Online retail news in brief (11 July 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.


New West End Company proposes new online retail tax

The New West End Company (NWEC), which represents 600 retailers across London’s West End, has issued a proposal to bridge the gap between high street and online commerce: taxation of online businesses.

The scheme was announced on 6th July as a potential solution to the ongoing high street crisis. According to NWEC, the 1% tax on online business revenues could raise £5bn each year, at no extra cost to the Treasury.

Sir Peter Rogers, Chairman of New West End Company: ‘The current structure of business rates, whereby they are linked to the value of occupied property, not economic performance, provides online retailers with an unfair advantage and a 90% rate discount in an already struggling bricks and mortar retail environment.’

The plan has not been fondly received. IMRG’s Strategy and Insight Director, Andy Mulcahy, believes the shift in the high street to be founded in social and technological thinking, rather than a monetary issue. According to Mulcahy, the tax is an obtuse sidestepping of the elephant in the room.

Tweet from Andy Mulcahy

eBay to offer thousands of exclusive deals on July 17th

Amazon Prime Day is no longer a standalone affair in the retail sphere, as eBay is launching their own day of summer deals this year. And the gauntlet on the floor as tangible: eBay’s day of deals is snapping at Amazon’s heels by arriving one day after Prime Day on 16th.

According to their website, eBay’s summer deals will feature discounts of up to 80% off new products spanning the breadth of the retail sector. And while Amazon’s Prime Day is exclusive to their members, eBay is touting theirs by needing no sign-up whatsoever.

And a further move in this chess match of titans: in assuring its cheap nature, eBay have promised to pay 110% of the difference of products if customers manage to find items cheaper on competitors’ sites.

And that’s not the only thing eBay are in the news for

A new painter on the canvas of technology, eBay have launched an Image Search innovation in the UK.

The software allows a customer to search for products by entering a photo into the search bar. A picture taken with a smartphone camera can be copied onto the site, and eBay’s AI will do the rest: scouring the sites 1.1bn items for resemblances.

While the tech is still in its initial phase, it is thought that as more customers upload pictures to the site, the aggregation of image searches will provide accurate refinement and richer results.

Rob Hattrell, eBay UK Vice President: ‘Moments of shopping inspiration can come at any time, whether you’re walking down the street or browsing your social media feed. At eBay, we’re focused on creating new complementary technology that helps our millions of customers. Whether this is helping buyers to easily find the things they love at the best value, or by surfacing relevant inventory from sellers on the platform in a new and engaging way.’

Argos to launch LEGO models in augmented reality

The digital age is astir this week, as Argos has launched the option to view fully-made LEGO models in augmented reality (AR) before a purchase.

Part of Argos’s iOS app, the move will enable customers to see a full-scale, animated version of a LEGO set in their homes. They will be able to zoom in and out at their leisure, as well as walk around the model. Argos hopes to have 100 AR-compatible LEGO sets on their site by the end of July.

Nichola Cox, Retail eCommerce Manager, LEGO Group: ‘We are incredibly excited to have partnered with Sainsbury’s Group to deliver this innovative, exciting, fun and immersing solution for Argos’s shoppers.  Our augmented reality execution not only embraces Argos’s digital vision, but helps inspire and develop the LEGO builders of tomorrow, making it a formidable collaboration.’

EU regulations to spur on biometric payments

Next September signals a tectonic transition in how payments are made. The traditional password-entry authentication is being replaced by Strong Customer Authentication (SCA), which Mastercard have stated will lead to a significant increase in the use of biometric technology.

The EU regulations plan to boost payment security, by implementing a two-step authentication programme based on two of three factors: something you know (a password), something you have (a phone or card), or something you are (a fingerprint).

With this latter factor, Mastercard are expecting a surge in biometric authentication, owing to its ease and security.

Ajay Bhalla, President of Global Enterprise Risk and Security, Mastercard: ‘In payments technology this is something we’re closing in on as we move from cash to card, password to thumbprint, and beyond to innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence – it’s far easier to authenticate with a thumbprint or a selfie, and it’s safer too.’

UK consumers still in the dark on AI

Perhaps a dampener on the flourishing technological advancement in the retail space, only a quarter of UK customers signalled a familiarity with AI in a recent survey from RichRelevance.

Of these, a further 32% claimed they were unwilling to share personal data with retailers in order to improve their shopping experience, potentially as a result of being unsure what it would be used for.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, recent technological surges, such as using fingerprints for payments and interactive mirrors, experienced a decline in popularity compared to 2017. However, bucking the trend, upcoming innovations such as voice search and virtual reality gained an enormous interest, up 46% and 40.5% respectively.

Henrik Nambord, Vice President for EMEA Sales, RichRelevance: ‘It is clear that consumers still do not fully understand AI. As such, not only do retailers need to be transparent about how they use AI, but also emphasise its benefits – primarily its ability to make the customer shopping experience more memorable than ever before.’

UK economy grows by 0.3% in May

There is a thread of optimism to be found amongst the transitioning retail sector, however, as the UK’s economy grew by 0.3% in May.

The latest assessment from the Office for National Statistics puts the growth down to warm weather and the royal wedding.

While not being the hoped-for ‘bounce-back’ from the inclement weather in the first quarter, it is nevertheless a positive rise.

Ian Stewart, Chief Economist, Deloitte: ‘The long-awaited bounce-back from a weak first quarter has failed to materialise, with the rolling three-month growth rate unchanged into May. The fact that first-half growth is set to be below trend hardly makes a compelling case for an August rate rise.’

Man pays parking ticket 44 years late

A lifelong experiment in guilt ended this week after the solo participant, Dave, couldn’t take the price on his head anymore, and absolved his sins.

A letter arrived this week at the police department in Minersville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, which held the payment for a parking fine which was 44 years old. The fine, a nominal $2, was paid in full, and with interest, as a $5 note was found enclosed.

Purportedly hailing from ‘Feeling Guilty’ in ‘Anytown’, Dave apologised for the misdemeanour and shrewdly withheld his address. This turned out to be an obsolete action, however, as Police Chief Michael Combs was singularly dumbfounded, and only wants to meet the man who would engage in such an unavailing act of self-absolution.

Note from Dave

Epitome of guilt

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