the continent’s payment playing field.

Fintech company Cellulant raised $47 million in 2019 on its business of processing $350 million in payment transactions across 33 African countries.

In Nigeria, payment infrastructure company Interswitch has expanded across borders and is pursuing an IPO. And Nigerian payment gateway startups Paystack and Flutterwave have digitized volumes of B2B transactions while gaining global investment.

So why does Paga—a Nigerian payments company—believe it can expand its digital payments business abroad?

“Why not us?,” said CEO Oviosu. “People sit in California and listen to Spotify that was developed in Sweden. And Uber started somewhere before going to different countries and figuring out local markets,” he added.

“The team behind this business has worked globally for some of the top tech names. This platform can stand shoulder to shoulder with any payments company built somewhere else,” he said.

On that platform, Oviosu underscores it has positioned itself as a partner, not a rival, to traditional banks. “Our ecosystem is not built to compete with you, it’s actually complimentary to you,” he said of the company’s positioning to big banks—enabling Paga to partner with seven banks in Nigeria.

Paga also sees potential to adapt its model to other regulatory and consumer environments. “We’ve built an infrastructure that rides across all mobile networks,” said Oviosu. “We’re not trying to be a bank. Paga wants to work with the banks and financial institutions to enable a billion people to access and use money,” he said.

As part of the $10 million round (which brings Paga’s total funding up to $35 million), Global Innovation Partners will take a board seat. Other round participants include Goodwell, Adlevo Capital, Omidyar Network, and Unreasonable Capital.

Paga will use the Series B2 to grow its core development team of 25 engineers across countries and continents. It will also continue its due diligence on global expansion—though no hard dates have been announced.

On revenues, Paga makes money on merchant payments, bank to bank transfers, and selling airtime and data. “As we roll out other services, we will build a model where we will make money on savings and lending,” said the company’s CEO.

As for profitability, Paga does not release financials, but reached profitability in 2018, according to Oviosu—something that was confirmed in the due diligence process with round investors.

On the possibility of beating Interswitch (or another venerable startup) to become Africa’s first big tech IPO, Oviosu plays that down. “For the next 3-5 years I see us staying private,” he said.

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Chinese tech stocks tumble from more than just trade tensions

Posted by | alibaba group, Android, Asia, Baidu, China, e-commerce, economy, Europe, Google, martin lau, Naspers, pinduoduo, TC, technology, Tencent, United States, world wide web | No Comments

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on TechNode, an editorial partner of TechCrunch based in China.

Reports of trade tensions between China and the US in the past few months have been hard to ignore. In early July, the US imposed $34 billion on Chinese goods, prompting the Shenzhen Component Index, dominated by technology and consumer product stocks, to fall to its lowest point since 2014, igniting fears among investors.

“The U.S. tariffs, coupled with a falling yuan, will significantly increase the cost for many Chinese technology companies that rely on imported raw materials, such as semiconductors, integrated circuits, and electric components,” Zhang Xia, an analyst for China Merchants Bank Securities, told the South China Morning Post.

Additionally, the U.S. commerce department announced yesterday it will place an embargo on 44 Chinese companies—including the world’s largest surveillance equipment manufacturer Hikvision—for “acting contrary to the national interests or foreign policy of the United States.” The move caused the companies’ share prices to fall by nearly six percent.

However, the focus has shifted to more than just the trade war. And a number of big Chinese tech companies have seen their share prices plummet for other reasons.

Pinduoduo, China’s latest e-commerce giant to list on the Nasdaq, found that an initial public offering (IPO) is not a panacea. Conversely, its listing has drawn attention to the company’s counterfeit products. And investors are not happy.

Tencent’s shares have nosedived by over 25 percent since its peak in January, erasing $143 billion in market value over the past seven months.

Search giant Baidu also hasn’t been immune. The company’s stock price dropped by nearly 8 percent this week following news that Google plans to re-enter the Chinese market.

