With the Arrival of Twitter’s ‘Buy’ Button, Is It Time to Move Into Social Commerce?

Sales on Mobile Are Booming, So It's Time to Think Small Screen First

Twitter now joins other companies like Facebook that are trying to prove that a return on investment can be achieved through social commerce.

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Why Entrepreneurs Should Listen to Alibaba’s Jack Ma

The two options for Internet startups, all entrepreneurs know, have long been B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business). But in his speech at Softbank World 2014, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s self-made founder and CEO, declared open the era of C2B, or consumer to business, an era in which customers will soon completely dictate to companies what they need and only companies that accommodate them will thrive.

Ma’s notion is so on-target that it would be worth heeding even if his company wasn’t launching a record-breaking IPO. Currently, seven major trends back his paradigm-shifting vision.

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Bigbasket gets $32 million funding ahead of India’s online grocery shopping boom

Bigbasket-gets-32-million-funding-ahead-of-Indias-online-grocery-shopping-boom

India’s ecommerce boom is at high velocity, but the nation’s online groceries sector has been a lot slower to take off. But today’s US$32 million funding round for Bigbasket seems to indicate that this niche area is now gaining traction.

Bigbasket’s series B round comes from Helion Ventures and Zodius Capital, reports NextBigWhat. It comes a surprising two-and-a-half years after the startup’s US$10 million round.

Bigbasket currently operates in three Indian cities – Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. The new VC money will be used to expand its reach to 10 cities by the end of next year, says CEO VS Sudhakar. The online grocer is handling 5,000 orders per day at present.

The startup is up against local rivals such as Zopnow and Ekstop. However, Zopnow only covers Bangalore, while Ekstop is restricted to Mumbai.

All these startups will get a shock soon when local retail giant Reliance starts its long-anticipated ecommerce business.

-Courtesy: Techinasia

Before $100 Million Raise, Square Was In Talks With Apple

According to a filing obtained by VCExperts, Square has raised another $100 million in capital. The company authorized 6.4 million Series E shares, according to the document, at a per-share price of $15.46.

Square is incredibly well capitalized. The company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars, has a nine-figure credit line and, now, a fresh $100 million traunch to use.

The company lost around $100 million in 2013, and it isn’t clear how much cash the firm had on hand before the new capital injection. Square was reported to have $155 million in cash at the end of 2013, a figure that was recorded, of course, before its debt event that took place earlier this year.

Square declined to comment on how it intended to use its new funds, specifically whether the monies were earmarked for acquisitions, or operational expenses.

The new share price values Square at $6 billion, up from its recent $5 billion valuation that was set during a secondary offering of its shares earlier this year. As TechCrunch reported at that time, Square’s valuation has grown as its payment volume has increased. As time has passed, Square’s valuation has fallen behind its payment processing rate: In June of 2011, Square was processing payments at a rate of around $1.46 billion per annum. Its valuation was $1.6 billion. Recently, Square was expected to process $30 billion in calendar 2014 while being valued at $5 billion.

In recent months Square has shown an appetite for acquisitions. The company recentlypulled the trigger on a $90 million deal to buy Caviar, a food delivery service. The deal was executed with Square stock. Square could be linking up new cash to help it lock down other purchases. The company’s core business, processing credit card payments, has difficult margins, and increasing competition. Square wants to diversify its revenue supply.

Presuming that Square doesn’t need the $100 million to eat, it could deploy the funds across several purchases that would also include a stock component. Equity is great, but the short-term allure of cash is impossible to deny.

Separately, TechCrunch has heard from multiple sources that Square and Apple were recently in acquisition talks, but that Square walked away. Apple wanted the company to come aboard, according to one source, but the discussed price was a sticking point: The tipster held that Apple wanted to buy Square for less than half of the $6 billion valuation it eventually would raise at (around $3 billion). Square, valued at the time at a firm 66 percent delta to that price point, declined to accept.

Apple also showed Square a software register, restaurant and spa booking services and a payment system for iPhones said the same source. This did not sit well with Square execs, who felt like the products would compete with their own offerings.

