EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 3166 - October 03, 2013     3 of 3

Staples and Walmart Chase Amazon in Ecommerce Space

By David A. Utter

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Billions of dollars in annual ecommerce sales has the biggest names in retail searching for a greater slice of that revenue. While Amazon holds sway at the top online retailer, brick and mortar stalwarts like business supply chain Staples as well as global retail giant Walmart want very much to grab some of Amazon's share of ecommerce sales.

Staples announced they have acquired a San Mateo, CA based software firm called Runa. Though terms and conditions haven't been disclosed, Runa is known to have been developing software with a focus on personalizing online shopping.

When it comes to competing with Amazon, Staples has found something of a kindred spirit in Runa. Last October, Runa asked if Amazon was friend or enemy, as Runa touted its products that offered clients a way to do the things Amazon does with big data:

  • PerfectOffer is superior to Amazon's Dynamic Pricing. We do this by personalizing pricing at an individual shopper session level - and offering it by not changing the list price, but offering a perfect deal. As you know, customers love deals. We give offers that are personalized, have a higher perceived value, and are presented in the current session.

  • Perfect Shipping is better than Amazon's Prime because it allows you to offer 2 day shipping on a personalized basis, at no extra cost to you and not requiring an annual subscription! Currently, our Perfect Shipping engine powers eBay Fast n' Free, to tremendous success. Compete with Amazon on their Shipping.

  • Perfect Bundle is your answer to Amazon's recommendations. In addition to proving recommendations like "Frequently Bought Together", we provide a personalized deal price if the bundle is bought together - something Amazon doesn't do!

"Staples is continuing to invest in e-commerce capabilities, creating a highly personalized shopping experience and building on its online leadership," the company said in a statement where they too noted how Runa's products will benefit Staples customers (minus the Amazon references of course.)

Staples is following where Walmart recently tread, when it comes to personalization. Earlier in 2013, Walmart acquired Inkiru, a predictive analytics firm, for its Walmart Labs division of Walmart Global eCommerce. Among Inkiru's likely uses for Walmart - site personalization.

Walmart's ecommerce work has been largely under the surface, where infrastructure developments continue to progress. The latest move comes in the form of a pair of new fulfillment centers, just announced by the company.

The two facilities, located in Fort Worth, Texas and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, will be dedicated to fulfilling online orders. Walmart holds a rosy outlook on ecommerce, noting that over 5 million products will be available through its website during the upcoming holiday season; the company also anticipates its global ecommerce sales to top $10 billion this fiscal year.

Technology acquisitions and infrastructure work aren't the only areas where the two companies will push Amazon. Back in September, Staples and Radio Shack ended deals with Amazon to host delivery lockers in their stores. Apparently customers weren't buying additional items in-store in sufficient numbers when stopping by to pick up deliveries from the Amazon lockers.


About the author:

David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. Send your tips to media@davidautter.com and find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.


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