Government crackdowns

While IPOs are usually a cause for celebration, Pinduoduo has proven this past week they can also be bad for business. The company—which has integrated e-commerce and social media—caters to low-income consumers living outside first and second-tier cities. It has been plagued by accusations of facilitating the sale of counterfeit low-quality goods.

Just days after going public, its share price tumbled by 16 percent, falling below its offer price of $19. The drop was, in part, initiated by requests made by television maker Skyworth to remove counterfeit listings of its products from the e-commerce firm’s marketplace.

The company announced (in Chinese) this week that it had removed 10.7 million listings of problematic goods. However, this did little to assuage concerns from investors and regulators after the latter launched an inquiry into Pinduoduo’s product listings. Its stock price dropped to 30 percent below its closing price on its first day of trading, wiping out over $9 billion in value.

This is unlikely to be helped by the fact that seven U.S. law firms have launched investigations into the company on behalf of its investors. The statement issued by the firms shows that investors suffered financial losses after Chinese regulators began looking into the company’s dealings. The company met today with regulators and agreed to improve its products’ vetting procedures.

However, it’s not only e-commerce platforms that have been affected. Video streaming service Bilibili has seen its stock price drop by almost 21 percent since July 20. The decline comes amid renewed efforts led by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) to crack down on what it deems to be “vulgar” or “inappropriate” content.

The company has subsequently had its app removed from app stores in the country for one month. Nasdaq-listed Bilibili responded by saying it is “in deep self-review and reflection.”

Screenshot of the drop in Bilibili’s stock price. Accessed August 3, 2018

Rumored competition

Baidu, which runs China’s biggest search engine, found that even unconfirmed competition can cause stocks to tumble. In a move which could mark its re-entry into the Chinese market, news broke this week that Google has plans to launch an Android app that could provide filtered results to users in China.

Baidu currently commands nearly 70 percent of China’s search market. Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 over censorship concerns, giving up access to a vast market. China’s online population now exceeds 770 million, double the entire populace of the U.S. and more than that of Europe.

Baidu’s income is still highly dependant on ad revenue, which increased by 25 percent in the second quarter. Google’s return is clearly seen as a threat, causing Baidu’s stock price to fall from $247.18 on July 31 to $226.83 on August 2. This marks the most significant fall since the company announced the departure of its chief operating officer Lu Qi in May.

Steady decline

Nonetheless, all these losses seem insignificant in comparison to Tencent’s. The company saw its stock price increase by 114 percent in 2017, reaching a record high in January 2018. However, since then, the price has dropped by nearly $130 per share, eviscerating a considerable portion of its market value. In July alone, its stock price fell by 9.9 percent. The company’s devaluation tops Facebook’s $130 billion rout following its earnings call last month.

In April, the company lost over $20 billion in value after South African investment and media firm Naspers — an early and loyal backer — announced it was trimming its stake by two percent. Additionally, Martin Lau, the company’s president, sold one million of his shares in the company. This, added to the Naspers sale and warnings of margin pressure, led to a loss of $51 billion in market value.

“Investors are increasingly pricing in lower expectations for Tencent’s interim results,” Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg.

Yip expects the downward trend to continue, and not just for Tencent. “Overall, tech companies are facing a similar problem. They have been enjoying fast profit growth in the past few years, so it will be difficult for them to maintain similar growth in the future as the competition grows and some segments are saturated,” he said.

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Kik launches beta product after $100 million ICO

Posted by | Android, Apps, blockchains, cryptocurrencies, distributed computing, e-commerce, ethereum, Kik, kin, Startups, TC | No Comments

Kik made waves last year after a successful $100 million ICO. Now the company has released its first beta product related to its Kin token. Called Kinit, it’s a simple wallet that enables users to earn, store, and spend its tokens.

“Kinit is a fun, easy way to earn Kin, a new cryptocurrency made for your digital life. Earning Kin is just like playing a game, only better, because you get rewarded for completing fun daily activities like surveys, quizzes, interactive videos and more,” reads the Google Play Store description. You can download the app for Android here.