Apple recently announced Apple Pay, a way to execute in-person payments with your phone.

Square has long been rumored to be heading for an IPO. That offering hasn’t happened due to, it’s usually said, revenue growth concerns at Square, and the same adverse market conditions that have sidelined other offerings.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Donde Aims To Make Online Product Search Far Less Frustrating

Today’s audience choice for TC’s startup battlefield — plucked from the packed exhibition floor of Silicon Alley to pitch on the Disrupt SF 2014 main stage — is Donde, a Silicon Valley and Israel based ecommerce startup that wants to make it easier for shoppers to search for items based on how they look.

Co-founder Liat Zakay said the idea was sparked by the frustration of searching online for very specific items. “This experience is very, very difficult and frustrating, [I was] spending a lot of time,” she told TechCrunch. “It was clear to me that everything is going online it’s only a matter of time that a very quick and easy solution will be there. This is why I started working on Donde.”

“This technology… creates a very unique way to fetch a specific item — we created an engine that analyses items and finds the right questions to ask the user for her to create a seamless and delightful experience when she has an intent to buy,” she added.

The initial focus for Donde’s visual search app is clothes — and even more specifically dresses — but Zakay says its technology can be applied to any type of item that can be visually distinguished. So the plan is to expand the business to other product categories in time, once the UX has been fine tuned.

Donde is currently launched in private beta as an iOS app — which went live about two months ago — with hundreds of thousands of dresses in its inventory and an initial group of user testers at the University of Southern California.

The app works by letting users select what color of dress they’re looking then stepping them through a series of questions about other aspects of the dress — such as what its sleeves look like, or the shape of the hemline. These choices are displayed visually, with graphics that display silhouettes of the shapes/styles to choose from.

As the shopper selects each style point the search narrows and the app continues to refine the actual items it displays below these icons — which are being pulled in from clothes’ retailers’ websites. Users can then click on an item and hit a ‘buy’ button to purchase a dress they like the look of.

 

“Our technology is crawling the websites of brands and retailers and we extract the unique features of the items — either from the image or the description. We create a unique tool that does it. And then we create an ontology, a common language of all the brands, because a certain feature [in the products of one brand] is not the same as another — [for example] the red of H&M is not the same as Zara,” said Zakay.

Visual search makes plenty of sense if you’re looking for an item of clothing of a specific shape or style — say a dark green backless dress with an asymmetrical hem, three-quarter length sleeves and a peplum. Searching for such an item by chaining words together is a pretty clumsy option, and can also require specialist vocabulary to describe exactly what you mean. So it’s a hit and miss process, and often a time-sink. Donde aims to fix that.

We have had a visual retail search startup (Asap54) in TC battlefield before, back in October last year at Disrupt Europe. But Asap54’s focus was on taking photos and building a tech that could locate similar items. Donde’s interface does not require the user to have a photo to begin their search. Its system is better described as a quasi-‘build your own dress’ interface — matching whatever the user constructs with real-world  items they can actually buy.

The tech underpinning Donde also factors in contextual information such as the user’s age and location as it makes decisions about the type of dresses to present to them as potential purchases. So, in other words, a teenager in Alabama is not going to be shown the same dresses as a 40-something woman in New York. It’s tailored product search that aims to be a whole lot smarter.

Inspiration for the questions based interface came from the ‘twenty questions’ game whereby players try to guess the identity of a famous person based on asking about specific attributes, according to Zakay. “We thought of why not taking that to the product world, where I need to find a product and I know what I’m looking for,” she said.

“I would need just a computer that would ask me the right questions and would lead me in seconds to finding it, using artificial intelligence of the contextual information — who you are, what’s your location, what’s your environment.”

  • Donde’s current business model is based on taking a commission on any affiliate sales generated by the app — it’s not processing payments itself but rather using retailer APIs — but Zakay sees potential to build a data driven business in addition to a commissions revenue stream, based on the real-time trends data the app could generate.

