Toys R Us relaunches its website where online sales are powered by Target

Toys R Us is back online, thanks to a new deal with Target. Tru Kids, the parent company that acquired the defunct toy chain following its bankruptcy, has announced the relaunch of the ToysRUs.com website as it begins the process of opening its retail stores across the U.S. As a part of its comeback strategy, the Toys R Us website’s product pages will redirect to Target.com when consumers click the “buy” button to make an online purchase.

The retailers didn’t discuss the terms of the deal, but a revenue-sharing agreement is clearly involved in a scenario like this, given the mutual benefits. Toys R Us would be able to quickly establish cash flow from the still top-ranked, well-established domain name toysrus.com, while Target could get an influx of new sales from shoppers who visited ToysRUs.com, unaware of the toy chain’s bankruptcy and relaunch.

In addition to redirecting online shoppers to Target, the new website also features articles and videos about the latest toy trends and hot brands, plus in-depth product reviews, hot toy lists, and other brand experiences. These will be available on the ToysRUs website itself. Only when a customer is ready to make a purchase will they be sent over to Target for checkout.

The site’s “Buy” button is also clearly labeled so there’s no confusion at checkout. In Target’s red-and-white brand colors, it reads “buy now at [target].com” where the word “Target” is replaced with the Target logo icon.

Target shoppers sent to ToysRUs get the same benefits they would if shopping directly — meaning, they can place orders for delivery, curbside or store order pickup, and can earn loyalty points with Target Circle, or get 5% by paying with a Target REDcard.

Screen Shot 2019 10 09 at 10.51.19 AM

The new partnership between the retailers isn’t only focused on redirecting consumers’ traditional e-commerce product sales, however.

Target says it will also fulfill online sales when Toys R Us opens up its first experiential retail stores later this fall in Houston, Texas and Paramus, New Jersey.

Tru Kids had previously announced a deal with tech startup b8ta to create a modernized toy store experience featuring things like STEAM workshops, a treehouse for kids to play in, theaters for movies and games, and a way for brands to showcase their products in a more interactive environment.

At these stores, guests who want to purchase items that aren’t available in the store itself will be able to place their order with a store associate that gets fulfilled through Target.com.

“Target’s leadership in toys, digital and fulfillment are an unbeatable platform for ToysRUs to reconnect with their fans while we introduce them to the ease and convenience of shopping at Target,” said Nikhil Nayar, senior vice president of merchandising at Target, in a statement. “By applying our capabilities in a new way with ToysRUs, we can serve even more toy shoppers, drive new growth, and build on our toy leadership,” Nayar added.

The new deal with Toys R Us isn’t the only significant toy-related partnership Target has made in recent weeks. At the end of August, the retailer announced an agreement with Disney that sees it opening mini Disney stores within its retail stores, where shoppers can buy toys, apparel, collectibles, home items, and more. Twenty-five Disney “shop-in-shops” are open now and dozens more are planned for 2020.

“Our U.S. strategy is to bring back the ToysRUs brand in a modern way through a strong experiential and content-rich omnichannel concept,” Tru Kids CEO Richard Barry, a former Toys R Us exec, in a statement about the Target partnership.

“The foundation of that strategy requires the help of a retail industry leader and Target is the ideal retailer to support a new ToysRUs shopping experience, which is designed to provide families with endless ways to discover, play and enjoy toys. Target will help us deliver on that experience with its toy assortment, digital strength and ability to deliver orders to shoppers in a matter of hours,” he said.

 

Impossible Foods will debut in SoCal grocery stores on Friday as first step in phased national rollout

Congratulations Southern California Gelsons store shoppers, you’re getting Impossible Foods on your grocery shelves.

The meatless ground meat substitute will be appearing in stores across the Southern California as the first step in a phased nationwide rollout on Friday.

With the step into groceries, Impossible Foods moves into direct competition with its bigger, publicly traded rival Beyond Meat, which is already selling its patties and sausages in major stores nationwide.

