TIME Post office

Here’s How the Post Office Is Taking On UPS, FedEx, and Amazon

Postal Service Announces End To Saturday Delivery
Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images A U.S. Postal Service employee.

It has ramped up same-day delivery

The United States Postal Service’s postmaster general Megan Brennan has been in office for six months, and already she’s starting to push the quasi-governmental agency to evolve in line with changing American mailing needs, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Under Brennan, USPS has ramped up same-day delivery in order to compete with rivals FedEx, UPS, and Amazon for the growing share of packages with tight schedules.

Since October 2014, the Postal Service has begun offering deliveries of Amazon groceries in select markets, such as San Francisco, and New York. Now the service delivers an estimated 40% of the e-commerce giant’s orders across the country, compared to UPS and FedEx’s shares of around 20% each, according to Bloomberg.

The USPS saw first-class mail drop 3% in 2014; over the past decade, according to the Journal, it’s fallen 20%. The insatiable need for e-commerce delivery presents the Postal Service with an opportunity to replace that lost revenue — but only if it can be light on its feet in a competitive market. Already, in 2014, package delivery revenue has risen by 8% to account for 20% of the agency’s revenue.

Brennan’s first legislative push is to get Congress to let USPS ship alcohol, which one legislator said would boost Postal Service revenue by $50 million, the Journal reported. That’s sorely needed money. Although package revenue has been growing rapidly, the Postal Service reported a $586 million net loss in the third quarter on Aug. 10.

TIME

Macy’s Is Taking On Amazon With Same-day Delivery In 17 Cities

Shoppers In Union Square Ahead Of Consumer Comfort Figures
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The nation's largest department store competes with the e-commerce giant as demand for quick delivery grows

Macy’s, the nation’s largest department store, is starting to compete with Amazon by offering same-day delivery in 17 markets. In order to do this, the retailer is using a delivery service called Deliv. In the same vein as Uber, Deliv is a startup that has a band of contracted delivery drivers on hand who pick up customers’ orders from a store, and then drop the orders off directly at the shipping address.

Macy’s experimented with same-day delivery in eight markets last fall. Its customers appreciated the option to receive a package within hours, proving the experiment to be successful and prompting the retailer to expand same-day delivery to nine new markets. Macy’s also has plans to expand fast delivery at Bloomingdale’s, its high-end counterpart.

Amazon currently offers same-day delivery in 14 metro areas and is working on one- and two-hour deliveries for Amazon Prime members. LaserShip, a Virginia based Amazon contractor, has plans to expand quick delivery to 5 new markets.

Reuters reports that fast deliveries are becoming a “battleground” for retailers trying to increase online orders. However, experts warn that quick deliveries can come as a significant cost to these companies.

Chains such as Macy’s have a significant advantage over Amazon, as they have over 900 locations in the United States. Amazon only has 50 distribution centers, and therefore more distance to cover.

TIME eBay

Ebay Just Killed Off Its Same-day Delivery Service

Ebay Reports Quarterly Earnings
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

It launched the service in 2012

EBay’s business plan took a bit more shape on Monday when the online marketplace announced it will be shutting down its same-day delivery service, eBay Now, by the end of the week, according to CNET.

Last week, the company said it is acquiring Twice, an online marketplace for second-hand clothing, and now it seems the company’s business realignment is becoming clearer. The company is killing off the delivery service it launched in 2012, born out of its $75 million acquisition of startup Milo. Through the service, eBay customers could get same-day delivery of items from local merchants, and it was available in New York, Chicago, Dallas, and parts of the Bay Area.

Through the pilot programs, eBay has realized that same-day delivery makes more sense for items such as diapers or groceries, which aren’t core eBay categories like collectibles and used items. Also, this type of delivery proved challenging for its individual sellers, many of whom are selling their wares from their homes.

Most of the employees affected by the shutdown will be reassigned elsewhere in the company, an eBay spokesperson told CNET.

