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Happy Friday, everyone! Today marks the first day of #SXSW, which follows an already exciting week given Apple’s “Spring Forward” media event held in San Francisco on Monday. That event pushed new Apple products in media, health, computers and wearables, specifically the company’s new Apple Watch, priced between $349 and $17,000.
In all, it was an easy week to miss some of the top ecommerce news. To catch you up, we’ve rounded up the top stories including the reintroduction of the Marketplace Fairness Act, backed by Amazon, Best Buy and Gap, to name a few; Google’s first physical store launch; and L’Oreal’s digital play that sets the stage for a new mobile advertising environment.
Congress Reconsiders an Internet Sales Tax
The Marketplace Fairness Act has been reintroduced to Congress, with proponents from both sides of the political aisle as well as Amazon, Best Buy and Gap advocating for its passing. The bill would give states the authority to force online sellers to collect tax from out-of-state buyers, and harmonize tax laws to make that process easier.
Currently, shoppers at online stores from states in which the ecommerce retailer does not have a presence are not required to pay state or local taxes. Even if those customers pay for shipping, a cost increasingly absorbed by online retailers themselves, that price can be substantially lower than brick-and-mortar prices.
The bill, then, encourages out-of-state shoppers to choose local brick-and-mortar options over ecommerce purchases, or at least levels the playing field, advocates say.
“The Marketplace Fairness Act is about supporting the jobs we have in our towns,” said US Senator Mike Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming, in a statement. “Right now, thousands of local businesses are forced to do business at a competitive disadvantage because they have to collect sales and use taxes and remote sellers do not.”
It may seem counterintuitive for large online sellers to support this bill, but with warehouses and physical locations in multiple states, these retailers must already pay local and state taxes. The Marketplace Fairness Act aims to bring those same taxes to online-only stores.
Of course, not everyone is an advocate of the bill. NetChoice, an association of ecommerce businesses, has been especially vocal about the issue.
“While big box stores love that proposal — and devoted massive resources to pushing it through Congress — small internet sellers and their customers rightly worried that it would make it even harder for them to compete with national chains and online giants,” wrote NetChoice executive director Steve DelBianco in a Forbes editorial.
In all, nothing is yet final, but stay tuned. This bill is sure to generate buzz and tons of press, as well as input from internet retailers of all sizes.
Google Opens the Company’s First Shop-Within-a-Shop
Google has opened its very first brick-and-mortar shop — sort of. Located within the Currys PC World store on Tottenham Court Road in London, the store will offer training on how to use Android devices, Android apps, Chromebook laptops and Chromecasts. The company also plans on opening two more near-by shops.
The world’s first Google store will also host Virtual Space Camps aimed at teaching kids how to code. The news comes in conjunction with an announcement that the BBC will be giving away 1 million micro-bit computers in an effort to encourage children to learn how to code.
“We’re incredibly excited to launch this space –– the first of its kind anywhere in the world –– in London with Currys PC World,” said Google’s U.K. marketing director James Elias in an interview with Telegraph. “The pace of innovation of the devices we all use is incredible, yet the way we buy them has remained the same for years. With the Google shop, we want to offer people a place where they can play, experiment and learn about all of what Google has to offer; from an incredible range of devices to a totally-connected, seamless online life.”
Google has yet to launch its own branded stand-alone store, though the shop within Currys PC World is indeed a first step in that direction. Apple, Microsoft and Samsung have all opened stores-within-a-store, so to speak –– many within Best Buys in the U.S.
Announced in conjunction with the Google shop within Currys PC World, Google launched a new ecommerce storefront, removing the devices section on Google Play and now selling hardware through the website: store.google.com. The new website has the tagline: “The new home for the latest products made with Google.”
The launch of both the first physical presence of a Google store as well as the new ecommerce storefront came on the same day Apple was dealing with offline issues surrounding iTunes and the App Store. Both were offline for nearly 12 hours due to an internal domain name system error, according to CNET.
L’Oreal Invests in Making All Ads “Shoppable,” Looks Toward Mobile Commerce Disruption
The average click-through rate (CTR) for banner ads in the U.S. fell from .1% in 2013 to .08% in 2014, and those numbers will likely continue falling in 2015. It’s the reason branded content has become the darling of the agency and publisher world. Publishers need to make money, agencies need to promote brands. Branded content presents credible and evergreen content to an audience, with surround-sound branding, so to speak.
In all, the goal is to subconsciously lead consumers down the path of making a connection with the topic at hand (say, innovate kids) and the brand (say, GE). Publishers including Mashable, Forbes, Fast Company and BuzzFeed, to name only a few, have been bolstering their revenue numbers from this type of advertising, and brands are paying out in serious numbers to have the opportunity to be featured.
Despite your personal feelings about branded content, a low CTR on banner ads is what caused the industry to boom. L’Oreal, however, is seeking an alternative route. According to AdAge, “L’Oreal USA has reached a deal with Powa Technologies that could allow the beauty giant to essentially tag any of its advertising, promotions or in-store materials to allow for instant ecommerce purchases of the featured products.”
This move comes from L’Oreal at a time of consistently growing mobile commerce purchases, which now accounts for 10% of all retail purchases in the U.S. according to Statista.
L’Oreal said in a statement that the PowaTag technology can “transform any consumer touch point, from print and TV advertising to ecommerce, retail stores and social media into a platform for mobile transactions, promotions and more on person’s smartphone.”
In all, L’Oreal is leading the pack when it comes to ecommerce brands using technologies to increase the performance of digital ads. If the above performs well, expect the technology to enter mainstream use.
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