The Kin token is unique for a few reasons. First it is not a traditional ERC-20 token and is instead uses Ethereum for liquidity and the on the Stellar network to improve transaction speed. Further, the company is spending a great deal – about $3 million – to get developers to develop on the token through its KinEcosystem site. The Kinit app is the first effort to get normal users to adopt the tool.

The app makes it possible for users to generate a few dollars in value per day and then exchange those dollars for gift cards and perks. According to CCN, Kik has created a product without a business model and instead it wants to drive the adoption of the token through giveaways.

“Kinit is the first publicly available app dedicated to Kin. Our goal with Kinit is to get Kin into more consumers’ hands. It’s a major step towards making crypto truly consumer-friendly through fun and engaging experiences, and we plan to learn and iterate based on real-world user behavior. We’re excited to get even more people earning and spending Kin — all on the Kin Blockchain,” wrote Rod McLeod, Kik’s VP of communications. The app currently asks you to complete surveys in order to get discounts and gift card codes for products.

With the rise of the product-less ICO it’s clear that Kik has the right idea. By encouraging usage they drive up the token price and token velocity and by launching a general beta full of cutesy imagery and text they are able to avoid the hard questions about developer adoption until far into the future. While the KinIt app is probably not what most Kin holders wanted to see, it’s at least an interim solution while the team builds out sturdier systems.

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Razer doubles down on Southeast Asia and payments with acquisition of MOL

Posted by | Asia, e-commerce, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, Min-Liang Tan, mol, payments, Razer, Singapore | No Comments

Gaming hardware maker Razer, which went public in a big IPO in Hong Kong last year, is doubling down on payments after it announced a deal to acquire MOL, a company that offers online and offline payments in Southeast Asia.

Razer made an initial $20 million investment in MOL last June to supercharge its zGold virtual credit program for gamers by allowing them to buy using MOL’s online service or its offline, over-the-counter network of retailers that includes 7-Eleven. Now Razer aims to gobble up MOL in full by acquiring the remaining 65 percent, which will allow it to grow its alternative revenue streams by pushing fully into payment services by merging MOL’s virtual payment platform with zGold.

It’s worth noting that the deal is an intention to buy MOL. It’ll be subject to review from shareholders, but Razer said it has already secured support from major shareholders. The transaction gives MOL, which delisted from the Nasdaq in 2016 following a bumpy two-year spell, the same $100 million valuation it held for the initial Razer investment.

The acquisition will boost Razer’s recently announced online games store, which rivals services like Steam, but first and foremost it is focused on growing the firm’s share of online sales in Southeast Asia’s growing e-commerce and payment space. To that end, Razer recently launched a store on Lazada, the Alibaba-owned e-commerce service in Southeast Asia, something that Apple did earlier this year.

“We are already the No. 1 gaming brand in the U.S., Europe and China, but Southeast Asia is still nascent and a very small part of our business,” Razer CEO and co-founder Min-Liang Tan told TechCrunch in an interview. “We see this [deal with MOL] as stuff we can do immediately.”

Tan said that, in particular, working with MOL saw revenue grow “dramatically” while MOL itself surpassed $1.1 billion in GMV across its payment network last year.

“This is the perfect opportunity for us to not just be a minority shareholder, but to combine the business and continue scaling from here,” he added, reiterating that he believes the deal gives Razer the world’s largest virtual credit system for gamers based on user registrations. “That’s a huge opportunity for us.”

Away from its core business, the push will also help Razer in Singapore where it has applied to develop a unified e-payment system that would be used across the country, which is the Razer CEO home nation.

Tan said he has kept an ongoing dialogue with regulators, adding that he believes this deal “makes it clear that we don’t just have the scale, we also have the right technology.”

Beyond the Singapore opportunity, where Razer is a new entrant and thus considered an outsider for the license, Tan said the focus is on enabling cash-less payments right across Southeast Asia.

