June 21, 2018 · Volume 18

Will Quill rewrite the rules for e-commerce?

No doubt in response to entreaties published in the Observer only months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court has reversed the ill-conceived Quill v. North Dakota precedent that prevented states from compelling merchants to collect sales tax on purchases made by its residents when they bought from out-of-state merchants [it’s more complicated than this, but I don’t think that most of the Observer’s readers are interested in the details].

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A weekly newsletter curated by our principal analyst, Ken Cassar, with analysis and commentary from Rakuten Intelligence.

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June 15, 2018 · Volume 17

What about brick and mortar private label brands?

The rise of private label (PL) online [or at least the threat of the rise of private label online] has been the subject of intense focus for the past two or so years. In the disposable razor blade category, we have seen Dollar Shave Club (DSC) and Harry’s scrap their way to positions of significant market share against far more established rivals.

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June 4, 2018 · Volume 16

Supreme court legalization of sports betting

During the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year, I had the epiphany that the NCAA men’s tourney was the perfect consumer engagement machine. Despite the fact that my beloved Huskies did not make the tournament, [they didn’t even make the NIT tournament, famously dubbed the ‘Not In Tournament’ by Celtic great Kevin McHale], I found myself watching the evening of the first Thursday of the tournament with the TV on, live brackets on an iPad, while throwing [very] clever barbs at friends scattered across the country via text message on my phone.

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May 31, 2018 · Volume 15

Kroger brings Ocado's high tech grocery business to the U.S.

Along with Pets.com, Webvan was among an ignominious group of online retailers that, in a rush to lock in share early in a channel that they believed was going to revolutionize retail, blew through investors’ money like rain down a sewer drain.

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May 16, 2018 · Volume 14

Amazon and Kohl's, friends with benefits?

'Business jujitsu' is a term that I find myself using pretty frequently these days, in reference to the contorted relationships that many businesses find themselves in with companies that have complementary assets, but also compete with each other.

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May 7, 2018 · Volume 13

A full assortment of online grocery insights

I'm excited to be heading back to Nashville again, this time for a presentation at the annual Category Management and Shopper Marketing conference [or CatMan, as we say in the biz]. We've worked up some new Slice research looking into changing trends in CPG shopping trips.

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April 23, 2018 · Volume 12

Has Best Buy let the fox into the henhouse?

Best Buy and Amazon announced an interesting [and complicated] deal last week wherein Best Buy agreed to carry smart TVs from Toshiba and Insignia (Best Buy's private label brand) loaded with Amazon's Fire TV operating system. The brands will be sold in its brick and mortar stores and exclusively in a Best Buy storefront on Amazon.com. Best Buy's Insignia smart TVs had been powered by Roku previously, and the news of this deal sent Roku's shares down 9 percent.

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April 16, 2018 · Volume 11

Adore Me's big store ambitions are a perfect fit for their model

Last week, Adore Me, the online seller of lingerie, announced that it would open seven to 10 stores this year, 20 stores next year, and up to 300 over the next five years. Victoria's Secret, the established brand that Adore Me hopes to disrupt [which, in the tech business means that Adore Me hopes to either kill or compel Victoria's Secret or a competitor to buy Adore Me at a silly dot-com valuation] has struggled as of late.

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April 10, 2018 · Volume 10

Walmart and Humana, a prescription for success?

Last week, news broke that Walmart is considering an acquisition of Humana, the big health insurer. This is just one move among many of late where retailers are trying to creep into the healthcare space.

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April 2, 2018 · Volume 9

Reactions to Google Shopping Actions

Last week, Google rolled out a new program, called Google Shopping Actions, in an effort to slow Amazon's conquest of e-commerce. Amazon's market share is formidable enough, but the bee in Google's Easter bonnet is the fact that the majority [56 percent according to this study] of online product related searching now starts on Amazon.

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March 22, 2018 · Volume 8

Online spirit sales soar — despite being put on the rocks by regulations

The fact that any alcohol is bought and sold online -- at all -- is a testament to the human spirit, or at least to humans' desire to consume spirits [and beer and wine].

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March 16, 2018 · Volume 7

An obituary for Toys “R” Us

It's all but official, Toys “R” Us is shutting down, honorably pursuing the opposite approach of Sears' slow-motion train wreck strategy.

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March 9, 2018 · Volume 6

Google Home's surprising demographic makeup

In preparing for a presentation at next week's Path to Purchase Summit in Chicago, I asked our heroic Analyst team [yes, I am not above apple polishing when it comes to those that provide the fuel for our thought leadership flames] to refresh our data on voice-powered speakers.

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March 2, 2018 · Volume 5

Why Is The Commerce Department Underreporting E-Commerce Sales?

If you don't have a favorite podcast and you're reading the E-Commerce Observer, let me direct you to my favorite, The Jason and Scot Show. In a recent episode (#117), one of the hosts, Scot Wingo, made the argument that it is virtually impossible that US e-commerce is only growing at the 16 percent year over year rate that the US Commerce department reports.

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February 22, 2018 · Volume 4

The long tail hits Hollywood, again

If you aren't familiar with the startup MoviePass, you soon will be. It aspires to be the Netflix of the movie theater business, adding some energy to a segment of the entertainment industry that has languished because our TV screens are getting bigger and our in-home video entertainment options are getting better.

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February 14, 2018 · Volume 3

Meal kit M&A talks get steamy

The meal kit solution space continues to create news, and is on the mind of many food brands and grocery retailers. Tyson Foods invested an undisclosed sum in a company called Tovala, a startup that aspires to be the 'Netflix of food'.

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February 7, 2018 · Volume 2

Amazon: Jack of all trades, master of … all?

In preparing for a conference presentation in Nashville later this week, I've been thinking about the pace of change in the U.S. consumer economy and core competencies [also, country music and hot chicken]. Perhaps it's my puritanical New England upbringing, but I am naturally wired to believe that greatness requires focus, and that focus means getting really, really good at a small number of things.

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