21% UK online customers start shopping on social media

Two in ten surveyed online shoppers in the United Kingdom begin their search for products on social media. However, only 7 percent finalize their orders through this channel. Most of them finalize their purchase on a retailer’s website or app.

These data come from the 2024 Elusive Consumer Survey by Capterra, which was conducted in April this year. During that time, 499 citizens in the United Kingdom over the age of 18 were surveyed.

According to the report, three quarters of consumers start their online search for products on internet search engines. Retailer’s websites and apps were also named often (55 percent), which is also the most common place where orders are finalized.

While social media is not yet playing a major role in online shopping, the findings do show that consumers tend to look at this channel for shopping inspiration. Consumers that use social media platforms to shop often do this on Instagram (69 percent), Facebook (54 percent) and TikTok (50 percent).

A common reason for shoppers to use social media is to find products they are interested in (73 percent). Discovering discounts is also common (61 percent) and some shoppers do it to find new brands (58 percent). Even 46 percent said they are interested in finding small or local brands on social media. This shows that by using social media marketing, brands can reach relevant audiences, ecommercenews.com reports.

Levi Strauss reports 19% ecommerce growth in Q2 earnings amid disappointing overall sales

The denim brand recorded $1.4 billion in net revenue for Q2, with earnings facing challenges from consumer denim interest.

Challenges persist in the denim industry in 2024, and those struggles were evident in Levi Strauss & Co.’s Q2 earnings. Nevertheless, the brand is optimistic that its transformation into a digital and direct-to-consumer retailer will bear fruit.

Levi‘s net revenue for the second quarter was $1.44 billion, below analystsexpectations of $1.45 billion. Still, that marked an increase of 8% over the same period last year. The company noted that, taking into account wholesale deliveries related to the implementation of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in the United States, net revenue increased by 1% year-on-year and by 2% in constant currency terms.

Levi’s reported net revenues in 2024 are expected to be up 1% to 3% year over year, and probably toward the upper end of that range.

Cash and cash equivalents were $641 million, while total liquidity was approximately $1.4 billion.

Total inventories decreased 7% on a dollar basis and 19% excluding the impact of modified terms with the majority of suppliers, which now results in the company taking ownership of inventory for goods brought into the Americas closer to the point of shipment rather than destination.

According to Levi’s CEO Michelle Gass, the core of the business remains very healthy. She specifically pointed to the strength of some of their legacy products like the 501 brand.

Levi’s has been undergoing a strategy that emphasizes more direct-to-consumer sales as opposed to its long-time strategy of its jeans being sold in retailers like Macy’s and T.J. Maxx.  The direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategy was a bright spot, seeing revenues increasing 11%. Its women’s DTC channels saw a 22% increase.

Revenues from ecommerce grew 19% on a reported and constant-currency basis, reflecting double-digit growth across the Levi’s and Beyond Yoga brands. DTC comprised 47% of total net revenues in the second quarter, down 1% from Q1.

Harmit Singh, Director of Finance and Development at Levi & Strauss, was particularly optimistic speaking about the company‘s ecommerce and digital channels development during the conference

The company’s Beyond Yoga brand has seen one of the biggest increases in digital sales.

Singh said that the DTC of the company’s business is growing in profitability.

While Levi & Strauss leaders voiced general confidence in continued growth, inflation continues to be a drag on consumers.

Singh warned that consumers are “generally cautious” and aren’t spending a lot on discretionary items.


Amazon Prime Day 2024

Amazon.com Inc. confirmed it will hold another Prime Day sale in July 2024. It will be the 10th year Amazon has held the sale. The retailer did not share the date of the sales event yet, but said it will share more details as it gets closer. A source at Amazon confirmed to Digital Commerce 360 that the Prime Day 2024 event will fall July 11 through 13.

Reached for further comment, an Amazon spokesperson did not confirm or dispute the planned dates. She said that while Prime Day 2024 dates have not been officially announced yet, details would be coming soon.

Most recently, the online retail giant held its inaugural Big Spring Sale from March 20 through 25, its first Prime Day-equivalent sales event of 2024.