The blockchain has been widely touted as a building block that can help develop financial inclusion platforms in emerging markets, but for now Razer isn’t talking about whether it will hop on that wagon.

“We are excited about blockchain and the technology it brings, but we don’t have anything to comment on at this juncture,” Tan said.

The Razer chief was more vocal on the company’s wider goal, which he said is to develop “an entire ecosystem for our games partners.” The goal is to offset Razer’s impressive hardware sales business by constructing services that span game payments, game distribution and analytics on gamers and their behavior.

That optimism isn’t shared right now by investors in Hong Kong, however, which lured Razer as part of a push to attract more tech listings. Despite a surge when it when public in November, the stock traded at an all-time low of HK$2.44 today, down from its initial list price of HK$3.88.

Tan said he is focused on growing the business and its services regardless, but he did admit there’s a need for “the Hong Kong investment public to be more educated on tech companies.”

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eBay’s mobile app can now fill out your listings for you

Posted by | Apps, e-commerce, eBay, eCommerce, Mobile, shopping | No Comments

Ebay is rolling out an app update designed to make it easier to list items for sale on its online marketplace. Instead of filling out detailed forms on your mobile phone’s small screen, you can now scan the barcode on the item in question or type a description, choose the item’s condition, then click “list your item” to make the listing go live on eBay’s site.

After scanning or entering the description, eBay’s app will do a one-to-one match to its catalog to help to fill in the necessary information for that product. It will also offer sellers a pre-populated stock photo, eBay’s price recommendation and its shipping recommendations,

The change is meant to reduce to a matter of seconds the number of steps it takes to list. And if the process is less cumbersome, eBay hopes more people will choose to sell on eBay as opposed to the growing number of resale apps like OfferUp or LetGo, which are currently ranking higher than eBay on Apple’s App Store.

Facebook’s Marketplace has also likely had some impact on eBay’s sales, especially in terms of local sales.

Despite the increased competition, eBay is still seeing more than 13.4 million listings added to its site every week from the eBay mobile app alone.

The app’s newfound ability to quickly list the item uses technology like structured data and predictive analytics to pre-populate listings with the information required, instead of relying on sellers to type it in themselves.

This use of technology is something the company believes is a competitive advantage over newcomers to the space, in addition to its ability to provide access to millions of shoppers around the world.

“At eBay, we’re dedicated to delivering a seamless and efficient selling experience for both first-time and seasoned sellers alike,” says Kelly Vincent, eBay’s VP of Consumer Selling Product & Engineering, in a statement about the app’s revamp.

“This latest update continues to leverage eBay’s structured data, which helps catalogue the 1.1+ billion items on the platform, to instantaneously populate product details, pricing and shipping information in the listing flow. Not only does the catalogue facilitate a superior listing experience, it enables buyers to easily find the great deals offered by our sellers,” she added.

Vincent also noted that eBay’s use of structured data and other new technology will make its way to other products and features this year, but didn’t say what those may be. However, the focus for now seems to be enabling sellers.

Ebay’s updated app with the barcode scanning feature for listings is rolling out now on both iOS and Android.

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GoPro launches TradeUp program to swap old cameras for discounts

Posted by | 3D imaging, Best-Buy, Camcorders, Camera technology, Digital Camera, e-commerce, eBay, Gadgets, GoPro, smartphone, Software, Xiaomi | No Comments

GoPro is willing to take that old digital camera stuffed in your junk drawer even if it’s not a GoPro. Through a program called TradeUp, the camera company will discount the GoPro H6 Black $50 and Fusion $100 when buyers trade-in any digital camera. The company tried this last year for 60 days, but as of right now, GoPro is saying this offer does not expire.

This offer works with any digital camera, including old GoPros. It clearly addresses something we noticed years ago — there’s often little reason to buy a new GoPro because their past products were so good.

GoPro tried this in 2017 for 60 days and says 12,000 customers took advantage of the program.