EBay will also be sunsetting some of its apps, eBay Motors, eBay Fashion, and eBay Valet, as it looks to focus customers’ attention on its flagship app. With PayPal officially and fully split off from eBay, the company will need to focus its business now more than ever.

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s Handyman Service Is Expanding to 15 Cities

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JOHN MACDOUGALL—AFP/Getty Images

E-retailer is going head-to-dead with home improvement stores

Amazon is expanding its local services marketplace in 15 cities, offering everything from house painting to central air installation.

The marketplace, called Amazon Home Services, includes 15 million unique offerings across more than 900 professional services. That’s a more than sevenfold increase in the number of services offered since Amazon launched the service in March.

The service will now be on offer in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Pheonix, San Diego, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. Amazon also added availability in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle — the cities where it first introduced the service in March.

“Amazon Home Services makes buying a service as easy as buying a product on Amazon,” said Nish Lathia, general manager of Amazon Home Services. “We are excited to expand our offers and availability across the country, providing customers with a quick and simple way to purchase services and service pros with a trusted and familiar marketplace to reach local customers.”

Amazon acts as a middleman for customers and helps them find contractors or other third-party services for home-based needs. It’s a new frontier for Amazon as it goes head-to-head with both review sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, as well as home improvement stores, including Home Depot and Lowe’s, that offer similar services.

Customers can request the service via custom or pre-packaged options. For custom services, users can submit a written description with photographs of what they need to receive estimates from local pros. For many projects, like faucet replacement or installing a basketball hoop, there’s a list of pre-packaged options that don’t require sorting through estimates. All services are guaranteed by Amazon.

TIME India

Amazon Looks to Turn India Into Firm’s Biggest Market Outside the U.S.

INDIA-ECONOMY-AMAZON-BEZOS
Manjunath Kiran—AFP/Getty Images CEO of Amazon.com Jeff Bezos poses on a lorry in Bangalore on Sept. 28, 2014

E-commerce is booming in the South Asian nation, with one recent study forecasting a 67% hike in average annual spending on online purchases in 2015

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is planning to invest as much as $5 billion to turn India into its biggest market outside the U.S., the Economic Times newspaper reports.

Last year, the online behemoth, which entered India in 2013 with a website that offers a platform for local retailers to sell their goods online, committed itself to investing $2 billion in its Indian operations as it sought to capitalize on the country’s expanding middle class, a significant section of which is going online at a rapid rate.

According to the Economic Times, most of the additional funds will go toward expanding Amazon’s network of warehouses and data centers, and strengthening its marketplace platform. The aim: to better compete with homegrown rivals like Flipkart, India’s biggest online retailer, which was set up by two former Amazon employees in 2007.

Announcing the $2 billion injection last year, Amazon chief executive and founder Jeff Bezos said the online giant’s Indian arm had already exceeded expectations, hosting, at the time, over 17 million products on its platform. “After our first year in business, the response from customers and small and medium-sized businesses in India has far surpassed our expectations,” he said.

The potential for growth is immense: one recent study forecast a 67% hike in average annual spending on online purchases in 2015. The report, put together by Indian industry body ASSOCHAM and the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, also said that the country’s e-commerce industry was likely to balloon in value from some $17 billion in 2014 to $100 billion by 2019.

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s Prime Day Could Become An Annual Event

David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images Caption

Sales soared, despite negative social media posts.

Love it or hate it, Amazon’s Prime Day could very well be here to stay. Sales from the day of flash sales and Black Friday-like deals helped the e-commerce giant push more products and make more money than on regular days. And while not all customers were pleased with the deals, Amazon sure was.

“Going into this, we weren’t sure whether Prime Day would be a one-time thing or if it would become an annual event,” said Greg Greeley, vice president of Prime, in a statement. “After yesterday’s results, we’ll definitely be doing this again.”

The company also stated that order growth worldwide was up 266% over the same day in 2014. Sales were rose 18% above Black Friday 2014, the company’s previously biggest event of its type.