    “We’re already are building and developing the tools for you to see in a certain spot what people are searching for, which kind of products they are interested in, and analyzing it based on the characteristics of your products that would be very beneficial for the companies to get real-time information about what your customers want,” she added. “Also in predicting the designs and real-time inventory, what is more popular.”

    Donde was founded more than a year ago and has brought in a small round of angel funding thus far. The startup also spent four months in UpWest Labs, an accelerator for Israeli startups. It’s now looking to raise a seed round.

    The three co-founders have a background working in Israeli military intelligence, including Zakay who spent four years in an elite tech unit in the Israeli military. “We’ve developed a lot of computer, cyber-security projects and after I graduated in computer science and economics and started working on the earlier version of Donde,” she says. “I didn’t want to be boring like all of my unit and go into cyber security because this is too regular.”

    The team’s time in the Israeli army brought it into proximity with various data analysis tools — and that laid the groundwork for the technical foundation of Donde, adds Zakay.

    Donde’s dev team remains in Israel but the startup is incorporated in the U.S. and has established an office in Silicon Valley — with its focus being fully on the U.S. as its initial target market.

    Q&A

    Q: You guys built scrapers… how do you make sure that your product universe is relevant?
    A: Our tech tools are scraping the data a few times per day, making sure the info is updated. It’s really important for the shopping experience

    Q: Could you license the tech to existing platforms?
    A: Yes it’s definitely an option. We’re currently focusing on optimizing virality and user engagement but we’ll definitely build partnerships

    Q: What’s your business model?
    A: On every purchase we get a commission

    Q: Why is this viral or social?
    A: First of all this is intuitive mobile search for every visual product that has characteristics and sold online. We chose to start with fashion vertical because you can choose to share it with friends when you need advice; this is exactly what we’re doing right now

    Q: So far you have dresses?
    A: Right now it’s dresses but the tech is generic for every visual product and we’re working right now on expanding it to all the categories, brands

    Q: There’s some pretty good and big search companies out there, what’s the hardest thing you’re doing here?
    A: First we’re focusing on the mobile experience, second we’ve built a tech that creates a very intuitive way for people to search visual products. There are a lot of products trying to do image recognition by taking a product – we have a wider proposition. It doesn’t have to be in front of you to do it. We are very focused on our tech and the way we build it. It’s unique. Proprietary algorithm. The idea of the questions

    Q: You’re building taxonomies to understand different clothing types?
    A: We have hundreds of features we can ask about a product. It’s all the intuitive ways that people use to describe something. We use everything we can from the website and item description… and then we use our algorithm that analyses the user to decide the questions

    Q: How do you acquire users?
    A: We’ve successfully proved we’re viral within sororities. We’re still working on optimizing this. At a later stage we’ll focus on user acquisition

    Q: What’s the incentive not to serve the most expensive dress to the user?
    A: The most important thing here is to be an objective search engine, not biased on price or partnerships with different retailers. We can monetize in a lot of different ways.

     

    Courtesy: Techcrunch

    Alibaba could raise $21.1B in largest US IPO ever

    Alibaba could raise $21.1B in largest US IPO ever

    According to various press reports, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has set the range for its initial public offering: between $60 and $66 per share.

    Bloomberg calculates the company would raise as much as $21.1 billion at the high end of that range — which would make it the biggest U.S. IPO ever.

    The Wall Street Journal stated that the massive company would give its employees, investors, and insiders the option to purchase their own shares at the IPO price before it begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange this fall.

    Alibaba president Jack Ma, who will become a billionaire, at least on paper, will embark on a trip across select American cities to drum up hype before the launch. That odyssey will end September 18 in New York City, various press reports stated. Banking giant Barclay’s has been tasked by Alibaba to handle the IPO. Goldman Sachs will also help chaperone the offering.

    Alibaba’s IPO has been widely expected and anticipated and is being touted by the American and Chinese press as one of the biggest pending IPOs in history. For its part, Yahoo owns a 24 percent stake in Alibaba. The Economist last year valued the China-based Internet portal at between $55 billion all of the way up to $120 billion.

