Tag Archives: commerce

Electronics retailers are bracing for a tough holiday season, as already-narrow profit margins are expected to be shaved even thinner.

Best Buy Co. shares plunged 11 percentTuesday, after the electronics chain warned investors that it was prepared to sharply cut prices – even at the risk of its profit margins – to keep up with competitors that are aggressively discounting to win market share. Chief among those rivals is Walmart Stores Inc., which last week stated bluntly that it will turn to even more price cuts to boost its stagnant sales.

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Betable, a startup focused on monetizing the social gaming industry, announced on Tuesday it had raised an $18.5 million Series A round of venture funding.

The startup partners with game development outfits that want to add a real-money component to their titles, offering an API to companies that want to integrate Betable’s game engine inside the fabric of the game’s mechanics. The bulk of the company’s business is in navigating and securing licensing deals with the U.K. Gambling Commission and related authorities – a tricky and potentially expensive task for any gaming company to undertake.

It is also an area that, until recently, was of intense interest to social gaming giant Zynga. That is, until the company’s new leader and CEO Don Mattrick decided to change Zynga’s strategy and focus on a core set of the company’s popular games, essentially abandoning Zynga’s headlong push into real-money gaming in the U.S. (Zynga gave no indication as to the fate of its existing real-money gaming licenses in the U.K.)

That’s good news for Betable, then, leaving the space wide open for the taking.

The round was led by Venture51, with participation from existing investors including Greylock and Founders Fund.

Janet Balis Headshot

Betaworks has hired former Huffington Post Media Group publisher Janet Balis as its chief revenue officer.

The New York technology studio – which owns and develops varied media-focused companies, such as social news aggregator Digg, news-saving app Instapaper and the hugely popular Dots mobile game app – has been girding its efforts to monetize its portfolio, said Betaworks CEO John Borthwick.

“Phase One of Betaworks was building great companies,” he said. “And Phase Two is really building Betaworks as an operating media company.”

Balis left her job at the AOL-owned HuffPost in May, after a year-long stint. She has also worked at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Time Inc. and Newsweek.

In an interview, she noted that there was ample opportunity to knit together tech and data to serve advertisers better.

“There is a thread of social discovery for brands to think very creatively and strategically, and Betaworks properties are well positioned for that,” said Balis. “We have to think differently to bring those brands into the process.”

Betaworks has been searching for a CRO to work on a common monetization effort that it could apply across its many platforms, said Borthwick.

“We have been trying to tie together and figure out all the places we could monetize, and it surprised me how well it has gone with some early efforts,” he said.

Borthwick pointed to a partnership effort around Dots with industrial giant GE, which sponsored a new game mode called Gravity that was made available free for a week. The native ad implementation garnered 30 games played and 172 million views, he said. Later – due to its popularity – Betaworks rereleased the Gravity mode within the game, for $1.99.

Borthwick said that to help develop more such ideas with marketers, the company had also hired James Cooper as its head of creative, to “explore creative opportunities for Betaworks products and to help tell the Betaworks brand story.”

Cooper was previously at the production company Tool of North America, and has worked on a number of well-known digital advertising initiatives, such as the “Help I Have the Flu” Facebook app.

One day soon, frequent fliers should expect flight attendants to know their birthdays, how they like their coffee, and what they’re likely to buy on board.

After years of dithering, airlines are learning to use the wealth of customer data they collect. Greater stability in an industry long roiled by bankruptcies is enabling carriers to invest in technology to personalize the flying experience and better target promotions. But the airlines sometimes struggle to do all that without making customers uncomfortable.

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Google is setting up six pop-up shops for the holidays – though word seems to have gotten out prematurely, as its Winter Wonderlab site keeps going down. The stores seem to be set in suburban shopping areas, rather than floating on fanciful barges.

For the moment, a video about the Wonderlab’s giant snow globes – where guests will apparently be invited to come jump around while being filmed in slo-mo, with 3-D CGI snowflakes added on top – is what we’ve got:






Facebook’s next payments experiment is making its public debut.

As AllThingsD previously reported, Facebook has been testing a feature with a handful of retail partners that would allow customers to automatically enter their payment information into mobile devices via their Facebook accounts.

Beginning on Monday evening, Facebook will make that product public, slowly rolling it out to its billion-strong user network.

It’s (aptly) named “Autofill with Facebook,” and it’s a simple yet seemingly useful proposition. If you’ve stored your address and credit card information on Facebook, retail apps partnered with the company in the pilot program – currently only Jack Threads and Mosaic – will display a small drop-down prompt when hitting the payment info screen upon checkout.

Hit the autofill button, and the app will snatch your info from your Facebook-connected account and fill in the form.

Facebook positions the move as a way to reduce friction in mobile payments, one of the most difficult and frustrating areas for retailers to convert online retail perusers into paying customers. The small screen and lack of keyboard proves too much work for the casual smartphone shopper. Perhaps Facebook’s new tool could remove some of that friction. (And I’m sure it will, as it seems to work well.)

Still, the product has the potential to disrupt mobile payments beyond the autofill capability. Commerce businesses are always looking for new customers. Now, Facebook can pitch others on the fact that Facebook ads can be used to drive new customers to mobile purchases, optimized for those very Facebook users.

In short, the pitch is: We find you new customers and make it as easy as possible for them to make their first transaction. As a result, other payments companies are watching this development closely.

Right now the test is very small, but Facebook aims to scale the program out as it tests functionality with users and signs more retail partners.

Jason Del Rey contributed to this report.

Groupon Inc. Chief Financial Officer Jason Child said Tuesday the embattled daily-deals company won’t be shifting its business model as it seeks out a new CEO, and argued the firm is on the right track.

“I would not expect there to be any business model changes,” Mr. Child said during an appearance at a Deutsche Bank conference, adding Groupon’s board of directors is firmly in favor of “the stuff we’ve been working on.”

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