Walmart to drop plastic mailers, let customers bring their own bags to order pickup

Walmart announced this morning it will be reducing plastic across its e-commerce operations in a number of ways, including shifting from plastic mailers to recyclable paper bag mailers and allowing customers to decline the use of plastic shopping bags for their online pickup orders, among other things. It will also introduce an option for customers shopping online to request their items be consolidated into fewer boxes, to reduce waste.

E-commerce rival Amazon introduced a similar option back in 2019, with its Amazon Day Delivery, which allows shoppers to pick a single day per week to receive their Amazon orders.

Image Credits: Walmart

Walmart estimates the changes to the mailers alone will eliminate 65 million plastic bag mailers or more than 2,000 tons of plastic from circulation in the U.S. by the end of the current fiscal year. However, this initiative only applies to orders shipped with Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS). Third-party sellers on Walmart’s Marketplace have the option to use WFS, but are not required to. Plus, Walmart isn’t committing to a total shift, instead saying that it will impact “nearly all orders shipped in plastic mailers” from its fulfillment centers, stores, and marketplace items shipped with WFS — but not “all orders.”

In addition, Walmart will no longer require customers to accept their pickup orders in single-use plastic grocery bags, following earlier tests. Based on early adoption, the retailer believes this option will lead to the elimination of millions of single-use bags from circulation each year. The option will roll out across the U.S. throughout 2023 with an expected completion by year-end.

Image Credits: Walmart

Ahead of this change, Walmart had been working to reduce its use of single-use bags, recently expanding to four more regions in line with local regulations, including Delaware, Oregon, Washington D.C., and Washington state. In these markets, Walmart stores won’t offer single-use bags at the frontend or at pickup, bringing the total number of states where bags were eliminated to 10. Including Walmart Canada and Mexico, the company said it anticipated avoiding the use of nearly 2 billion single-use bags every year.

While any improvement is welcome here, the reality is that much stricter steps or tougher regulations would be needed to truly solve the problem of the overuse of plastic. The convenience of e-commerce and online grocery means there is more plastic in circulation than would be necessary if customers went to the store with their own bags, rather than having items shipped to their homes in boxes or mailers or items picked up in plastic bags.

In addition, some of these changes are optional for the customer — they have to choose to reduce their deliveries or decline single-use bags at pickup by bringing their own. That again puts more of the burden on the consumer who has to remember to make the sustainable choice.

Walmart says it’s also working to reduce cardboard in shipments by transitioning to right-size packaging, which is rolling out to roughly half its fulfillment network, using technologies that reduce the need for filler by 60%. And it’s working with AI technologies to identify when items can be fulfilled from stores instead of fulfillment centers, reducing the number of miles that need to be driven. These efforts are ongoing and were highlighted as other examples of where Walmart is looking toward sustainability.

Walmart to drop plastic mailers, let customers bring their own bags to order pickup by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

‘Ted Lasso’ and other Apple TV+ merch could arrive in the Apple Store, report says

The Apple Store could be expanding beyond tech products. As the company continues to invest in its original Apple TV+ content, a recent Bloomberg report indicates that Apple plans to introduce a new product category for its online store– merchandise tied to its popular TV shows. This includes “Ted Lasso” merch, which is rounding out its third — and possibly last — season.

The potential addition of Apple TV+ merch on the Apple Store could mark the first time the company has sold these types of products directly to customers, reported Bloomberg. Apple will roll out the apparel early next month, the publication noted, and its retail stores will promote a QR code that directs shoppers to the new collection.

Apple was not immediately available to comment to TechCrunch.

Warner Bros. has offered “Ted Lasso” merch through its online shop for quite some time, including the recently launched special edition Monopoly and UNO board games, as well as figurines, mugs, stationary, soccer balls and clothing.

In March, Apple partnered with Nike to release official “Ted Lasso” apparel, such as AFC Richmond jerseys, hoodies, scarves and more. The Nike items will be the first to appear on the Apple Store, according to Bloomberg, and prices will range from $35 and up.

If the report turns out to be true, it’s likely that Apple would further capitalize on the success of the hit show as well as other popular Apple TV+ titles like “Shrinking,” “For All Mankind” and “Mythic Quest,” among others.

Severance” is another successful series that has its own merch. In November 2022, Apple TV+ teamed up with the online store Mando to sell vinyl records with the “Severance” soundtrack.