    -Courtesy: VentureBeat

    3 Innovations From Ecommerce Market Leaders Ready for You to Adopt

    How to Sharpen Your Team's Professionalism Without Dulling Creativity

    With versatile, yet exceedingly simple DIY ecommerce platforms available online, setting up and rolling out your own ecommerce store has never been easier. All-in-one retail platforms such as Prestashopare providing merchants a simple and cost effective way to create their ecommerce store and start selling online in no time.

    From humble beginnings in the mid-90’s, global ecommerce nowaccounts for $1.5 trillion in sales on an annual basis. Ecommerce companies show robust double digit growth with an average global growth rate pegged at about 20 percent year on year.

    However, not everyone has tasted the same level of success with ecommerce. According to various studies, nearly 90 percent of all ecommerce businesses bite the dust within no time of launching operations.

    Here we discuss four unconventional moves made by some of the best online retailers in the business to keep their customers happy and have them coming back over and over again to their sites.

    1. ‘Add to cart’ through social media.  Amazon, the global ecommerce leader, consistently garners a disproportionate share of users’ loyalty and spending. Its innovations, from one-click purchases to Amazon Prime to now Amazon Cart, keep this innovation machine from Seattle chugging full steam ahead.

    Amazon Cart is firmly in the realm of social commerce. Amazon now allows users to add items to their Amazon shopping list by simply replying to any Amazon product tweet and tagging it with the “#AmazonCart” hashtag. The item is automatically added to the user’s cart. The next time they log into Amazon, they waste no time hunting for the product that caught their eye on Twitter.

    This feature works by linking users’ Amazon account to their Twitter accounts, then proceeding with the backend fulfillment. This feature, launched in early May 2014, has gained a lot of interest with more than 157,000 tweets containing #AmazonCart sent out in under two weeks.

    2. Ship-to-store. Shipping costs are one of the nastiest aspects of online shopping. According to research by ComScore, nearly 61 percent of online shoppers “are at least somewhat likely” to cancel their online orders if free shipping is not offered.

    A good alternative is to eliminate shipping entirely. With exactly 50 percent of the top 10 retailers in the US having a brick-and-mortar presence, ship-to-store is an increasingly popular option that allows the user to browse and pay for an item from the convenience of their homes, then pick it up the same day (no wait times for shipping!) from their nearest store. Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and numerous other ‘brick and click’ ecommerce brands offer this option to users.

    Nordstrom pioneered this idea in 2008. They have seen an 8 percent growth in in-store sales and a 42 percent growth in revenues since then.

    3. Content-based ecommerce sites. Most ecommerce retailers take the beaten path of showcasing their products on their websites exactly how they would showcase them inside a real store. Trouble is, the way users behave online is very different from how they behave while shopping in traditional stores.

    For one thing, users don’t have the option of getting product reviews while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. Nor can they hop from one store to another in the same time that it takes an online shopper to switch from one browser tab to another for comparison shopping.

    Ecommerce sites like Net-a-porter and Joyus have caught on to this fundamental difference and offer a completely different online shopping experience to users. Both sites offer a content-driven approach to ecommerce. Instead of creating marketing content and promoting it on third party sites, they create lush, beautiful and useful content that users are drawn to automatically on their own websites.

    Net-a-porter has its original magazine styling for showcasing its products. It also offers videos and how-to guides to cater to more interactive tastes. It sells by recommending product ‘looks’ that would suit different types of users, instead of simply rattling off the price and manufacturer specifications and delivery details like most other ecommerce sites.

    Today, Net-a-porter is one of the largest luxury fashion retailers online in terms of sales, with operations across three continents and more than 3,000 employees.

    Ecommerce is a fertile field for innovations. The flexibility and speed-to-market allows you to test new ideas and strategies. The upside is a brand new revenue stream, while the downside is some lost time and effort, at worst.

    To get results that are different from everyone else, you need to do stuff that is different from the beaten path. Dare to be different. Dare to succeed with ecommerce.

    -Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

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