iOS and Android are about to get a bunch of new emoji

Tomorrow is World Emoji Day. Why is there a World Emoji Day? No idea! But it’s tomorrow!

To recognize the day, Apple and Google have both shed some light on their plans regarding new emoji coming to their operating systems in the coming months. Both companies are adding around 60 new emoji in all, from cutesie stuff like sloths and otters to important icons of representation.

First up, both companies are overhauling their handholding couple emojis so that your emoji people can hold hands with whomever you please, regardless of gender or skin tone.

handhold

Google also notes that, as of Android Q, any Emoji that doesn’t have a gender specified in its Unicode documentation — emoji like “police officer” or “person getting haircut” and 51 others — will now default to a “gender ambiguous design.” You’ll be able to press-and-hold an emoji to select a “male” or “female” presentation, if you’d prefer.

Both platforms will also be getting a ton of new accessibility-focused emoji. Apple proposed these early last year, with the Unicode Consortium (the group that determines the official emoji set) giving its stamp of approval in February of this year.

There’s a service dog:

dog

People using two different kinds of wheelchairs:

wheelchair

A prosthetic arm and prosthetic leg:

prosthetic

Ear with hearing aid, and the ASL sign for “deaf”:

hearing aid

And a person with a white cane:

white cane

There’s also a ton of other new stuff being added in, from animals to axes. There are sloths:

sloth

And flamingos:

flamingo

And orangutans, otters and skunks:

otter skunk

There’s a bunch of new clothing, including saris, swim shorts and safety vests:

clothing

And, finally, an emoji that I am honestly kinda shocked wasn’t already in there: the yawning smiley.

yawn

I fully expect to see that last one used sarcastically across Slack and Twitter at least 43x a day.

Apple says the new emoji will hit iOS “this fall,” while Google says they’ll arrive with the release of Android Q later this year. If you want to see the full list of things coming in 2019, you can find it over on Emojipedia.

 

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CES will allow sex tech on a one-year trial bias, and finally bans booth babes

The Consumer Technology Association, the organization behind the annual Consumer Electronics Show, is slowly getting up to speed with the modern-day. Today, CTA announced it will allow sex tech startups to participate and compete for awards as part of the health and wellness category on a one-year trial basis.

This comes after the CTA royally messed up with sex tech company Lora DiCarlo last year. The CTA revoked an innovation award from the company, which is developing a hands-free device that uses biomimicry and robotics to help women achieve a blended orgasm by simultaneously stimulating the G-spot and the clitoris. In May, CTA re-awarded the company and apologized.

“CTA is committed to evolving and continuing to create an experience at CES that is inclusive and welcoming for everyone,” CES EVP Karen Chupka said in a statement. “We worked with a number of external advisors and partners to update and improve our existing CES policies.”

Additionally, CTA has banned booth babes, or, booth people, as it’s applicable to everyone, regardless of gender.

“Booth personnel may not wear clothing that is sexually revealing or that could be interpreted as undergarments,” the new policy states. “Clothing that reveals an excess of bare skin, or body-conforming clothing that hugs genitalia must not be worn.”

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Retail role play

Retailers and brands have both seen a tremendous shift in traditional retail dynamics, with merchants and marketplaces increasingly ceding control of the online and in-store shopping experience to the brands themselves. Democratizing access to data through new verticalized tools, however, represents a unique opportunity for retailers to leverage this trend by further transforming the retail dynamic and changing their role in the process.

Marketplaces and third-party sellers have always represented a kind of data “blind spot” for brands. Both provided little visibility on customers and even less control over customer experience or satisfaction.

Verticalized tools that provide new levels of data access are changing all that. For example, b8ta is offering a Retail-as-a-Service model and software platform to brands and retailers to better manage and analyze their in-store experience. Companies like Chatter Research are capturing real-time customer feedback that can be integrated side-by-side with POS data to further improve store performance. Solutions like these enable both parties to collaborate and give brands a unified omnichannel strategy. It also provides retailers with a unique opportunity to rethink their purpose and elevate their value proposition within the retail ecosystem, while also expanding margins and driving potential new revenue streams.

Brands already own the entire customer experience through their O&O stores and e-commerce sites. Amazon has also started providing access to more robust customer and sales information through their API. This has encouraged brands to build internal expertise while increasing their desire to have greater insight into — and control over — the sales process. The impetus now is on third-party retailers and marketplaces to provide similar (or better) opportunities and insight to match what O&O and e-commerce sites now provide.

The democratization of data access is a rare bit of good news.

Retailers are already shifting their focus to product discovery, search and transaction. They are more focused on ensuring a positive, in-store user experience — from processing a transaction (the global retail automation industry is expected to reach $21 billion by 2024) to finding and purchasing the product and accelerating conversions. These shifts, coupled with increased data visibility and analysis, fundamentally alter the value proposition for the retailer.