Last year, Disney+ tested out a shopping experience to promote its popular shows. The experiment allowed Disney+ subscribers to shop exclusive merchandise from brands such as Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar.

‘Ted Lasso’ and other Apple TV+ merch could arrive in the Apple Store, report says by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

Retail media targeting on the AI maturity curve

As the retail sector grows increasingly reliant and focused on data and artificial intelligence (AI), it’s essential that retailers understand exactly how first-party data analysis can be crystalized into insights on customer behavior – and, in turn, a tangible competitive advantage.

To that end, consider the chart below, dubbed the “Data & AI Maturity Curve.”

The data + AI maturity curve

The data + AI maturity curve. Image Credits: Zitcha/Databricks

This is a simplified view of how a retailer’s data and AI capabilities (charted on the x-axis) directly correlate with the competitive advantage of its retail media network (charted on the y-axis). A general strategic approach following this curve will see retailers making incremental steps towards sophistication, inching ever closer to the vaunted “predictive analysis” that will allow them to anticipate customer needs and deliver finely tuned, personalized experiences.

This is all far easier said than done, however, and some steps are more important than others when it comes to intelligent targeting. Let’s look at the three most important milestones along the road to predictive analysis in the retail media context.

Clean, accepted data

The “on-ramp” to this curve for any retailer looking to harness the power of data and AI begins with a full view of clean and accepted data across all customer interactions and media placements, whether physical or digital, owned or rented. This data is crucial for understanding the opportunity, managing yield, and accurately measuring campaign performance.

As technology formalizes retail media as a category, the chance to lead on metric integrity and data quality is significant. Understanding the unique count of customers along the journey through physical and digital touch points is also crucial, as duplicating customer counts to inflate the value of the media network is a risk to both trust and budget growth in the long term.

Let’s look at the three most important milestones along the road to predictive analysis in the retail media context.

Data is, ideally, streamed to a behavioral data platform (BDP) and stored in a secure, cloud-hosted data lake. Data from SaaS systems updates the BDP via a server-to-server connector. Data is then modeled and enriched by the BDP, where every customer interaction is unified to a single, holistic view of the customer.

This provides a single profile with an event history with thousands of records for each customer. While certainly a critical step, this really is the ground floor when it comes to media targeting – once this foundation is established, maturity can begin to build up.


Predictiveness/complexity. Image Credits: Zitcha/Snowplow

Contextual targeting

The first level of true media targeting capability is delivering a message to a surface – a specific platform or device facing a target audience – based on its context. This is the most fundamental form of targeting and a crucial basis for all other targeting capabilities. The role of data at this stage is to forecast the inventory of placements available by placement type and location, which is key for retailers to manage their media network and optimize yield. Message relevance and brand safety are also dependent on this capability.

Retail media targeting on the AI maturity curve by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch

Praktis lands $20M to help Indonesian D2C brands handle their supply chains

Small to medium-sized enterprises contribute 60% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product. But companies in the D2C space still struggle to compete against bigger brands. Praktis wants to put them on a more level playing field.

The startup, which handles everything from raw material purchases to order fulfillment for D2C brands and suppliers, announced today it has raised $20 million in Series A funding. The round was led by East Ventures (Growth fund), with participation from Triputra Groiup and SMDV.

Praktis co-founder and chief executive officer Adrian Gilrandy told TechCrunch that even though 60% of Indonesia’s GDP comes from SMEs, many experience difficulties while scaling up their business operations. These include finding reliable suppliers, getting fair pricing, the cost of labor and high exposure to fixed costs.

Praktis' team

Praktis’ team

Through its platform, Praktis’ customers are able to manage this business operations, including raw material purchases, production, fulfillment and logistics. Gilrandy said Praktis also aggregates purchasing and processing for economies of scale. This leaves D2C brands free to focus on other parts of their business, including brand building and marketing.

The startup plans to scale up by growing alongside the D2C brands it serves. Gilrandy said its ecosystem can easily be applied to other verticals—for example, it started in fashion before moving on to the beauty industry. Praktis claimed 12x growth year-on-year from 2020 to 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of its services, and 4x growth year-on-year from 2021 to 2022.