TIME Amazon

These People Complained About Amazon Echo’s Prime Day Discount … on Amazon

They didn't hold back

Amazon’s flagship Internet of Things product, Echo, notched a steep discount on Wednesday’s Prime Day sale on the e-commerce site. The only problem: There weren’t enough to go around. The item was $50 off its retail price of $179.99.

So, naturally, what did consumers do? They complained. A lot. And they did it on Amazon’s review feature.

Take a look at the product’s review page, sort by most recent, and look at the reviews dated July 15, 2015. You’ll see dozens of negative, one-star posts. It seems there were many customers who really, really wanted the item, which can play music, tell the weather, and more, via voice command. Here’s a sampling:

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Of course, it’s notable that while there were negative, one-star reviews posted on Prime Day, the item has over 22,000 reviews, and 66% of them are five-star reviews.

Other products that saw steep discounts also inspired rage online. Take this television, for example, which was highlighted by The Consumerist.

But while consumers complained online about Prime Day offerings, the event did boost sales for Amazon. In fact, the company may have seen a bump of as much as 80% in the U.S.

For more on the Echo, check out Fortune’s review here.

TIME Startups

Meet ‘Jet,’ the Startup Taking On Amazon and Costco

Jet
Jet Jet

Jet promises to deliver the web's best price on more than 10 million products

Finding a good deal online isn’t all that difficult. But finding the best deal? That’s a much tougher hill to climb. Still, from President’s Day through Black Friday (and Prime Day, apparently), people scour the web to find the lowest prices on whatever they’re buying. This must-save mentality also drives Jet, a massive new startup opening for business on July 21. Jet promises to provide the lowest prices on everything it sells. And if that’s not enough, depending on the options you select while shopping, you can get your goodies even cheaper.

According to Liza Landsman, Jet’s chief customer officer, the company is able to reduce prices by eliminating e-commerce inefficiencies that have developed over the past 15 years. “Oftentimes there are a lot of hidden costs in e-commerce, and a lot of them are bundled into the cost of packing things into multiple boxes and shipping them long distances,” says Landsman.

Jet works by having a big network of partner merchants in addition to its own warehouses full of items. As a shopper add items to his or her online shopping cart, the company works away in the background, determining the most efficient merchant for that particular sale. Jet’s goal is to ultimately find the fewest number of suppliers who will ship your order the shortest possible distance.

Take, for example, toilet paper. As I write this, a 12-count package of Quilted Northern ultra plush costs $6.49 on Jet, a price that matches Walgreen’s and bests Amazon’s $8.29. But once Jet factors in its efficiency modeling, the price drops by another $.39, down to $6.10. But if you already had a box of Kleenex ultra soft tissues in your shopping cart (with its own price whittled down to a web-best $3.48), the Quilted Northern price drops further than before, now ringing in at $5.93. But forget the napkins. If you need something a little more niche — like a 2-inch chrome trailer hitch, a stovetop hood, or a sprinkler head — the toilet paper savings spring back to just $.39, because these products are likely coming from different merchants.

Still, while it may sound like a corporate tag line, the rule on Jet tends to be: the more you buy, the more you save.

This is just one way the company looks to reduce the price of its products. Other ways to save include choosing a less expensive form of payment, like debit over credit, or waiving the right to return a product, which is something you’d do for toilet paper, perhaps, but not electronics. “All those costs we pull out of the system, we pass back to the consumer in the form of greater savings or lower prices,” says Landsman.

So, what’s the catch? Well, to get in on this savings bonanza, you have to become a member. That puts Jet more in competition with price clubs like Costco than Amazon. For $50 a year, members get free shipping on orders over $35, free returns (unless they opt out of them), and a guarantee that they’ll save as much as the membership fee or they’ll get the difference refunded to them. In its beta testing with real-world customers (which is how I have access), Jet has estimated the average household will save $150 per year shopping through their site.