The service is reminiscent of what wireless carries do to encourage smartphone owners to buy new phones. It’s a clever solution, though other options could net more money. Users could sell their camera on eBay or use other trade-in programs. Best Buy lets buyers trade-in old cameras, too, and currently gives $60 for a GoPro Hero3+ Black and $55 for a HD Hero 960.

GoPro is in a tough position, and this is clearly a plan to spur sales. The company’s stock is trading around an all-time low after a brief upswing following a report that Chinese electronic maker Xiaomi was considering buying the company. The company also recently started licensing its camera technology and trimmed its product line, while introducing a new, $200 camera.

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Wayfair’s Android app now lets you shop for furniture using augmented reality

Posted by | Apps, AR, augmented reality, e-commerce, eCommerce, furniture, Mobile, online shopping, retail, shopping, Wayfair | No Comments

AR-enabled shopping is expanding again today. This time, online furniture retailer Wayfair is introducing an augmented reality feature in its mobile app for Android that will allow customers to visualize furniture in their own home ahead of purchase, just by holding up their smartphone.

The feature, called “View in Room 3D,” was previously available on iOS, leveraging Apple’s AR platform ARKit.

Now, Wayfair is taking advantage of Google’s ARCore to offer the same option to Android users.

ARCore, Google’s answer to Apple’s AR platform, was publicly released last month, giving developers a way to integrate AR technology into their Android applications, where they can reach a potential audience of over 100 million Android devices.

Wayfair is not the only shopping site to quickly roll out ARCore support now that it’s available – eBay yesterday launched a feature for sellers that helps them find the right shipping box using AR technology, and promised other AR-enabled features this year. IKEA also just released an Android version of its AR app IKEA Place this week.

Other retailers have been experimenting with AR, as well, including Amazon and Target.

Retailers’ interest in AR is not just because it’s new and trendy – it can help them address the real issue that online shoppers face, when trying to buy furniture from a website, instead of in person.

It’s often difficult for non-designers to really get a sense of what a piece of furniture will look like when placed in the room. Will the new sofa go well with the existing curtains, carpet, and other furniture? Will it fit in the space?

Wayfair’s app helps with those questions, as it projects the furniture or décor in 3D at full-scale, and anchors them to the floor. This lets shoppers see if the object in question fits in the room – without needing to break out their measuring tape. It also helps them get a visual sense of what the room will look like with the new furniture added.

And because the image is in 3D, you can walk around it to see it from different sides – which also helps with consumers’ buying decisions.

“Leveraging augmented reality, the Wayfair app allows shoppers to transform their homes into virtual showrooms, allowing them to see their favorite products up close and at every angle – all in their very own space,” said Steve Conine, co-founder and co-chairman, Wayfair, in statement about the AR feature’s release.

“We knew early on that augmented reality had the potential to completely transform the way people shop for their homes, and as it’s quickly moved toward mainstream adoption, we’re excited to have played an integral role in shaping the experience for millions of shoppers,” he added.

Furniture has been one of the more difficult businesses to transition online, not only because of shipping costs for heavy items, but also because consumers still often want to see the products in real life. They want to touch the fabric, try out a chair’s cushions for comfort, and see the true colors – not just an online photo.

But things are changing, as more commerce shifts online – the channel that’s prefered by millennial shoppers, who are now the largest demographic (37%) of the furniture-buying market.

Wayfair is one of the companies capitalizing on this shift, to the tune of $4.7 billion in net revenue in 2017.

And with the elimination of the furniture showroom, it’s also been quick to jump on new technologies to help its customers better shop, including web-based clipboardsvisual search, mobile messaging, and now, AR – all which give it a competitive advantage versus traditional retailers with more static sites.

The company also recently updated the AR feature in the iOS app that lets customers now record a video of the item in AR, instead of just taking a photo. This feature has a Snapchat-like feel, as you just press and hold the record button to make the recording. You can then walk around the furniture in the video, in order to capture it in 3D then share with friends and family.

This feature will arrive in the Android version soon, we understand.

In the meantime, the Wayfair app for Android is available here.

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