Impossible Foods, which has had some supply chain hiccups as it began to increase its production in the wake of large deals with fast food chains, will be taking a phased approach to its national expansion. Expect it to begin appearing on store shelves in other parts of the country throughout the end of the year. Its next stop is going to be another store chain on the East Coast later this month, the company said.

To celebrate the debut, Impossible Foods has tapped Chrissy Teigen’s grandmother for a VIP event on Thursday night and will be handing out samples at a Los Angeles-area Gelsons on Friday.

“Our first step into retail is a watershed moment in Impossible Foods’ history,” said Impossible Foods’ Senior Vice President Nick Halla, who oversees the company’s retail expansion. “We’re thrilled and humbled that our launch partners for this limited release are homegrown, beloved grocery stores with cult followings in their regions.”

Gelsons and Los Angeles are something of a natural first stop for the company, given LA’s place in the nation’s food, environmental, and entertainment cultures.

Indeed, celebrities are some of the backers of Impossible Foods. In the company’s last, $300 million round, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Serena Williams, Jaden Smith, Trevor Noah and Zedd all invested.

The Impossible Burger is made to have as much iron and protein as a traditional burger and contains 14 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat and comes in at 240 calories per 4-ounce servicing. It’s not better for a person than eating a traditional burger patty, but it is better for the environment. (The company says that a conventional 4-ounce patty has 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 23 grams of total fat, 9 grams of saturated fat and 290 calories.)

Founded in 2011 by chief executive officer and former Stanford biochemistry professor Pat Brown, Impossible Foods has raised nearly $700 million from investors including Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, the slew of celebrities, the Singaporean government’s investment fund, and Hong Kong billionaire Li Kashing (along with his venture capital fund).

The company has set itself the goal of eliminating the need for animals in the food chain by 2035.

Already selling in White Castle, Burger King and Qdoba and is, according to a GrubHub survey, the  most popular . late-night delivery item in the U.S.

Walmart launches two new credit cards offering 5% back on digital purchases

Walmart is partnering with Capital One to launch a new credit card program, which rolls on September 24, and includes both co-branded and private-label cards. The former, the Capital One Walmart Mastercard, includes 5% back on purchases made on Walmart.com or paid for in-store using Walmart Pay (the latter for the first 12 months.) The private label card, the Walmart Rewards Card, will offer those same perks, but is limited to being used only in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.

After the 12-month introductory period, the co-branded Mastercard will drop to 2% on Walmart purchases in stores, instead of 5%. However, it will continue to offer 5% on Walmart.com purchases, including Walmart Grocery.

It also offers 2% back on restaurants and travel and 1% back everywhere else. The card doesn’t include any annual fee or foreign transaction feeds, and its rewards can be used any time, Walmart says.

Customers can apply for the new card via Walmart’s website or app, or through CapitalOne.com. The application itself can be filled out using a mobile device and, once approved, customers gain access to the card immediately. They can also load the card into Walmart Pay or into the Walmart app before the physical card arrives in the mail — similar to how Apple’s new Apple Card works.

Through Capital One, customers will receive purchase notifications, security alerts, 0% fraud liability, and the ability to lock/unlock a lost or stolen card from the Capital One app.

The new Walmart store card, meanwhile, also offers 5% back on purchases on Walmart.com, in Walmart app, and on Walmart Pay in-store purchases during the introductory period. It then offers 2% back on Walmart purchases afterward. It also earns 2% back at Walmart Fuel Stations.

Current Walmart cardholders will be converted to the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard or the Walmart Rewards Card, starting October 11, with physical cards arriving in November. They’ll also earn 5% back through Walmart Pay through October 14, 2020.

Walmart’s prior card, from Synchrony Bank, offered smaller rewards, noted Sara Rathner, credit cards expert at NerdWallet, in a statement published this morning.