As a new dad who’s knee-deep in diapers, baby formula, and other bulk goodies, I was skeptical over how much the site would save me over Costco. I’ve done my homework, worked my budget, and short of extreme couponing was getting the best deals I could find. But after plugging my shopping list into Jet, I was quickly humbled by the savings my shopping cart was showing.

In fairness, it wasn’t an apples-to-apples comparison (or, rather Kirkland to Huggies). But the cost of diapers, for instance, was similar at the start and then became gradually more disparate as I piled on other household staples. Throw in the fact that I don’t have to fight for parking, wait in lines, it will be delivered to my door, and there should be fewer boxes than Amazon orders — this dad is sold.

But there are things missing from Jet, and I’m not just talking about free samples of sausage and spicy mustard. Frozen foods are a big draw for price clubs, and Jet doesn’t stock these kinds of products — at least not yet. Landsman says fresh food is something the company will add to its offerings after launch. But she also points out that once they go live with it, customers will receive an unexpected benefit. “You don’t have to buy the five-pound-jug of mayonnaise to get those good savings,” she says.

That said, browsing for other items, like a baby bike seat, yielded just three results, with two of them being the same product, just priced differently. Landsman says that as the company prepares for launch next week, there are still products being coded, and categories like sporting goods aren’t where Jet would like them to be. They better get them there fast, because Amazon packs more into its listings every day.

But in an effort to take away some of Amazon’s sales, Jet is offering a free three-month trial membership once the service goes live. There’s some speculation that if Jet is successful, it might trigger some sort of nuclear pricing war between it and the incumbents. If that’s the case, the winner of that battle should be us shoppers.

TIME Amazon

This Is How Much Sales Rose For Amazon On Prime Day

The company said sales surpassed Black Friday

Despite the negative reaction on social media to Amazon’s offerings during the first-ever Prime Day Wednesday to celebrate the retailer’s 20th anniversary, sales apparently soared.

In fact, sales were up 80% in the U.S. and 40% in Europe, according to ChannelAdvisor and CNN Money.

Amazon even boasted that sales yesterday surpassed last year’s Black Friday, although it’s unclear exactly what figure Jeff Bezos’ company scored. It did, however, discuss the number of a few items sold throughout the day: “Prime members have bought tens of thousands of Fire TV Sticks, 35,000 Lord of the Rings Blu-Ray sets, 28,000 Rubbermaid sets, and 4,000 Echos in 15 minutes. The Kate Spade purse was gone in less than a minute. The 1.2K of $999 TVs sold out in less than 10 minutes,” the company said in a statement.

However, Amazon earned a fair amount of criticism for its “Lightning Deals” and the products it chose to discount, CNN reported: “We have years of experience with these types of events and we stagger the deals to make sure the fun will last through tonight,” the company shot back in a statement.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced the upcoming release of its first-ever original film, which will be directed by Spike Lee.

TIME facebook

Facebook Wants to Let You Buy Things From Retailers’ Pages

Company reportedly testing mini-storefronts in merchants' Facebook pages

Facebook’s pages for small businesses originally started as a way for them to stay in touch with customers and hopefully generate leads, but now the social network wants to supercharge their revenue power by providing merchants with online storefronts inside their page.

Facebook is reportedly testing this new feature with some online retailers, according to BuzzFeed. The new feature essentially lets merchants showcase products and let Facebook users shop directly from within the storefront in the page instead of having to go to the merchant’s website.

In June, Facebook started to test a “buy” button on some of its ads to streamline the process of purchasing advertised products, though these two initiatives appear to be independent tests. Nevertheless, Facebook is surely hoping these prove to be successful. Although it’s proven quite good at generating revenue through advertising, e-commerce would be a significant new source for the company. E-commerce is predicted to reach around $350 billion in 2015, according to eMarketer.

Earlier on Wednesday, Google also announced a “buy” button for its mobile search ads, and other companies, such as Pinterest and Twitter, have joined the trend.

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