With the recent release of the iOS 11.3 update, Apple device owners can now use the beta version of Apple Business Chat to directly access customer service from a small group of companies that include Lowe’s, Home Depot, Newegg, 1-800-Flowers and Apple as well as Marriott, Hilton, Discover, TD Ameritrade and Wells Fargo.
“More and more, customers are showing that they prefer the convenience of messaging customer service versus making phone calls,” said Gihad Jawhar, Lowe’s VP Digital Development in a statement. “As a leader in service, Lowe’s is committed to meeting customer needs on their terms and through their communication preferences. Our support for Apple Business Chat makes messaging exponentially more powerful for our customers and our customer service agents.”
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Walmart has opened its first small-format, high-tech supermarket in Shenzhen, China, according to Reuters. The store carries items that consumers also can buy on the online platform JD Daojia, an affiliate of JD.com. Walmart has not released information about the size of the store, but it will stock more than 8,000 items, ranging from stir-fried clams to fresh fruit, 90% of which also will be available online.
Items can be delivered within a two-kilometer (1.2 mile) radius as quickly as 29 minutes, and customers can opt to pay with their smartphones using the WeChat platform. Walmart recently implemented WeChat Pay into its mobile offering, replacing Alipay in all its stores in the western region of China.
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By definition, pop-up stores are meant to be ephemeral, but however short-lived they were, they did exist in the physical world — until now. Through a global partnership with Virtual Reality (VR) retail platform Obsess, Storefront is giving brands and retailers the opportunity to rent VR pop-up stores on its platform. For a monthly fee, the renter gets up to 40 products featured, customized colors and logo, choice of layout and style, and the option to collect consumer data.
The VR pop-ups are currently themed to be located in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but other virtual locations will soon follow. For example, a VR store in a Manhattan penthouse “atop The World Trade Center” features expansive views of the surrounding cityscape and is listed for $3,000 per month. VR stores must be rented for a minimum of three months.
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Walmart’s technology incubator Store No. 8 has created its third portfolio company, with the acquisition of virtual reality (VR) platform and content studio Spatialand. The combined team will develop and explore new products and uses of VR that Walmart can use, both in-store and online.
Spatialand’s focus has been on turning existing content into VR experiences, so the acquisition may be more about turning Walmart store and site content into VR than creating an experience from scratch.
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Macy’s hasn’t always had a reputation of thinking outside the box, but the department store is bucking its somewhat staid image with the introduction of a non-traditional business model — pop-up stores. “The Market @ Macy’s” pop-up stores will appear in 10 Macy’s locations across the U.S., according to a report from CNBC.
The pop-ups are part of a marketplace concept that provides pods of space to select brands and companies on Macy’s ground floor to promote or sell their products. Most, but not all of the brands will be unique to the city they are in.
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Four organizations dedicated to retail innovation — The Shelf, Nielsen Innovate, JVP Play and Deloitte — have collaborated to create the Israeli RetailTech Landscape, mapping out 100 promising Israeli startups within the retail technology space. By grouping these companies, the landscape is designed to highlight the significant contribution that Israeli startups are making to the global commerce market.
Together, the companies have raised more than $880 million, an average of $9 million per company. In fact, 19 of the companies have raised more than $20 million each, including some mega-rounds raised by companies such as Trax or Yotpo (both have raised more than $100 million).
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Walmart is taking its war with Amazon to the store experience by testing cashier-free technology designed to rival Amazon Go, according to a report from Recode.
Store No. 8, Walmart’s startup incubator, is developing a technology-heavy store experience dubbed “Project Kepler,” that uses computer vision and cashier-free checkout similar to the “Just Walk Out” technology. Mike Hanrahan, Co-Founder and former CTO of Jet.com, is leading the test project out of Hoboken, N.J.
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Communications carrier MetTel and Carlo’s Bakery — of “Cake Boss” fame — have partnered to launch MetTel WiFi Analytics. The solution is designed to elevate the customer experience with access to a deeper view of customer preferences across Carlo’s Bakery’s 21 locations in the U.S. and Brazil.
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The Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance (AREA), a global non-profit, member-based organization dedicated to widespread adoption of interoperable AR-enabled enterprise systems, has added nine new member companies.
The new members come from various parts of the AR ecosystem. They include app developers, interaction technology providers, manufacturing solutions providers, AR wearables manufacturers and vertical industry solutions providers.
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The Mall of America has made it easier to navigate and shop its 5.6 million-square-foot space during the holidays, with the launch of a new, AI-powered chatbot in partnership with Satisfi Labs. Customers can interact with the bot on the Mall of America web site, mobile app, Facebook page and even as an Amazon Alexa skill.
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