Episode 41: Bot or Not?

In this episode of Brick & Data:

  • It’s a Game of Pac-Man for Amazon
  • Bot or Not?
  • Do I Hear an Echo?
  • Weird News of the Week

It’s a Game of Pac-Man for Amazon

  • Loup Venture Co-Founder Gene Munster believes Amazon will acquire Target this year.
  • “Target is the ideal offline partner for Amazon for two reasons, shared demographic and manageable but comprehensive store count”
  • Market share numbers suggest a deal would be approved by regulators, and Wal-Mart Stores would still have a larger share than an Amazon-Target combination
  • He estimated a takeout valuation of $41bn, or a 15% premium to Target’s current value.
  • Predicting Amazon’s next deal has become a common theme for analysts.
  • In November, DA Davidson analyst Tom Forte wrote that Lululemon Athletica may be attractive to the online retailer
  • Citigroup analyst Paul Lejuez recently catalogued a host of potential targets, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Bed Bath & Beyond and Advance Auto Parts.


Bot or Not?

  • In 2018, AI-enabled bots will provide a better customer experience than human-to-human chat exchange
  • More than two billion messages are exchanged between people and companies every month on Facebook Messenger alone.
  • Other major players have been investing heavily in the space, creating platforms to support companies in their pursuits to engage customers where they are and in the way they prefer.
  • Bots, on the other hand, can respond immediately, and combine prompt buttons and other visual cues along with supporting textual conversations to offer a much richer, guided user interaction. -Human agents, on the other hand, need to be trained, respond inconsistently and need to be motivated to care about the customer.
  • Challenges: companies will need to create clear routes through conversational maps, understand the outcomes customers are trying to drive and prime the system with smart defaults.


Do I Hear an Echo?

While Amazon Echo has been the clear leader — that could very well change in 2018.

Google has set partnerships with Walmart, Home Depot and eBay that give Google Home greater utility as as a retail shopping tool.

At the same time, Amazon has a pretty big lead in the smart speaker market, with as much as 65–75% market share, and it hasn’t exactly been resting on its laurels.

  • The e-commerce giant announced new Echo smart speaker products just a couple of months ago, and it aggressively priced its Echo devices during the holiday shopping stretch — not the typical behavior of a market incumbent with a big lead.
  • Not to mention partnerships with Sonos and other well entrenched “dumb speaker” systems.

An interesting question though — Is Amazon Echo at a disadvantage to Google because Google can establish partnerships directly with retailers? Amazon may be holed up in its own ecosystem.


Weird News of the Week

  • Apple built a gorgeous new Apple store on Chicago’s waterfront this year.
  • But it also has one big problem: People discovered in late December that icicles tend to hang off of its roof in cold weather, forcing parts of its courtyard to be closed for safety reasons.
  • “The roof has a warming system that’s built into it. It needed some fine-tuning and it got re-programmed today. It’s hopefully a temporary problem.”


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