The Amazon Big Spring Sale event was open to all customers, and Prime members received access to exclusive deals, Amazon said. Additionally, Amazon said it would release new deals each day of the event. In the U.S., shoppers found deals up to 50% off on beauty products as well as sports and outdoors equipment, according to Amazon. They also saw 40% off some home products, spring apparel and electronics.

The Big Spring Sale was an opportunity for customers to save on seasonally relevant deals across a wide selection of products, including spring fashion, outdoor furniture, lawn and garden essentials, cleaning and organizing products, and more.

Сookies are phased out, retailers look for alternatives

Google is eliminating third-party cookies, and retailers are actively searching for how to fill the gap.

Cookies have long been an essential piece of online advertising, mainly because they track a consumer’s activity across the internet so advertisers can serve them relevant ads. They power what the research firm eMarketer estimated would be a $600 billion annual online advertising industry in 2023.

Now, Google is phasing them out after years of concerns over privacy. Meanwhile, cookies’ retirement has been repeatedly pushed back. Most recently, Google delayed its plans to enact the phaseout by the end of 2024 into early 2025 after restricting cookies for 1% of all Google Chrome users in January.

That gives retailers some more time to fine-tune their plans.

Cookies are a tool retailers use to reach consumers and show them relevant advertisements. They’re used to keep consumers logged in to a retailer’s website, identify them and serve them ads.

For example, cookies allow a retailer’s website to maintain a consumer’s shopping cart if she closes and later reopens the website. Moreover, they allow advertisers to show ads related to products a consumer was already looking at.

Google’s cookie deprecation refers to third-party cookies, the kind that are used to serve these curated ads.

Despite the long lead time for the phaseout, advertisers still lean on cookies. A 2023 Adobe survey of 2,667 marketing and customer experience leaders found that 75% rely heavily on cookies. 45% spend at least half their advertising budgets on cookie-based targeting.

Nevertheless, 51% of those surveyed also qualified cookies as a “necessary evil,” suggesting that they’re on the hunt for a better solution. Even so, 49% said they don’t have access to enough resources to rethink advertising strategy in a post-cookie world.

Retail media networks are shaping up to be part of the solution for some of the largest retailers. They are a type of advertising platform where retailers can sell ad space on their own digital channels to third parties. Advertisers can target their ads using the retailer’s first-party data on customers, including information from loyalty programs. Ads can be placed on retailers’ websites, within mobile apps or in stores via screens and displays.

They’re advantageous both as a way of targeting ads and as an additional revenue stream for retailers.

Many retail media networks are explicitly courting retail advertisers with the threat of a cookieless future.

For Walmart Connect, Walmart DSP will provide a solution to huge challenges that brands and agencies teams will face with the cookie deprecation process. Walmart Connect is Walmart’s retail media network.

Brands will begin to seek media with vast amounts of consumer purchase data, and we already have it through Walmart Audiences, which will also enable us to understand new audiences and potential new buyers for different categories.

Target’s Roundel retail media network has similar information on its website.

“When the cookie apocalypse hits, it will wipe out the current way the industry has built audiences and the performance measurement capabilities used to measure the effectiveness of those audiences,” the website says. “If you don’t have real database and identity resolution tools at the ready to build targeted audiences and measure closed-loop media performance, you will suddenly find yourself relying on pre-digital proxies and methods of measurement.”

It presents the solution of advertising to Target customers through Roundel.

Albertson’s, Macy’s, Best Buy, Home Depot and many others also have retail media networks.

Advertisers have proposed other solutions for ad targeting after cookies are finally phased out.

For example, the advertising company Criteo suggests tracking consumers with alternative IDs as a replacement for third-party cookies. These are browser-based technology which seeks to emulate the functionality of the third-party cookie in a privacy-safe way.

Alternative IDs work in two ways. The first, deterministic IDs, are based on consumers’ personal information after obtaining their consent and using first-party data. Conversely, probabilistic IDs attempt to identify consumers without any first-party data using signals like IP address, device type and operating system.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) may also play a role. Using zero- and first-party data to personalize experiences for consumers can be challenging and costly to scale up. Supplement retailer GNC is using generative AI to turn that data into “hyper-personalized” recommendations, former chief information officer Scott Saeger told Retail Touchpoints.