Platforms — like the above-mentioned b8ta and Chatter Research — allow retailers to capture data and provide it to brands so that they can ultimately be smarter about marketing and promoting through tracking customer visits, interactions and transactions. Soon, smart retailers will leverage this data access to an even greater degree, as brands increasingly rely on third-party retailers/marketplaces to grow their sales and market share. Retailers will sell it directly to brands using data marketplaces or use it to negotiate more favorable terms with product supply.

There are derivative benefits for retailers, as well. As more verticalized tools are deployed and adopted by both brands and retailers, they will continue to marry transactional data with user behavioral data while mapping consumer identification to brand marketing activity. Once the data is properly analyzed it will increase not only revenue per square foot but product margins in physical stores, as well, by helping retailers identify and recover lost sales. It also will lead to incremental investment by brands in shopper marketing, transforming advertising into selling.

The data holistically makes retailers stronger.

As merchants and third-party sellers struggle to reverse years of decline, the democratization of data access is a rare bit of good news. It changes the economics for all stakeholders involved, alters the roles of brands and merchants and creates new, much-needed monetization opportunities for retailers. Unlocking the value of data and empowering brands with it allows retailers to focus on where they can make the highest impact. While roles will change, data connectivity will ultimately strengthen partnerships and improve outcomes for all.

Revel Partners has published a white paper on retail, the brand-direct economy and the impact of data on retail efficacy and consumer satisfaction. To view it in its entirety click here.

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Final tickets to our 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party

One of Silicon Valley’s most fun and enduring traditions — the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party — takes place on July 25. If you don’t have a ticket yet, know this: We just released the last batch of tickets. Once they’re gone, that’s it. No party for you. Don’t miss out on a night of fun and opportunity — buy your ticket today.

The Park Chalet, San Francisco’s coastal beer garden, provides a picturesque setting (ocean views anyone?) for a casual evening celebrating the early-startup spirit. Hang out and enjoy local craft beer, cocktails, delicious food and great conversation with other fearless tech entrepreneurs.

TechCrunch parties provide a relaxed way to connect and network, and they’re known as a place where startup magic happens. Who knows? You might meet your future co-founder or funder. Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, founders of Box, met one of their first investors at a TechCrunch party.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to chat up an investor since our lead VC partner, Merus Capital, will be in the house, along with August Capital, Battery Ventures, Cowboy Ventures, Data Collective, General Catalyst and Uncork Capital.

No TechCrunch event would be complete without exciting startups showcasing their tech and talent.

Here’s the when, where and how:

  • When: July 25 from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Park Chalet in San Francisco
  • How much: $95

As always, you have a chance to win great door prizes, including TechCrunch swag, Amazon Echos and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

The 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party takes place on July 25, and this is the last ticket release. Don’t miss out on a convivial evening of food, drink, connection and possibility in the company of your entrepreneurial peers. Buy your ticket right here.


Want a free ticket to Disrupt SF?

Volunteer for the Summer Party and work with the TechCrunch team for a few hours. Sign up to volunteer here.

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Amazon Prime Day sees competition from more than expected number of retailers

Amazon’s Prime Day continues to gain competition from rival retailers piggybacking on the annual event with their own sales. Ahead of this year’s Prime Day, RetailMeNot had forecast that this year’s sale would see competition from 250 retailers. Today, the firm upped this figure to over 300, saying it found that more retailers than earlier estimated have decided to run their own counter-sales.

As of 9 AM on the second day of Prime Day — Tuesday, July 16, 2019 — RetailMeNot says it has counted over 300 unique retailers running Prime Day-related offers. This is up from the 275 retailers it had uncovered yesterday afternoon, and up from the 250 it had forecast.

For comparison’s sake, Prime Day 2018 saw competition from 194 retailers; the year before that, just 119. And only 27 retailers ran counter sales back in 2016.

The rival sales come from retailers both large and small and are targeting online shoppers with aggressive deals, flash sales, free shipping offers, and other promotions. These sales extend across all categories and retailer segments, the report also notes.

Free shipping — which is one of Amazon Prime’s biggest draws — is a common offer from the Prime Day rival sales. Retailers are either lowering their free shipping minimums or touting free shipping “with no membership” needed, to counter Amazon’s plan to woo subscribers to join its free shipping service and perks program, Amazon Prime.

Many retailers are also using messaging that includes words and phrases that appeal to e-commerce deal hounds, like “Cyber” (13% of retailers used) or “Black Friday” — e.g. “Black Friday in July” — which 32% of retailers used. But even more are directly copying from Amazon, as 38% used the word “Prime” in their messages to consumers.

Some retailers even went for clever variations on the word “Prime” itself — like Joann Fabric’s “Primo Days,” for example. Meanwhile, ULTA’s deals on beauty primers were referenced as “up to 50% Off Primer Days” while West Elm noted several “Reasons to Love West Elm, (Primarily) Today.”

Already, the e-commerce market in the U.S. is feeling the impact from Amazon’s sale. According to Adobe, large retailers have already seen a 64% increase in their e-commerce revenue, compared with a typical Monday. It also predicts Prime Day 2019 will push total U.S. e-commerce sales to over $2 billion, when it all wraps.

Whether or not the sale is still paying off for Amazon as expected with all this new competition remains to be seen, however.

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