“The Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard is definitely helping to cement 5% back as the gold standard among retail cards. We already see this rewards rate with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card and the Target REDcard. The previous Walmart card issued by Synchrony Bank only offered 3% back on Walmart.com and a paltry 1% back in-store, so the new card is a huge step up,” she said.

Credit card partnerships are an area of importance to major retailers, including Walmart’s chief rival, Amazon. Its credit card program includes a variety of options, including store cards, travel cards, prepaid cards, no annual fee cards, reward points cards and more. And of course both retailers today are, to some extent, challenged by Apple, which just entered the credit card space, too.

Branded store cards not only help to increase customer loyalty, they also drive more purchases, reduce credit card processing fees, create additional profit in the form of interest, and generate records of customer purchases that can be used for targeted advertising.

“As our company has evolved to serve customers shopping in stores, online, and on the Walmart apps, we also recognized the need to fully digitally enable the cardholder experience,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Walmart services and digital acceleration, in a statement. “That’s why we’ve worked with Capital One to make it possible for cardholders to manage essentially every interaction with the program right from the palm of their hands,” he said.

 

Google Express to close in a few weeks, will become part of Google Shopping

Google’s failed online shopping service Google Express is closing in a few weeks, as its features will be merged into a revamped version of Google Shopping, Google says in an email sent to its customers this week. The company had already announced its plans to shutter the Google Express brand, as part of a wider redesign of how it approached online shopping. This included new advertising options for brands and online sellers, as well as a universal shopping cart across its platform of services, like Search, Shopping, Images, and even YouTube.

While Google is characterizing Google Express’s closure as an “integration,” it’s really more of a sunsetting of a failed product and brand.

Google Express was Google’s high-profile attempt to compete with Amazon for online shopping clicks and ad dollars buy creating a virtual mall on the web filled with top retailers’ products. Because Google is not a retailer itself, it did what it knows best — it organized information. At Google Express, you could find products from thousands of retailers — including big names like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Best Buy, and others. And you could shop through a dedicated online storefront on the web, a Google Express mobile app, or even Google Assistant.

In the latter case, Google Express partnered with retailers like Walmart and Target for deep integrations for voice-enabled shopping. As direct competitors with Amazon, these retailers didn’t want to offer third-party skills for Echo users or others on Amazon’s Alexa platform. Google represented a safer third-party platform for their experiments with voice commands and personalized shopping.

But even several years after launch, Google Express had failed to offer any real threat to Amazon. Its retail partners, meanwhile, were building out their own fulfillment businesses for their customers’ online orders — like Walmart Grocery’s curbside pickup and delivery, for example, or Target’s Shipt, Drive Up, and Restock.

Not too much later, Target and Walmart were pulling out of Google Express.

Google has tried to downplay the news of Google Express’s demise by including it as just another part to the larger Google Shopping revamp. After all, it’s not a shutdown, the company implied. Its features were simply becoming a part of Google Shopping! Nothing to see here! Just a rebrand!

But clearly, Google Express had been unable to establish itself in consumers’ minds as its own dedicated shopping destination. If customers wanted an online mall, they already had one with either Amazon or Walmart and their vast third-party marketplaces where you could find just about anything you’d need. Nor had Google innovated (or acquired) across key areas like warehousing or logistics, while others like Amazon, Target and Walmart had been spending billions.

With Google Shopping, Google goes back to its search engine roots. It aims to simply capture consumers’ clicks, ad dollars and now conversions no matter where they are on Google’s sites — whether that’s shopping from Merch shelves under YouTube videos, browsing photos in a Pinterest-y manner on Google Images, or through more traditional Google searches for products where ads become shoppable, and shopping carts follow you around Google’s part of the web.

In an email to Google Express shoppers that was sent this week, Google says Google Express will be integrated with Shopping in a few weeks’ time.

The redesigned Google Shopping will then be available across the web and through apps for iOS and Android later this month. At that point, the Google Express apps will automatically update to become Google Shopping, if you already had them installed.