Data clean rooms are another approach touted by Amazon and Walmart. They allow two actors — for example Walmart and an advertiser — to share their first-party data for more insights and precise ad targeting. The benefit of data clean rooms is that they can maintain privacy on the original data set.



Alibaba grows revenue in Q4 as net income nearly halves

Alibaba Group Holding Limited announced that it grew revenue 7% year over year in its fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31, 2024, but income from operations decreased 3%. Meanwhile, net income decreased 96% compared to the prior Q4.

For the full year, Alibaba revenue grew 8% over 2022 and operational income increased 13%. Net income increased 9%.

In a statement announcing quarterly earnings, Alibaba attributed the net income drop in the quarter to “a net loss from our investments in publicly-traded companies during the quarter, compared to a net gain in the same quarter last year.”

CEO Eddie Wu said in the statement that the company’s China and international commerce businesses realized double-digit year-over-year GMV growth through their focus on the customer experience. The management are also excited by the accelerated growth of customers and cloud computing revenues related to Alibaba’s AI products.

Alibaba’s Cloud Intelligence Group grew revenue 3% year over year to about $3.55 billion. Its cloud offerings include elastic compute, database and AI products.

In a May 14 earnings call with investors, Wu said Alibaba’s “core business has gradually returned to healthy growth” after several quarters of “adjustments and continued user experience enhancement.”

Alibaba owns the world’s two largest online marketplaces by gross merchandise value (GMV), Taobao and Tmall.

For the full 2023 fiscal year, Alibaba grew revenue to $130.35 billion. At the same time, it grew operational income to nearly $15.7 billion and net income to $11.04 billion.

In Q4, Alibaba revenue grew to about $30.73 billion. It attributed that growth to increased investments in its ecommerce business.

Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group (AIDC), the company’s ecommerce division, grew revenue 45% year over year in Q4, to $3.80 billion. The combined orders on its marketplaces grew 20% in the same period. It attributed the performance to growth in its cross-border business broadly and the AliExpress marketplace specifically.

Wu told investors the company has “completed adjustments to Alibaba Cloud’s product strategy for the AI era.” He added that AI-related revenue more than doubled, increasing in the triple digits year over year in Q4. Wu said he believes this “wave of generative AI-driven technological innovation is in the early stages of the industry cycle.”

Starting in 2024, he said, Alibaba has seen a “rapid increase in customer demand for AI.” As a result, Alibaba is investing in its cloud-computing product matrix and — in Wu’s words — “especially in AI infrastructure.”

Alibaba withdrew Cainiao’s application for an initial public offering (IPO) in March, Wu stated. Cainiao is a logistics company that Alibaba and other companies launched in May 2013.

Cainiao provides essential infrastructure to Alibaba’s core ecommerce business and Wu hopes Cainiao will strengthen its synergies with the company’s Chinese domestic and international e-commerce operations. Alibaba Group will continue to support the expansion of Cainiao’s global logistics network.

Jiang Fan, AIDC’s CEO, said Cainiao’s cross-border logistics capabilities have helped AliExpress. He said “synergies” between the two have made AliExpress more competitive, with five-day and 10-day completion rates both doubling year over year.

Pepper raises $30 million in funding for AI and advertising improvements

Pepper announced it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round. The ecommerce platform for food distributors will use the money to invest in generative artificial intelligence (AI), add new advertising capabilities and make other improvements, it said.

The round was led by investment firm Iconiq Growth. Existing investors from Index Ventures, Greylock, Imaginary and Harmony Partners also participated. Richa Mehta, principal at Iconiq, will also join Pepper’s board of directors.

Bowie Cheung, CEO and cofounder of Pepper said that the tremendous support from ICONIQ Growth and our existing investors not only validates the company’s vision but also reinforces otheir position as the most trusted and transparent technology partner in the foodservice distribution industry. This funding will enable Pepper to accelerate their roadmap, focusing on innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of customers and strengthen their operations.