Praktis will use its new funding for technology development for both brands and suppliers, building its team and expanding its end-to-end supply chain ecosystem.

The startup also announced today it has appointed Leonard Pontoh as its chief financial officer. Pontoh is also joining its board of directors.

In a statement, East Ventures co-founder and managing partner Willson Cuaca said, “We are thrilled to double down our investment to Praktis as they strive to empower D2C brands in Indonesia and hit profitability much faster than we expected.”

Praktis lands $20M to help Indonesian D2C brands handle their supply chains by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

eBay appoints new head of emerging markets, covering regions like Southeast Asia and India

eBay announced today that it has appointed Vidmay Naini as its general manager for global emerging markets, a role that covers the company’s growth in Southeast Asia, India, Eastern Europe, Israel, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Before his new position, Naini led eBay’s Southeast Asia and India businesses.

Naini has been with eBay for 18 years and his previous projects include eBay’s strategic investment in Flipkart.

In a statement, Naini said, “the digital economy is exponentially growing in these markets, with small and medium-sized businesses propelling its growth. Global e-commerce platforms such as eBay can revolutionize export opportunities and expand the reach these businesses can achieve.”

In its announcement about Naini’s appointment, eBay highlighted its 2022 Southeast Asia Small Online Business Trade Report, which found that 99% of all small businesses on eBay currently export items to an average of 25 different international markets on an annual basis.

In Southeast Asia in particular, 68% of “eBay-enabled small businesses” in six countries—Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore—export to 10 or more international markets.

Naini told Tech Wire Asia last July that he expects to see strong growth in Southeast Asia and that eBay’s business in the region was just beginning to take hold. “We’ve seen significant growth in our business, especially with the SMBs selling from this region to the world. The truth is, we are just scratching the surface because we see eBay as a very nascent business here still, and we expect it to grow multifold.”

eBay appoints new head of emerging markets, covering regions like Southeast Asia and India by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Easyship strikes agreement to support eBay’s new International Shipping program

Easyship, the New York- and Singapore-based startup that enables e-commerce sellers to integrate with more than 250 courier services, announced today it has expanded its partnership with eBay to support eBay International Shipping, a newly-launched program. This means that buyers can now access more regional and express shipping solutions for international destinations through eBay’s platform.

Easyship’s API has already been used in several services on eBay, including label generation, cross-border compliance and tracking in the U.S. It’s also supported domestic and international shipments in Canada and Australia since 2019.

TechCrunch last covered Easyship when it joined the Shopify Plus Technology Partner Program in 2020, at that time making it the only shipping app in Asia for Shopify Plus.

The startup was founded in 2015 by Lazada veterans Tommaso Tamburnotti and Augustin Ceyrac, and former banker Paul Lugagne Delpon, and its backers include Lazada founder Maximilian Bittner and former Richemont CEO Richard Lepeu.

According to the Business of Apps, eBay made about $9.7 billion in revenues in 2022, half of which came from outside the United States. Seven million of eBay’s 25 million sellers are based in the U.S., and eBay’s partnership with Easyship will enable them to start shipping internationally.

In a statement, eBay US vice president Adam Ireland said, “With eBay International Shipping, we’re making global connections more accessible, affordable and profitable, significantly increasing the volume of items available to 200+ countries. Our partnership with Easyship makes it even easier for our sellers to tap into a universe of a new business opportunities.”

Easyship strikes agreement to support eBay’s new International Shipping program by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

Snapchat’s AR technology comes to the real world with ‘AR Mirrors’

Snap today offered an update on its AR Enterprise Services (ARES), the company’s recently announced initiative focused on providing AR tools and expertise to businesses who want to leverage Snapchat’s technology in their own websites and apps. At its Partner Summit on Wednesday, the company showed partners its Shopping Suite, which includes features like AR Try-On and 3D product viewing, among other things, and announced a new offering called AR Mirrors that aims to bring AR tech to physical screens in the real world.

Coca-Cola is using the tech to make an AR-enabled vending machine and other retailers, including Men’s Wearhouse and Nike, have tested the product, Snap said, noting the tech would now become part of ARES.