The full email about Google Express’ closure is below:

google express shutdown

 

Target’s personalized loyalty program launches nationwide next month

Target today announced its new, data-driven loyalty program, Target Circle, will launch nationwide on October, 6th, following a year and a half of beta testing in select markets. The program combines a variety of features including 1% back on purchases, birthday rewards, and personalized offers and savings designed to make the program more attractive to consumers.

It also includes a way for customers to vote on Target’s community giving initiatives, which helps directs Target’s giving to around 800 nonprofits in the U.S.

Voting

The new program is designed to lure in customers who have yet to adopt Target’s store card, REDcard. While REDcard penetration today is around 23%, that number has remained fairly consistent over time — in fact, it’s down about one percentage point from a year ago.

With Target Circle, however, the retailer has another means of generating loyalty and establishing a connection with its customers on a more individualized basis.

A big part of that is the personalized aspect of the Target Circle program. In addition to the “birthday perks” (an easy way to grab some demographic data), customers will also get special discounts on the categories they “shop most often” — meaning, Target will be tapping into its treasure trove of customer purchase history to make recommendations from both in-store and online purchases along with other signals.

“As guests shop, Target leverages information about their shopping behaviors and purchases to share relevant offers that create an even more personalized, seamless shopping experience,” a company spokesperson explained, when asked for details about the data being used. “For example, a guest who frequently shops Target for baby products may receive a special offer on their next purchase of baby items.”

TargetCircle NonBeta 19 Brand RGB Logo Red

According to a recent retail study from Avionos, 78% of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that better personalize their experiences and 63% are more open to sharing personal information if retailers can better anticipate needs.

And as some may recall, Target is already scary good at personalization.

In one notable case, the retailer figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, and sent her coupons for baby items. The dad, understandably, was angry — until he found out that Target was right.

That story was a high-profile example of the data collection and analysis big retailers are doing all the time, though. Target Circle simply formalizes this into an opt-in program instead of an opt-out experience.

As part of the changes, Target’s Cartwheel savings are rolling into Target Circle where they’ll be rebranded as Target Circle offers. 

TargetCircle inApp

Circle members will also get early access to special sales throughout the year — that is, the events people line up for, like they did for the Lilly Pulitzer fashion line or more recently, the quickly sold out Vineyard Vines collection.

Target says, in time, it will come up with “even more personalized, relevant ways” to make shopping easier for its customers.

The new program is meant to complement the REDcard, which will increase the cashback to 5% when used. But REDcard holders can still join Circle to take advantage of the other perks.

WalletRedeeming

“Our guests are at the center of everything we do, and we’re always looking for ways to create even easier, more rewarding shopping experiences that give them another reason to choose Target,” said Rick Gomez, Target executive vice president, and chief marketing and digital officer, in a statement. “We worked directly with guests to develop Target Circle, and the program includes the benefits and perks they told us were most important to them, from earning on every trip to having the opportunity to help Target make a positive impact in their local communities,” he said.

The loyalty program had been in testing in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Phoenix over the past 18 months.

Though not having Amazon’s scale, Target has done well at quickly innovating to keep up with today’s pace of e-commerce. In short order, it has made over its stores to make more room for order pickups and online grocery, and has launched and expanded new services like Target Restock (next-day), Shipt (same day delivery) and Drive Up (same day pickup). The changes have been paying off with Target beating on its latest earnings with $18.42 billion in revenue and profits of $938 million.

 

Target’s personalized loyalty program launches nationwide next month

Target today announced its new, data-driven loyalty program, Target Circle, will launch nationwide on October, 6th, following a year and a half of beta testing in select markets. The program combines a variety of features including 1% back on purchases, birthday rewards, and personalized offers and savings designed to make the program more attractive to consumers.

It also includes a way for customers to vote on Target’s community giving initiatives, which helps directs Target’s giving to around 800 nonprofits in the U.S.

