Google Invests in JD.com
Google announced on June 18 that it will be investing $550 million in JD.com. The Chinese retailer's supply chain and logistics expertise and Google's technology strength will be combined as the two firms work on e-commerce projects in Europe, Southeast Asia and the United States. JD.com will also join Google Shopping and bring a selection of their high-quality products to different parts of the world, according to the statement released by Google.
Richard Liu, JD.com's company chief, told the Financial Times in February that the company plans to launch in Europe as early as 2019 and become ubiquitous in a few years. The firm is also looking to launch in the U.S., Amazon's home turf, later this year.
While Amazon is the top destination for U.S. consumers looking for products, Google narrowed the gap last year. Partnering with retailers helps it beat Amazon when it comes to product searches, noted CNBC.
Microsoft Bets on Automated Checkouts and GitHub
The system will reportedly track and bill the items that shoppers put in their carts during their store visits, according to the people familiar with the matter. A prototype of this automated system has also been showcased to a few select retailers from across the globe, and discussions are underway for a potential collaboration with the likes of Walmart Inc. (WMT), the largest global retail chain. Microsoft has demonstrated the automated checkout at its Retail Experience Center in Redmond, and it continues to work with around six of its partners for developing their own checkout-free systems, a few of which are based on Microsoft's cloud offerings.
The development is being seen as a move against Amazon.com Inc.’s (AMZN) automated grocery shop which took a disruptive approach to solve the problem of lengthy checkouts. Earlier this year, the online retail giant opened its highly automated store called Amazon Go in Seattle. It allows customer entry in store when they scan their smartphones at the turnstile, following which various sensors and cameras fitted all around the store and various shelves track the items a customer picks from the shelves. Once the customer leaves the store with the items they have picked, Amazon automatically bills their on-record credit card for the purchases made. (For more, see Amazon Launches AmazonGo, the Future Of Grocery Stores.)
With the first Amazon Go store being a success, the company is set to launch similar ones in Chicago and San Francisco. The automated checkout market in the U.S. is estimated to be worth $50 billion according to the venture capital firm, Loup Ventures.
Microsoft also announced at the start of this month that it will be acquiring GitHub Inc., a software development platform used by 28 million developers, for $7.5 billion in MSFT stock. This is expected to help Microsoft compete with cloud services leader, Amazon. Microsoft will be able to attract more developers to Azure, its own cloud platform, but risks alienating users of other cloud platforms as well.