Amazon Launch pop-up fashion shop on the High Street.

This week, online retail giant, Amazon announce they will open its first British fashion store.  The pop-up will be a feature of London’s Baker Street, and be the first of its kind in Europe.  Customers will have a week to visit the pioneering pop-up, where they will be able to enjoy a number of fashion & lifestyle events from some big names.  Highlights will include denim customisation by Pepe Jeans, beauty trend analysis with Vogue’s Jessica Diner, yoga sessions from Deliciously Ella founder Ella Mills and live music from singer-songwriters Tom Grennan and Nao.

A spokeswoman for Amazon’s UK fashion business stated that this was a huge milestone for the online giant, and states that;

“This is a big learning experience for us to understand how Amazon fashion translates in physical retail”.  

Indeed, the ultimate aim is to understand shoppers’ views on its clothing ranges, prices and store experience.  The company will be handing out questionnaires to shoppers in the store to gauge their response.

Although Amazon rarely comment on its plans, she did say “never say never” when it came to bricks and mortar retail.  The fashion products on sale at the pop-up will change every two days and will include a mix of Amazon’s own labels, such as Truth & Fable, Find and Meraki.  It will also feature apparel from right across the fashion spectrum. High-end items from Calvin Klein, for example, will sit along-side mid & low price point product from the high street.  

This being Amazon, there will (of course) be an e-commerce option to enhance the customer experience.  Visitors to the Amazon pop-up will be able to scan codes on product tags with Amazon’s mobile phone app or use in-store tablets to order for home delivery.

Recent news from the UK high street has been pretty grim, but the fortunes of online retailer pop-ups look to be more promising.  Boohoo and its sister brand NastyGal, Missguided and Hush have used pop-up stores to gain wider recognition.

Amazon have their sights on fashion as a key area of potential growth in the UK, along with its grocery arm and smart home devices such as Amazon Echo.  

Although fashion is a new venture for them, physical stores are not.  They already have a number of permanent food shops after buying the organic grocery specialist Whole Foods Market in 2016.  This arm of the retail giants’ portfolio has thousands of stores in the US and seven in the UK. Also across the Atlantic, Amazon are experimenting with high street bookstores and Amazon Go automated grocery stores.   Both of these concepts are expected to be trialled in the UK in future.

Uber set to launch food delivery drones “as soon as 2021”.

In a move that will further underline their superiority in the Foodtech space, Uber announce this week that we could see food delivery drones in our skies as soon as 2021.  This is a move that would further diversify their portfolio away from the taxi-hailing business that is synonymous with the Silicon Valley giant.  

Uber had posted a job ad for a drone expert to “enable safe, legal, efficient and scalable flight operations”, and to make the delivery drones commercially operational in three years time.   However, by Monday this week, that ad had been removed. To date, the company has not directly responded with comments as to why. However, they did remark that the advert did not “fully reflect” their plans, which were still in “very early days”.

This latest endeavour seems to have been in Uber’s locker for some time.  Back in May, Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the company was working on drones which could deliver food to customers’ doorsteps up to 30 minutes after an order was placed; a move that would vastly improve the customer experience… not to mention setting them apart from any other bike or car delivery service out there!

As it gears itself up for an IPO next year, Uber are increasingly showing off that they are about more than just cars.  Perhaps in evidence of this, Uber have recently announced that they are trialling an on-demand staffing service in Chicago.  Additionally, on Wednesday they were able to reveal that they have plans to enter the trailer leasing market.

Broadening their offerings in this way will only serve to further inflate the company’s value and widen its appeal to public investors.  When it goes public next year, Uber is expected to land a valuation of up to $120bn (£92bn).  This impressive price tag would be almost double the one it landed earlier this year.  Not bad for a company that is not yet profitable!

Facebook re-designs Messenger App

As it goes head to head with Snapchat in an effort to win the battle to top the ephemeral message market, Facebook have redesigned its Messenger app.  The latest update sees them prioritise the ‘stories’ feature; one which Head of Product, Stan Chudnovsky believes had become “buried” within an app which had become “too complicated”.

Thus far, Facebook have invested heavily in ‘Stories’.  Users will have noticed that it is now placed at the top of our feeds and that they are encouraged to add their Instagram stories to their Facebook ones.