New York City-based Pepper was founded as a startup in 2019. Cofounder Cheung previously spent four years at Uber Eats, according to his LinkedIn. The ecommerce platform works to help independent food service distributors find new customers, grow revenue and become more efficient, it says.

Pepper previously raised $16 million in a funding round in 2021. At the time, Cheung said the investment would accelerate product development in important areas like digital payments and product recommendations.

In 2024, Pepper has more than 140 food distribution customers and more than 16 thousand operators. Since the last funding round, Pepper doubled its customer base and released 100 new features.

The technology vendor shared some plans for investing the $30 million.

“This new funding will enable us to significantly accelerate product development and growth of our customer support teams, so that we can deliver even more value to independents,” Cheung said in a LinkedIn post.

Pepper will “double down” on the following key areas:

  • Generative AI. Pepper says AI will make operations more efficient by creating order guides and turning voicemails into orders, among other uses.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM). It will improve CRM capabilities with features like streamlined identification and setup and dynamic product recommendations.
  • Product library expansion. Pepper uses AI to curate the food service product library.
  • Advertising. It will implement new features like targeted advertising campaigns and sponsored search keywords.
  • Ecommerce UX enhancements. Pepper will improve customer experience through investment in product displays, expanded analytics, and enhanced offline capabilities.

Distributors are making every effort in ecommerce to meet digital B2B buyer expectations

After a yearlong stretch of supply chain and market disruption, distributors are sharpening their digital commerce growth strategies, adapting to new ecommerce demands in the manufacturing and distributing world. In doing so, they’re working to provide more value and a better customer experience choosy and careful buyers.

Barry Litwin, CEO of Global Industrial Co, which does more than half of its more $1 billion in annual sales transactions through digital commerce says that customers have access to plenty of inventory, whereas a couple of years ago they did not, and it seems they’re now focusing on price probably more than they ever have.

Buyers’ demand for value pricing coincides with their expectation of a helpful online and omnichannel purchasing experience.

He adds that companies need to be focused on price management, price intelligence,  they’ve got to make sure that their online pricing is competitive in the market, their website is easy to buy from.

Global Industrial finished off last year with a 22.9% year-over-year surge in fourth-quarter sales. That total reached $320.1 million. That was driven by “ecommerce and broader digital sales,” chief financial officer Tex Clark said on an earnings call. The milestone brought full-year 2023 total sales up 9.3% to $1.27 billion.

Litwin said in an interview that ecommerce continues to increase as a percentage of total sales transactions. So the company is going to continue to leverage growth in our ecommerce platform, invest pretty significantly in the site navigation and online product experience.

That means “looking at all the website data, where conversions are occurring, where customers are entering and landing on your site, and making sure we’ve got good controls in place to be able to make adjustments to optimize the customer experience,” he explained.

In addition, the distributor is expanding its product lines, including new products available online.

Other distributors of all sizes across various industries are also expanding their ecommerce and overall digital operations.


Amazon cuts hundreds of AWS jobs

Amazon will cut hundreds of jobs in its Amazon Web Services (AWS) division. The layoffs will impact “several hundred” sales, marketing and global services (SMGS) roles. In addition, AWS will also cut “a few hundred roles” on the Physical Stores Technology team, the retailer told Digital Commerce 360.

The SMGS layoffs are primarily related to business changes in Training & Certification and Sales, Amazon said. AWS is prioritizing self-service in digital training, leading to job cuts. It also found duplicate jobs across program management and sales operations, which will be eliminated. Other job cuts are due to reinvestments and streamlining teams, it said.

The Physical Stores Technology cuts are part of a “broader strategic shift” in Amazon and third-party stores, the business said.

According to the company’s representatives, they’ve identified a few targeted areas of the organization they need to streamline in order to continue focusing the company’s efforts on the key strategic areas that they believe will deliver maximum impact.  Amazon is committed to supporting the employees throughout their transition to new roles in and outside of Amazon. These decisions are difficult but necessary as we continue to invest, hire, and optimize resources to deliver innovation for our customers.

Amazon said it is still hiring in other areas, with thousands of AWS jobs posted currently.

AWS revenue grew 13% to $24.2 billion in its fourth fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31. The segment recorded an operating income of $7.2 billion in the quarter, compared to $5.2 billion in the year-ago period.

