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Apple, Amazon, and Google Team Up for Improved Smart Assistants, FedEx’s 2021 Predictions, and $40B in Online Returns

Google Home on Shelf

Apple, Amazon, and Google Team Up for Improved Smart Assistant Devices

In a rare move, the biggest names in tech are coming together to create better user experiences for their smart assistant devices. Apple, Amazon, and Google announced this week that they will all be working with Zigbee Alliance, a foundation that promotes standards for the Internet of Things,  to make internet-connected homes easier to set up and safer to use. Voice-controlled smart assistants, which these three companies are currently the leader in, are regularly criticized for not having industry-wide connectivity standards, leading to frustration when customers try to set up their smart home ecosystem. By working with Zigbee Alliance, Apple, Amazon, and Google intend to make the setup and communication process, including purchasing products by speaking to a smart assistant, an easier and more seamless process.

What stood out to us?

Thank you, Zigbee Alliance.

Moving boxes into FedEx trucks

FedEx to “Start Lapping” Amazon in 2021

One of the biggest names in shipping is very confident about its success in the next two years. Despite a disappointing fiscal second quarter described as “breathtakingly bad,” FedEx believes it’s going to beat Amazon at shipping in 2021. While specific details of the company’s plan have yet to be disclosed, FedEx’s focus on expanding ground-delivery services, which now includes operating seven days a week, is believed to be the driving force of momentum. However, the company’s 2.8% loss of sales last quarter caused by rising costs associated with ground deliveries puts this into question. “If you think about all the positive things we’ve said and that we’re seeing, as we get into 2021, we will start lapping Amazon,” says FedEx CFO Alan B. Graf Jr. “Without giving you specifics, we’re at the bottom, and we’re going to come up off the mat and we’re going to improve through the rest of this year and into the next.”

What stood out to us?

Separately, Barnes & Noble also announced that they will be lapping Amazon in 2021. 

A wrapped Christmas present ready to be returned

$40B Worth of Online Purchases to Be Returned this Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for receiving gifts in the mail and then sending them back. According to a study by commercial real estate services firm CBRE, shoppers are expected to return $41.6 billion worth of gifts bought online this holiday season. This total, up by $4B from last year, was estimated by assuming shoppers return 15% to 30% of online purchases on average. This percentage, significantly higher than the 13% return rate for gifts purchased from brick-and-mortar stores, is largely attributed to the return policies on ecommerce sites such as Amazon that make returning gifts purchased online an easier process than in-person. ″[The holidays] are a time when retailers are seeing all these sales and that does translate into rising profit margins,” says Matt Walaszek, associate director of industrial and logistics research at CBRE. “However, the returns are quite costly. ... The costs are the No. 1 stressor for the retailers.”

What stood out to us?

Kohl’s store traffic will surge.

In the headlines

  • Comercio Electrónico Rápido: Spanish food delivery app Glovo has raised $150M in funding thanks to an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund.
  • No Need to Spend $35: 80% of the top e-retailers are offering free shipping to boost holiday sales.
  • Sea-Commerce: Bangalore-based meat and seafood ecommerce startup Licious is expanding nationally and secures $30M in funding.
  • Bummer-obos: Andy Dunn, founder of menswear site Bonobos, is leaving parent company Wal-Mart.

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