Here is a list of recent ecommerce-related product releases and updates for mid-December 2016. There are updates on chatbots, the Internet of Things, equity funding, digital assistants, and robotic fulfillment.

Got an ecommerce product release? Email releases@practicalecommerce.com.

Ecommerce Product Releases

IBM launches Watson Internet of Things. IBM has announced the opening of Watson Internet of Things (IoT), launching a series of new offerings, capabilities, and ecosystem partners designed to extend the power of cognitive computing to the billions of connected devices, sensors, and systems that comprise the IoT. These new offerings will be available through the IBM Watson IoT Cloud, the company’s global platform for IoT business and developers.

IBM - Watson Internet of Things.

IBM – Watson Internet of Things.

Actor John Ratzenberger launches TheGiftBox.com. Actor John Ratzenberger and entrepreneur David Polinsky have partnered to launch TheGiftBox.com. The website offers multiple categories of niche gift boxes, enabling shoppers to choose a different type of box every month. Phase one features pet treats and toys and a sweets gift box. Customers can pause or cancel their subscription anytime. Every purchase ships free and earns rewards points towards free boxes.

Hudson’s Bay to expand robotic fulfillment. Hudson’s Bay Company is expanding its use of robotic fulfillment in 2017 to its Pottsville, Pennsylvania distribution center. The move is intended to accelerate and improve fulfillment for its Lord & Taylor and Saks Off 5th brands. The move follows a limited pilot project at its Scarborough distribution center in Canada.

Google Opens Assistant to developers, in race against Amazon’s Alexa. Google has launched a system for developers to build chatbots for Google Assistant, its voice-based assistant that works with Google Home, the company’s voice-activated speaker. The system is intended to compete with Amazon’s Alexa system that works with Amazon’s Echo speakers. So far, Amazon has developed over 5,000 skills with partners, including ordering a Domino’s Pizza or an Uber ride.

Google Assistant.

Google Assistant.

Starbucks accepts WeChat payments in China. Starbucks will accept the WeChat payment system at about 2,500 of its coffee shops across China. WeChat is the mobile social payment app that incorporates texting and selfies with payment functions. With this agreement with Tencent Holdings Ltd., Starbucks joins other foreign retailers such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Disney.

Wayfair mobile app lets shoppers visualize furniture in 2-D homes. Wayfair, a site for home furnishings, has announced the launch of View in Room, a new mobile app feature that lets shoppers see furniture in their homes before they buy. The new feature places 2-D product images in any room through the camera of a mobile device. The product immediately appears on the device’s screen in camera mode where shoppers can view their own digitally-furnished space and save as an image via screen grab to share with family and friends.

Online consignment site Swap.com Raises $20 million. Swap.com, an online consignment store, has raised $20 million in its latest round of equity funding, bring its total to $50 million. Launched in 2012, Swap started as a clothing exchange site. In 2013, Swap relaunched as a consignment site. Swap claims that it differentiates itself from other online consignment sites by offering lower price points; the average item costs $7, and pieces start at $3.

Swap.com.

Swap.com.

Criteo launches Kinetic Design for ad personalization and branding. Criteo, a performance marketing technology company, has announced Kinetic Design, an ad creation technology that delivers on-brand ads that are contextually optimized and rendered in real-time without the need to define ad sizes or layouts upfront. Each client’s brand identity and ad requirements are translated into a framework that specifies the visual presentation, allowing marketers to drive greater customer engagement, improve reach, and achieve ad performance while maintaining brand aesthetics across campaigns. Contact for pricing.

USPack Logistics completes two acquisitions in nationwide expansion. USPack Logistics, a same-day courier and transportation company, announced that it has completed the acquisitions of Best Courier and JS Logistics. These transactions extend the depth of services USPack offers its clientele, and support the company’s continued expansion. Best Courier and JS Logistics are the seventh and eighth acquisitions for USPack. With these transactions complete, USPack’s service footprint now covers 27 states utilizing more than 1,200 independent professional drivers across the country.

Treem launches app for social media. Treem has debuted the Treem Communications Platform, a comprehensive social media solution and next-generation messaging app, offering new levels of privacy, control, and integration. With a patent-pending graphical user interface built on a “tree-based” design metaphor, Treem allows users to build discrete “branches” of contacts, giving users complete control of (a) the information they wish to consume, (b) who sees their posts and (c) the ability to curate their own custom content libraries.

Treem.

Treem.

MyWebGrocer and Descartes combine solutions to help grocers drive ecommerce growth and profitability. Descartes Systems Group, an ecommerce logistics provider, and MyWebGrocer, a provider of ecommerce and digital marketing solutions to the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries, have launched a combined solution that helps grocery retailers support the customer ecommerce experience from online purchase through home delivery. The combined solution is used at the Overwaitea Food Group and at Save-On-Foods, Canada’s largest western-based food store chain.

Walmart de Mexico invests $1.3 billion in logistics. Walmart de Mexico, the country’s largest retailer, is investing $1.3 billion into its logistics operations in an effort to capitalize on growing ecommerce trends. Walmart de Mexico does not break out ecommerce sales figures, but the company did report that total sales grew 11 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2016.

Snapstar launches grocery brand rewards app. Snapstar, a grocery brand loyalty app that allows customers to get rewarded by brands, has announced the launch of its beta product, available for Android. Snapstar allows users to simply take a photo of their grocery receipt and be rewarded with gift cards, giveaways, and more when they purchase products from approximately 30 major brands.

Snapstar.

Snapstar.

Branch launches Deep Linked Feeds for dynamic ads to enhance the performance of remarketing on mobile. Branch has announced the launch of Deep Linked Feeds for dynamic ads to help advertisers improve the performance and experience of their mobile remarketing campaigns. Deep Linked Feeds makes it easy for advertisers to create and manage deep links for every item in their product feed. These links can then be used for dynamic remarketing campaigns that take users straight to content in a native app or fall back to the mobile website if the app isn’t installed. Contact for pricing.

JustEnough rolls out new planning capabilities. JustEnough, a provider of demand management solutions for retail, wholesale, and direct-to-consumer businesses, has announced a new version of its Assortment Planning solution. The new features help retailers move from seasonal planning to continuous omnichannel assortment planning so they can keep ahead of fast-changing customer preferences and demand. These features include enhanced demand modeling, integrated buying and inventory management, and dynamic clustering for cross-channel assorting.

Amazon launches Amazon Go and will open brick-and-mortar store without cashiers. Amazon has introduced a self-checkout solution, “Amazon Go,” for the retail sector. The technology allows people to walk into a store, take items they want to purchase, and leave, without the need for a checkout process. To prove the technology, which is currently being beta-tested, Amazon will open an 1,800 square foot convenience store in Seattle next year.

Amazon Go.

Amazon Go.