Although the Stories feature struggled in its infancy, it has managed some success of late.  Since May, it has doubled its daily active users from 150 million to 300 million last month.  This shift in fortune was largely driven by users in Central America, south-east Asia and the Middle East.

In its current format, Messenger has nine tabs, only one of which displays Stories. The redesigned version will condense these into three tabs, two of which show Stories at the top, in one case larger than at present.  It is hoped that to streamline and simplify the product will widen its greater appeal and, in turn, capture more users. Indeed, Loredana Crisan, Messenger’s director of product design, said users found it “too complicated”.

The latest updates will not only affect the stories feature.  Recent developments will also make it easier for users to access games and e-commerce chatbots.  Facebook hope to make Messenger a hub for online shopping and customer service and each of these features are pivotal to the success of their vision.

Google improves App Bundles for Android App Developers.

This week, Google have launched a bunch of updated features for Android App Developers, all designed to make it easier to build smaller apps and to release instant apps; ones that allow potential users to trial a new app without having to install it.

Although App Bundles isn’t a new product, these features mark a shift in how app bundles handle uncompressed native libraries that are already on a device.  In short, it will lead to downloads that are on average 8% smaller and take up 16% less space on a device.

In addition, the Google updates announced this week have improved the Instant Apps feature.  This feature allows developers to ship a small part of their apps as a trial or to show a part of the app experience when users come in from search results….in sum, users will no longer need to download the full app.

These updates will be of benefit to both developers and users alike.  With download speeds often slow, installing ‘full’ apps can be time-consuming, and of course, you don’t know just how usable or indeed useful the app will be until it’s there.  Improvements such as these will address these issues and should significantly improve the Android user experience.

With this update, Google is also improving App Bundles to let developers build their instant apps.  As a consequence, they will no longer have to publish both an instant app and an installable app. Instead, they can enable their App Bundles to include an instant app and publish a single app to the store. Thanks to that, there’s also no additional code to maintain.

Furthermore, the updates have facilitated improved crash reports.  These now combine real-world data from users, with data from the Firebase Test Lab when Google detect crashes under both circumstances.  There have also been updates to how developers can set up subscription billing for their apps.

For more information on these and other updates, interested developers can read the full launch at the Google Developers Blog.

Facebook look to acquire a Cybersecurity Firm.

In the wake of some very well documented and highly publicised data security breaches, Facebook are on the look out for some Cybersecurity support.  Although it is unclear at this stage exactly what type of support Facebook are looking for, two anonymous sources from the organisation have reportedly confirmed that the company have approached multiple firms about a possible purchase.

This news comes about a month after Facebook announced that hackers were able to access the personal profiles of approximately 30 million user accounts, allowing them full visibility to all attached data.  Subsequent investigations have highlighted that of those 30 million, the hackers accessed basic contact information (name and either email or phone number) for 14 million accounts, and additional data like gender, religion, location, device information, and the 15 most recent searches for another 15 million accounts.  

It would appear that as technology and those using it become more sophisticated, that no company is too big or small to be at risk of attack.  A company as huge as Facebook with seemingly unlimited resources and such a massive public profile have no excuse not to protect their users and sensitive data.  In order to maintain a positive public perception, the company need to up their security presence and be transparent about doing so. Therefore, a public acquisition is both timely and, from a PR point of view, highly sensible.  Any deal they do make is reported to close by the end of the year. They are clearly not wasting any time in addressing their recent security issues.

Microsoft profits jump, despite Cloud growth slow-down.

Despite a drop in its crucial cloud computing business, Azure, Microsoft have reported rising profits of more than a third.  They have posted a profit of $8.8bn (£6.8bn) for the three months to the end of September.  A figure that was up 34% on the previous year.

The demand for its Office software suite, including Word, Excel and Outlook are believed to be at the driving seat of the growth along with the demand for its cloud service, Azure.  

It is thought that the company has been reinvigorated by the 2014 appointment of Chief Executive, Satya Nadella.  Indeed, the division has been a priority under Mr Nadella, and has shifted attention away from the Windows operating system that had been Microsoft’s signature product for decades.

Cloud service, Azure’s revenues experienced a 76% year-on-year growth, making it the company’s fastest-growing area. However, this was slower than in previous quarters. Three months earlier, growth had been 89%, while it had hovered in the 90% region for about 18 months.  Azure peaked in the September 2016 reporting period when the company reported a 116% growth

If we look at the area of cloud computing in isolation,  Microsoft comes in as a strong runner-up behind market leaders, Amazon who rent out its data processing and internet hosting services to other companies.

Other Microsoft businesses which have been enjoying success are the XBox Gaming unit, its Surface computer hardware and its search engine, Bing.  

For us as recruiters, it is of note that professional social network, LinkedIn, which Microsoft paid $26 billion for in 2016 also grew revenues by 33%.

On a broader scale, Wall Street Traders had feared Microsoft would unveil a disappointing set of financial results.  However, they need not have worried. In fact, the company beat expectations, saying revenue had climbed by 19% to $29.1bn.

Dyson to open electric car manufacturing plant in Singapore

Dyson are a name synonymous with The South West and are undoubtedly a Silicon Gorge success story.  Wildly successful, they are best known for their premium home appliances, but recent years have seen them wish to branch out and explore the world of automotive technology.  

This week, Dyson have announced that they are to open their first car manufacturing plant in Singapore.  Board members have approved this move and the “purpose-built, advanced facility” is estimated to be fully operational by the end of 2020.  

Singapore is not new to Dyson however.  The firm already have three locations there, including a manufacturing plant for electric motors and an R&D lab with a focus on artificial intelligence.  

To pinpoint the country as a location for this new project makes total sense.  Singapore is blessed with high-growth markets, a skilled workforce, and extensive links with supply chains.  It also has a pending free trade agreement with Japan and existing agreements with China, the world’s largest market for electric cars.  According to CEO Jim Rowan, all these factors contribute to Singapore being “the right place to make high-quality technology loaded machines and the right place to make our electric vehicle”.

It was last year when Dyson first announced its interest in Electric Vehicle technologies.  At the time, James Dyson stated that as with all Dyson products, his cars would be “radically different” from those already on the road.  Dyson have set aside $2 billion for the scheme, and early reports suggest that the range will include 2 mid-range models and one high end ‘premium’ vehicle.

In an email to Dyson employees, Jim Rowan, CEO announced that work would begin on the new site in December, with the first model due to be launched in 2021.

Berlin-based Emil launch first Pay-per-Mile Car Insurance.

Berlin-based, Mozinga are better known for providing an online relocation service, but this week they dip their toes into the world of insurtech as they launch, Emil.  This new start-up has launched what it claims to be Germany’s first pay-per-mile car insurance product; one which is able to measure mileage in real-time.  

49% of German drivers claim to only drive an average of 6,200 miles per year, and so this new product is aimed at offering a fair, flexible & 21st-century approach to car insurance.  One which is 100% tailored to the needs of the modern day driver.

Talking to TechCrunch this week, co-founder, Bastian Knutzen said; “We have started with the German car insurance market where traditionally low mileage drivers have subsidised the higher accident risk of high-mileage drivers which has led to an unfair insurance premium distribution…We have decided to offer an insurance which rewards people for not using their cars as our first product. There is a significant price advantage for customers driving less than 6,200 miles annually, which covers around half of German car drivers,”

He went on to explain that the mileage is tracked using the “Emil stick”, an IoT device with an integrated SIM card that plugs into a vehicle’s OBD-II diagnostics port.  The mileage data is then sent to the startup’s servers.

The payment structure will support the evidence from the server.  Customers will pay a low monthly base fee and then “top-up” cents per mile when they actually drive.  This structure means that low-mileage drivers can make significant savings on their insurance premiums.

The customer can manage the whole policy from the Emil mobile app which will also be able to enhance the car’s “smart” capabilities in other ways.  It will be able to track the vehicle’s location, give an overview of all trips (“driver’s logbook”) and provide remote diagnostics.

Germany has a strong history in automotive engineering, so it is fitting that they are at the forefront of offering pioneering products.  More broadly, the Emil product tackles a shift in both driving and lifestyle trends…one which prioritises environmental awareness and a healthier way of living over speed and convenience.

About the author: I ensure that everyone at Ignite Digital Talent brings our brand values to life. I focus on building great relationships with both clients and candidates whilst also unearthing the best digital marketing professionals and opportunities on the market.

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