For the full fiscal year, AWS revenue also grew 13%. It reached $90.8 billion.

Small and medium-sized businesses rely on ecommerce for international growth, FedEx study

FedEx Corp.’s Small Business Trade Index data shows that the growth of ecommerce is vital to U.S. small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

More than 90% of the 1,000 SMBs said ecommerce platforms have been key to facilitating global trade. At the same time, 86% say global trade has been an important growth driver for their businesses. The FedEx small business trade index also confirmed that U.S. small business decision-makers face additional challenges, with the majority reporting shipping delays or disruptions due to geopolitical issues as a main barrier (84%).

More than two-thirds of U.S. small business executives rely on imported goods for production or as merchandise to distribute domestically. These businesses report they export products that utilize imported materials, and 82% say the ability to import products or components from overseas directly supports jobs within their company.

Most of the business leaders report that compared to 10 years ago, they are more likely to believe global trade stimulates growth, creates jobs and fosters innovation. They also recognize the importance of retraining or reskilling individuals impacted by increased trade. An overwhelming majority (95%) support prioritizing job retraining and upgrading skills among workers to help the U.S. compete globally.

FedEx is a shipping carrier for 478 retailers.

Morning Consult conducted the survey for the FedEx Small Business Trade Index between Feb. 14 and 24, 2024. It asked SMB leaders about their perceptions of the economy and trade. It also analyzed how technology and other trade policies impact U.S. business growth.

86% of small business decision-makers credit ecommerce platforms for fueling global trade, propelling business growth, according to FedEx and Morning Consult data.

Similarly, 64% of decision-makers at these companies said they “lean on” ecommerce platforms such as Shopify to grow their businesses internationally. And 60% said online marketplaces including Amazon, Mercado Libre and Alibaba help them grow.

At the same time, three-quarters (75%) of these businesses consider the cost of an international ecommerce consultant to be a challenge. More specifically, 45% consider it a minor challenge and 30% a major challenge.

95% of SMBs said Japan is “very important” or “somewhat important” for the U.S. to maintain trade with, and 91% said the same about the U.K. After that, the countries these SMBs considered most important for trade were: China (89%), Germany (88%), India (87%), South Korea (83%), Brazil (81%), Kenya (66%).

Other key findings are:

  • 91% recognize the pivotal role of technology in driving economic growth and fostering international collaboration.
  • 86% consider selling goods internationally to be important to the growth of the business
  • 84% pinpoint shipping delays and 83% highlight import/export fees as major hurdles. They emphasize the need to navigate complex trade landscapes effectively.

Sellers of wine and spirits receive many new B2B services

Provi, a B2B online marketplace featuring more than 1,400 alcoholic beverage distributors, has launched new services to streamline retail chains’ often complex purchasing needs.

At the end of February 2024, the marketplace company introduced enhanced enterprise management and procurement software and services, including a revamped way for retail chains to manage corporate approval of purchasing and expanded capabilities to punch out from procurement software to order from distributors’ online catalogs.

Provi said it launched EDI support tailored specifically for distributors operating at scale to better accommodate retail chains placing orders through electronic data interchange.

In order to improve the way retail chains manage orders for all their locations, Provi introduced an upgraded approval queue designed to let chains’ regional procurement managers use a single computer interface to view and act on product requests from multiple retail store locations. At the same time, the approval queue provides corporate executives with a centralized view of their national beverage purchasing program as sourced from various distributors.

Taylor Frendahl, director of strategic sourcing at restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s, said in a Provi press release that the consolidated approval feature had proven to be a true game-changer for their company. He added that the capability to approve, reject and monitor all orders across multiple locations in one comprehensive view had enhanced efficiency and streamlined decision-making processes.

Provi says that its new EDI support “facilitates the direct flow of order data to distributors’ enterprise resource planning systems, offering enhanced visibility into post-order changes, delivery dates and critical information between chains and their distributors.”

Going forward, Provi plans to support “split mandates,” which will let chains establish corporate beverage purchasing programs while also granting each store location autonomy in their beer and wine selections to address local demand.