Voting

The new program is designed to lure in customers who have yet to adopt Target’s store card, REDcard. While REDcard penetration today is around 23%, that number has remained fairly consistent over time — in fact, it’s down about one percentage point from a year ago.

With Target Circle, however, the retailer has another means of generating loyalty and establishing a connection with its customers on a more individualized basis.

A big part of that is the personalized aspect of the Target Circle program. In addition to the “birthday perks” (an easy way to grab some demographic data), customers will also get special discounts on the categories they “shop most often” — meaning, Target will be tapping into its treasure trove of customer purchase history to make recommendations from both in-store and online purchases along with other signals.

“As guests shop, Target leverages information about their shopping behaviors and purchases to share relevant offers that create an even more personalized, seamless shopping experience,” a company spokesperson explained, when asked for details about the data being used. “For example, a guest who frequently shops Target for baby products may receive a special offer on their next purchase of baby items.”

TargetCircle NonBeta 19 Brand RGB Logo Red

According to a recent retail study from Avionos, 78% of consumers are more likely to purchase from retailers that better personalize their experiences and 63% are more open to sharing personal information if retailers can better anticipate needs.

And as some may recall, Target is already scary good at personalization.

In one notable case, the retailer figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, and sent her coupons for baby items. The dad, understandably, was angry — until he found out that Target was right.

That story was a high-profile example of the data collection and analysis big retailers are doing all the time, though. Target Circle simply formalizes this into an opt-in program instead of an opt-out experience.

As part of the changes, Target’s Cartwheel savings are rolling into Target Circle where they’ll be rebranded as Target Circle offers. 

TargetCircle inApp

Circle members will also get early access to special sales throughout the year — that is, the events people line up for, like they did for the Lilly Pulitzer fashion line or more recently, the quickly sold out Vineyard Vines collection.

Target says, in time, it will come up with “even more personalized, relevant ways” to make shopping easier for its customers.

The new program is meant to complement the REDcard, which will increase the cashback to 5% when used. But REDcard holders can still join Circle to take advantage of the other perks.

WalletRedeeming

“Our guests are at the center of everything we do, and we’re always looking for ways to create even easier, more rewarding shopping experiences that give them another reason to choose Target,” said Rick Gomez, Target executive vice president, and chief marketing and digital officer, in a statement. “We worked directly with guests to develop Target Circle, and the program includes the benefits and perks they told us were most important to them, from earning on every trip to having the opportunity to help Target make a positive impact in their local communities,” he said.

The loyalty program had been in testing in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Phoenix over the past 18 months.

Though not having Amazon’s scale, Target has done well at quickly innovating to keep up with today’s pace of e-commerce. In short order, it has made over its stores to make more room for order pickups and online grocery, and has launched and expanded new services like Target Restock (next-day), Shipt (same day delivery) and Drive Up (same day pickup). The changes have been paying off with Target beating on its latest earnings with $18.42 billion in revenue and profits of $938 million.

 

Syte snaps up $21.5M for its smartphone-based visual search engine for e-commerce

Visual search has become a key component for how people discover products when buying online: If a person doesn’t know the exact name of what he or she wants, or what they want is not available, it can be an indispensable tool for connecting them with things they might want to buy.

Now, one of the companies building technology to do this has raised a round of funding to expand its business further into the U.S., and not just across digital platforms, but to tap further into the opportunities of bringing visual search into the world of physical commerce, too, by way of smart mirrors and apps for store assistants to better help customers.

Syte, a Tel Aviv startup that works with fashion retailers like Farfetch and River Island, as well as those that sell a wider variety of goods like Argos, Sainsbury’s and Kohl’s, has raised $21.5 million in funding. The Series B was led by Viola Ventures, with participation from Storm Ventures, Commerce Ventures, Axess Ventures and Remagine Ventures.

Syte has now raised $32 million, including a previous round in 2017; it’s not disclosing its valuation but is projecting 300% revenue growth this year.

The use of visual search — using computer vision to “read” a picture, match it up with its metadata and then find pictures of products that are similar to it — has become commonplace in e-commerce in recent years.

Among the many other companies that have this kind of tech — including visual search platforms like Pinterest and social media platforms themselves — Syte’s approach is notable in how it engages shoppers in the process of the search. Users can snap pictures of items that they like the look of, which can then be used on a retailer’s site to find compatible lookalikes. Retailers, meanwhile, can quickly integrate Syte’s technology into their own platforms by way of an API.

Lihi Pinto Fryman, Syte’s CMO who co-founded the company in London with husband Ofer Fryman, Idan Pinto and Dr Helge Voss, said in an interview that the company spent about three years developing its technology — spurred initially by her own surprise, when she was working as an investment banker, at not being able to find a particular dress she spotted in a magazine — and only launched a product about 18 months ago.

Since then, she says Syte has seen “super hyper” growth because of the gap the company is filling.

The crux of the problem goes something like this: Retailers both online and offline have found that a new generation of shoppers are less interested in visiting their storefronts.

They are instead shopping by browsing social media platforms like Instagram and buying from there, which essentially opens those retailers to whole new set of competitors, and puts them potentially at a great disadvantage, as they are not as well-equipped to speak to that audience or anticipate what interests them to trigger sales.

“Young people are on Instagram for hours each day,” Fryman said. Indeed, Instagram is one of the only big social networks that’s seeing usage rise at the moment. “Retailers need to find a way to compete with that and remain in the market, and they can’t just continue what they’ve always done.”

On the other hand, while there are a number of visual search tools out in the market, not all of them are useful enough. “If you are searching for a ruffled floral yellow dress but you get a blouse, it just doesn’t cut it,” she noted. “And if it takes seven seconds to get an answer, that’s also not good, because people will give up after two seconds. Millennials and Gen Z shoppers have a very short attention span, so you need to be accurate and fast.”

The idea is that a product like Syte’s addresses both of these issues, and then some. In addition to its camera-based search service, it provides a recommendation engine to retailers, plus tagging services for its back catalog to complete the service.

“Rarely do we find companies that have managed to solve a technological problem that tech giants have been working for years to solve without success,” says Ronen Nir, general partner at Viola Ventures, in a statement. “The feedback from the market is clear and swift and the rate of adoption of Syte’s solution is unparalleled. We are excited to lead a significant funding round that would be able to take the company to the next level.”

Syte’s more recent foray into physical commerce is an interesting turn as well. Smart mirrors have been more of a wishlist item than something that has seen critical mass adoption so far in changing rooms.

If the idea does catch on, I wonder what kind of a digital divide it might create among retailers, though, since the cost of refurbishing changing rooms to include these, along with all the backend changes that would need to be made, will likely be only the kind of service that bigger or high-end boutiques will be able to shoulder.

More interesting, perhaps, is the idea of app-based tools for assistants, many of whom already carry a smartphone and would likely be grateful for recommendations to help sell better to customers.

“We have a vision to transform product discovery, and thus the e-commerce experience, for both retailers and consumers.” said Ofer Fryman in a statement. “That vision is what has led us since we founded Syte, and it is what continues to lead us as we enter this stage.”

Instacart CFO Ravi Gupta to exit for Sequoia Capital

Instacart‘s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, Ravi Gupta, will exit the on-demand grocery delivery company at the end of the year to “return to his investing roots,” the company told TechCrunch this morning. The executive will join Sequoia Capital as a partner on the growth team beginning in January.

The company’s vice president of finance and strategy, Sagar Sanghvi, has been promoted to CFO, a critical role as the company gears up for an initial public offering as soon as next year. Instacart is actively searching for a COO replacement.

Valued at nearly $8 billion, Instacart has raised a total of $1.9 billion in venture capital funding since it was founded in 2012. Co-founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta has remained mum on any details surrounding the company’s IPO plans, telling TechCrunch last fall that a float “will be on the horizon.”

Sagar Sanghvi CFO Instacart

Instacart’s vice president of finance and strategy, Sagar Sanghvi, has been promoted to CFO.

After a decade at the investment firm KKR, Gupta joined Instacart in 2015 to manage both the company’s finances and operations as its first CFO and COO. He’s worked closely with Sequoia for some time; the firm first invested in Instacart prior to Gupta’s hiring, leading an $8.5 million Series A financing in 2013. Sequoia’s outspoken partner Michael Moritz sits on the company’s board of directors.

Roelof Botha, another Sequoia partner, says the venture capital firm helped San Francisco-based Instacart recruit Gupta to the C-suite years ago: “With Ravi now returning to his passion of investing, he can help other visionaries – like Apoorva – turn their dreams into reality,” Botha said in an emailed statement. “Ravi’s operational and investing experience, along with his strong work ethic and humility, will make him an invaluable partner to founders and our team.”

When Gupta joined Instacart to oversee finance, corporate development and strategic business initiatives in what was a newly created role, the business, a newly minted “unicorn,” had only 300 employees. Today, Instacart has roughly 1,000 full-time employees and another 100,000 “shoppers,” or contract workers who fulfill the online grocery orders.

“In 2015, I met Apoorva and he shared his vision for Instacart with me,” Gupta said in an emailed statement. “I was truly inspired and knew this was a team I wanted to join and a company I wanted to help build.”

Following his departure, Gupta will continue to advise Instacart on a variety of matters, the company said.

Instacart is announcing another two high-level hires this morning. Jakii Chu has joined the company as its chief marketing officer after nearly five years at sports merchandising business Fanatics, where she was senior vice president of e-commerce.

Chris Rogers, the former managing director of Apple Canada, has been hired as its vice president of retail. Rogers will be based in Instacart’s Toronto office, which Instacart opened earlier this year, reporting to chief business officer Nilam Ganenthiran.

Instacart delivers groceries to 5,500 cities across the U.S. and Canada, making deliveries from some 20,000 stores. Earlier this year, Instacart began its expansion into alcohol delivery. The service is now available in 20 states.

A graduate of Y Combinator, Instacart is also backed by D1 Capital Partners, Coatue Management, Thrive Capital, Canaan Partners, Andreessen Horowitz and several others.

Target’s same-day pickup and delivery services growing at double the rate of 2018

Target’s investment in same-day pickup and delivery options is paying off. The company, which today offers same-day in-store pickup, drive-up and same-day delivery through its acquisition of Shipt, said this week that these services combined have more than doubled their sales in the last year. In addition, they accounted for more than a third of Target’s digital sales, up from about 20% last year.

“These options offer speed, convenience and reliability and as a result, they are quickly becoming the preferred fulfillment choices for our guests,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell, speaking to investors about Target’s Q2 earnings. “And most importantly, because these options leverage our store infrastructure, technology, and teams, same-day fulfillment delivers outstanding financial performance as well,” he added. 

What’s notable about the same-day sales is that they’re bringing in guests to Target who had never before placed digital orders with the retailer.

Roughly 1 in 5 customers placing a same-day order in the second quarter were placing an order with Target for the first time.

And once Target customers become familiar with the process, they seem to return in short order. During Q2, more than three-quarters of the same-day orders were placed by guests who had used same-day fulfillment in the past three months.

Target’s ability to grow its same-day sales in this fashion was the result of investment in infrastructure, technology and even its brick-and-mortar stores themselves.

Glenview Order Pickup Entrance Exterior

On the technology front, Target says its pickup and delivery services benefited from increased order-picking efficiency. Instead of using a first-in, first-out (FIFO) system, new algorithms are being used to prioritize the sequence of order picking that helps direct store employees on which work to do first, as well as the best box size for packing orders.

The technology also helps to optimize the path for order picking to minimize the number of steps between the sales floor and back room.

Target claims that since the beginning of last year, these improvements have led to an over 30% increase in order picking for drive-up and pickup services. Its ship-from-store capability also improved over 30% during that time.

Meanwhile, the retailer’s $7+ billion remodeling project announced in 2017 was focused on more than just updating the stores’ look-and-feel and merchandising displays. The new-format stores also include changes designed to cater to online shoppers who come inside the store for their order pickups by adding more space for things like Order Pickup.

Outside, space is added for Drive Up customers who shop online then later drive to the store for curbside service.

This summer, Target passed its 500th store remodel, and says it’s on-track to remodel 1,000 stores by the end of 2020. It also plans to open more small-format stores — about a third of the size of a traditional Target, or on average, 40,000 sq ft — in big cities, suburbs and college campuses.

Target says it plans on opening 30 more small-format stores per year, as it did last year and the year prior. It said on Friday it had opened its 100th small-format store.

Richmond Drive Up

All the changes to make Target’s stores more of a home for order fulfillment has helped the retailer reduce costs, as well, the company pointed out this week on its Q2 earnings.

Target says as it’s shifted away from upstream distribution centers for order fulfillment to its stores, costs went down by more than 40%. And costs related to same-day services went down by 90%. Target today has 1,855 U.S. stores, which is how it’s able to make this store-centric strategy work.

Many traditional big-box retailers are struggling under the weight of competition from Amazon — Macy’s, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney all released disappointing earnings this week, for example.

Target’s earnings, however, beat every estimate this week, sending shares to a record high.

The company reported $18.42 billion in revenue, above the $18.34 billion expected. Profits were up 17%, to $938 million ($1.82 a share) compared with $799 million ($1.49 a share) a year ago.

Second-quarter comparable sales grew 3.4%, with same-day fulfillment accounts for nearly 1.5 percentage points of that. Over the past two years, comparable sales have grown 10%, Target said.

 

Amazon is acquiring 49% stake in India’s Future Coupons

Amazon, which has invested over $6 billion in India’s growing internet market, just invested a little more to expand its foothold in the the world’s second largest internet market. The U.S. e-commerce giant is acquiring a 49% stake in Future Coupons, a group entity owned by India’s second largest retail chain Future Group, the latter said in a regulatory filing Thursday evening (local time).

In a statement to TechCrunch, an Amazon spokesperson said, “Amazon has agreed to invest in Future Coupons Limited, which is engaged in developing innovative value-added payment products and solutions such as corporate gift cards, loyalty cards, and reward cards primarily for corporate and institutional customers. This investment will enhance Amazon’s existing portfolio of investments in the payments landscape in India.”

“Pursuant to these agreements, Amazon has agreed to make an equity investment in Future Coupons Limited for acquiring a 49% stake comprising both, voting and non-voting shares. As part of the agreement, Amazon has been granted a call option,” Future Retail said in a filing (PDF) to the local stock exchange.

As part of the agreement, Amazon has the option to “acquire all or part of the promoters’ shareholding in it Future Retail Limited” between the third and tenth year in “certain circumstances, subject to applicable law.” Future Coupons owns about 7.3% stake in Future Retail, according to past regulatory filings.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The Promoters have also agreed to certain share transfer restrictions on their shares in the Company for same tenure, including restrictions to not transfer shares to specified persons, a right of first offer in favour of Amazon, all of which are subject to mutually agreed exceptions (such as liquidity allowances and affiliate transfers). The transaction contemplated above is subject to obtaining applicable regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions,” Future Retail added.

It is interesting that Amazon is indirectly acquiring stake in Future Retail. Future Retail runs over 2,000 stores, including “Big Bazaar” retail stores, across 400 cities in India.

This is a developing story. More to follow…