The company first detailed its Shopping Suite during ARES’ official unveiling in March, explaining how businesses can utilize its features on their e-commerce sites and apps. Among the nearly half-dozen features included in the suite are those that let users view products from all angles, get fit and sizing recommendations based on their body shapes, and others to leverage AR experiences to virtually try-on things like apparel, accessories, or footwear. Snap noted customers using the suite of tools included sunglasses seller Goodr, clothing company Princess Polly and Mongolian manufacturer Gobi Cashmere, to name a few.

Snap noted that Goodr found their customers were 81% more likely to add products to their cart after using AR Try-On. They also saw a 67% uplift in conversion for mobile device users, leading to a 59% increase in revenue per shopper. Princess Polly delivered over 50 million fit and sizing recommendations and saw a 24% lower return rate when they used Snap’s technology. Gobi reported Snap’s features led to 4x conversions.

Also demoed today was Live Garment Transfer, a tool that makes AR asset creation easier for retailers by allowing them to upload 3D assets in Lens Studio. The retailers can create a Lens that applies a 3D animated garment on top of what users are wearing in real-time, without special assets being needed.

Image Credits: Snap

Businesses access the Shopping Suite solution via a front-end dashboard and backend infrastructure where they create and manage their AR assets, build AR experiences, manage 3D asset catalogs, and implement the Shopping Suite SDK. Meanwhile, Snap provides an in-house team that helps clients with onboarding and using the suite’s features.

Now, Snap’s ARES business line will expand to include another new option, with the launch of AR Mirrors, announced today.

This offering brings AR features to physical spaces and events, Snap says, allowing customers to play with AR out in the real world — like in physical retail stores, for example. The product is focused on engaging customers and enhancing the in-store experience, though it may not become a significant business given the sort of one-off nature of these types of experiences.

Image Credits: Snap

Snap says Men’s Wearhouse and Nike have used its AR Mirrors in stores. It currently has an AR Mirror in a Men’s Wearhouse store to get shoppers ready for prom and wedding season and says Nike, who was the first pilot tester last fall, will later this year test AR Mirrors for footwear in stores.

The company additionally cited studies that found brands using AR in stores were 82% more likely to be recommended and 85% more likely to inspire future purchases.

Image Credits: Snap

Snap added it’s now working with Coca-Cola on an AR-enabled vending machine where users can step up and use hand gestures to control what’s on the screen. The machine is a prototype but is designed to blend the physical and digital experience together, the company said.

Read more about Snap Partner Summit 2023

Snapchat’s AR technology comes to the real world with ‘AR Mirrors’ by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

Walmart-backed payments giant PhonePe makes e-commerce push

In a move reminiscent of its successful early bet on the government-backed UPI network seven years ago, PhonePe, India’s leading mobile payments app, is now setting its sights on the e-commerce sector.

The Bengaluru-based startup, backed by retail giant Walmart, on Tuesday launched a hyperlocal commerce app, called Pincode, that is powered by the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), an Indian government initiative striving to democratize the e-commerce landscape by offering a zero-commission platform.

Pincode will work with local shops and is going live initially in Bengaluru, PhonePe executives said at a press conference on Tuesday. The startup, which also counts General Atlantic and Tiger Global among its backers, plans to slowly expand to more cities and amass 100,000 orders a day by end of the year.

Pincode currently focuses on categories such as grocery, medicines, food, electronics and home decor.

ONDC, a non-profit firm that was set up by India’s commerce ministry in 2021, is an “interoperable” network, where buyers and sellers can do business regardless of service they use, disrupting the consumers’ reliance on using proprietary services run by Amazon and Flipkart.

“This is the UPI moment for e-commerce,” said Sameer Nigam, co-founder and chief executive of PhonePe. “I think there is legitimate friction in the e-commerce industry. Would we have entered the e-commerce industry had ONDC not happened? Absolutely not.”

Scores of industry players including the 48-year-old retailer Sangeetha Mobiles, and restaurants are hoping that ONDC makes a dent in the market and forces incumbents to lower their fees, their executives said.

Walmart-backed fintech giant PhonePe makes e-commerce push

PhonePe’s Pincode app. Pincode is a popular English word for zipcode in India. Image credits: PhonePe

“Pincode is a brand-new shopping app and offers a revolutionary new approach to e-commerce, which puts all the local stores and sellers at the heart of the digital shopping growth story. Pincode is built on the ONDC network, which allows us to generate demand for merchants digitized by various seller platforms in an inclusive manner, while creating new opportunities for growth and driving innovation at scale,” he added.

