Online retail news in brief (1 August 2018)


In case you missed them, we’ve pulled together a few online retail news highlights from around the web this week.

Here are some of the latest stories in online retail.


Amazon posts record $2.5bn profit

The online retail giant has grown in stature once more, after posting a record profit of $2.5bn in Q2 of 2018.

The result is double analyst expectations, and Amazon have strong performances by its non-retail divisions (both advertising and cloud-computing) to thank, although the inclusion of a record-breaking Prime Day in the second quarter also contributed to the profit margin.

With Amazon’s stock price having increased by 50% since the start of the year, and their year-on-year profit a phenomenal 1,286% increase on the second quarter of 2017, they are reportedly firmly in the running to be the world’s first trillion-dollar company (which Apple are also vying for).

Consumer confidence falls in July

Warm weather and a tantalising World Cup weren’t enough to placate customer attitudes towards the state of retail, it would seem, as UK consumer confidence dropped by one point to -10 in July (although online retail sales growth was strong once again in June).

This is according to GfK’s consumer confidence index, which has been at, or below, zero since February 2016. This is owing to a nebulous economic forecast, as well as doubts about personal financial security.

With confidence dipping in a month steeped in national pride and inspiriting weather, the outlook is bleak for the coming months, as the political climate hints at becoming overcast.

Joe Staton, Client Strategy Director, GfK: ‘In the medium-term and during the uncertainty in the run-up to the UK leaving the EU in eight months, it is hard to forecast what kind of good news will change the numbers from negative to positive, or indeed where such good news would originate.’

UK shoppers ‘prefer to shop online rather than in-store’

More than half of UK shoppers (51%) now prefer to take to the internet to conduct their retail affairs, according to new research from EmpathyBroker.

More than 3,000 adults in the UK and Spain were surveyed, which found that the average person shops online six times per month, with 25-34-year-olds being the most prolific of these.

Further to this, 2 in 5 people were found to make an unexpected purchase when browsing online.

Angel Maldonado, Founder of EmpathyBroker: ‘As we see more and more consumers going online, and more frequently, this presents a great opportunity for ecommerce retailers, but it also means more than ever they need to get the digital experience right.’

82% of customers want to view and feel products in-store before purchasing online

The vast majority of shoppers want to be able to physically interact with products before purchasing online, according to a new study by PushON.

In a testament rebutting the obsolescence of bricks-and-mortar, 82% of people surveyed want to ‘view-and-touch’ potential purchases before committing to payment, with 45% saying they need to feel reassured about the product they are buying.

Sam Rutley, Managing Director, PushON: ‘It’s clear from our research that in order for shoppers to part with their money online, they must receive the same level of reassurance that they would in a brick-and-mortar store.’

M&S sets up data academy to turn staff into data scientists

Marks & Spencer are launching a new initiative to train more than 1,000 staff in modern technologies.

The programme, which is fully funded by the government’s billion-pound Apprenticeship Levy, will educate staff on machine learning, artificial intelligence, and programming languages such as R and Python.

The opt-in, 18-month course is a step towards the retailer’s intention to establish ‘the most data-literate leadership team in retail’. Upon completion of the programme, participants will receive a data analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society.

Steve Rowe, CEO, Marks & Spencer: ‘This is our biggest digital investment in our people to date and the creation of the M&S Data Academy will upskill colleagues and provide them with an in-depth level of digital literacy as well as a Data Analytics qualification. Transformation of our business is key to survival and a huge part of this lies with our colleagues. We need to change our digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age and our partnership with Decoded will enable us to do this.’

Japan's Iga city 'does not need ninjas' after reports it was hiring

Ninjas-in-waiting around the world had their dreams quashed this week, after it was revealed that the birthplace of ninja-dom wasn’t hiring highly-trained assassins at this point in time.

A misinterpreted report from the US news outlet NPR caused a flurry of activity in dark shadows all over the world, as 115 ninja hopefuls from 23 countries applied to the position after reading that Iga was facing a shortage. Further to this, proficient assassins were quoted as having the chance to make a healthy salary of up to $85,000 a year.

Iga have publicly disclaimed the message, while insisting the village is worth visiting for its heritage. And for the 115 lethal killers who so brashly had their CVs batted away, it’s back to the job hunt.

Ninjas on rooftop

A saturated industry

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