PhonePe, valued at $12 billion, signing up to ONDC is remarkable in a number of ways.

  1. In the Walmart-backed app, ONDC is courting a major player. The network so far largely been ignored by the major giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook
  2. Even as PhonePe assumes over 50% of all transactions value on the UPI network, the company has been hunting for other avenues to generate revenue. PhonePe has recently said in recent quarters that it will use its large platform to cross-sell insurance and other services
  3. PhonePe, which was acquired by Flipkart in 2016, separated from the e-commerce giant last year. Even as Flipkart doesn’t plan to get into mobile payments, TechCrunch previously reported, it’s interesting that PhonePe wants a slice of the e-commerce market

PhonePe said it will “invest significant effort” in Pincode and in “enabling every Indian shopkeeper spread across every nook and corner, over the next few years.”

India’s e-commerce market, currently dominated by Flipkart and Amazon, is estimated to be worth $133 billion by 2025, according to wealth manager Sanford C. Bernstein. ONDC poses a major disruption to the e-commerce sector, according to Morgan Stanley, but it still has a few things that need to be ironed out.

“We see execution challenges… such as in the ability to bridge the trust deficit between sellers and buyers, and provide real- time availability data for inventory management,” they wrote in a recent report.

Walmart-backed payments giant PhonePe makes e-commerce push by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Snap is offering its AR tools to enterprise customers

Snap users are already quite familiar with the company’s expertise in AR thanks to Lenses and Filters. Now, the social media company is unveiling AR Enterprise Services (ARES) to offer those tools to businesses. As part of the launch, Snap is offering a “Shopping Suite” to brands that can help them get more customers.

The company said that more than 250 million people engage with AR on the platform every day. For comparison, Snapchat has 375 million daily active users. Last year, it claimed that since January 2021 users have tried shopping-related AR lenses more than 5 billion times. The company didn’t provide an updated figure.

The company’s partners use AR Lenses to let people try on different apparel and accessories. They include Amazon and Walmart-owned Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart.

Snap’s new Shopping Suite SaaS product offers four features: AR try-on to virtually try new styles of clothing, footwear, and accessories. Users can also upload an image of themselves and see how these items might look on them; 3D viewer to look at a product from all angles; fit and sizing recommendation tech based on the users’ body shapes; enterprise manager to host and manage all digital assets, create AR experiences using Snap’s SDK, and look at performance analytics; and help from the Snap’s team to customize client’s solutions.

Companies can integrate these features directly into their apps or websites, so customers can engage with them while checking out products.

Image Credits: Snap

The social media platform has been building up to this for a while. In 2021, it acquired Fit Analytics, a start-up that helped customers find the right size of apparel and footwear from online retailers. The same year, it added commerce-related features to its AR Lens creator studio. In April 2022, Snap introduced tools for virtual try-on and converting images into 3D assets. These were made possible by Snap’s acquisitions of Forma and Vertebrae. It also launched the Lens Cloud back-end service for lens developers. Now, the company is combining all this into a package for enterprise customers.

“Over the last decade, we’ve been hard at work bringing fun and personal AR experiences to Snapchatters. In the next decade, we’re excited to take our world-class AR technology to business’ websites and apps. We look forward to making the shopping experience more delightful for consumers and transforming businesses around the world with AR Enterprise Services,” Jill Popelka, Head of AR Enterprise Services at Snap, said in a statement.

Image Credits: Snap

Snap has been testing the SaaS offering with some customers already. These include sunglasses seller Goodr, clothing company Princess Polly, and Mongolian manufacturer Gobi Cashmere. Snap claimed that these retailers have seen higher conversion rates, better engagement with products, and lower return rates.

The company’s results for Q4 2022 showed that revenue was flat year-over-year and it registered a net loss as compared to a profitable quarter in Q4 2021. The company has been taking steps to return to a cash flow-positive state with different monetization strategies. Last June, it launched the Snapchat+ subscription plan, which now has more than 2 million paid users.

Snap is buoyant about its enterprise offerings. The company quoted a survey saying 92% of Gen Z users are comfortable using AR shopping features. A combined study from Publics media and Snap suggests that the AR Retail market will have a project value of $1.2 trillion by 2030.

Snap is offering its AR tools to enterprise customers by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch