PayPal expands access to its ecommerce platform to SMBs

Small businesses will soon be able to take advantage of the same online shopping infrastructure used by Instagram and Facebook as PayPal has announced that it is rolling out a new ecommerce platform.

The new platform will combine exiting parts of the company's payments business such as allowing merchants to accept money online and shoppers to check out through PayPal. However, small businesses will also get access to PayPal's backend systems like fraud protection, compliance and authenticating an account.

Small startups would have difficulties building these systems by themselves due to the cost which is why the company is opening up its e-commerce platform to small businesses.

Currently both Instagram Checkout and Facebook Marketplace are already running on PayPal's platform and small businesses will soon be able to leverage the same backend tools and services.

PayPal's expansion

PayPal's business is already comprised of partners and online marketplaces and the company has expanded well beyond online checkout since being spun off from eBay in 2015.

During its last earnings call, the company's COO Bill Ready said PayPal's top 20 marketplaces grew by 40 percent year over year and almost reached $90bn in volume last year alone.

The new commerce platform will also include other backend processes such as onboarding, payouts and disputes management, AI and machine learning-powered fraud protection.

Ready explained why PayPal decided to open up its ecommerce platform to small businesses, saying:

“We are bringing our vision of open commerce and partnership to life with the PayPal Commerce Platform – to power commerce in a way that allows more businesses and more people to participate in the benefits of the digital economy. When I think about the world I want to wake up to in a decade, I don’t want there to be only one place to buy online. I want to wake up in a world where there is a thriving, vibrant, and diverse ecosystem of merchants, sellers, entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. We want to help more businesses get started, grow and thrive in today’s complex digital world.” 

PayPal's ecommerce platform will be available first across the US, UK and Europe but the company plans to eventually expand to all other markets where it operates.

Via CNBC

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iTunes is dead, long live Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts

iTunes' time is up. At WWDC 2019, Apple revealed that it will be winding down the iconic music platform after 18 years of music downloads, storage, and streaming, in favor of its newer apps Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts.

Going by what was revealed at the WWDC 2019 keynote, it appears that iTunes will be phased out with the introduction of the new version of MacOS, Catalina, with the above trio of apps taking over all of its existing functionality.

We've been expecting this day to come for a while now, but the closure of the long-running music platform was confirmed by Craig Federighi at Apple's WWDC keynote in San Jose, California.

The music side of the service is being shut in favor of Apple Music, while iTunes' other content like movies and TV shows will be moved to an Apple TV app, just in time for the launch of Apple TV Plus. Podcasts will go to live in, you guessed it, the Apple Podcasts app.

A bloated service

It's little wonder that Apple is shutting down iTunes after all these years; as of 2019, 50 million people use Apple Music. That may be a lot less than the 75 million subscribers on Spotify Premium, but for a service that's only been around for three years, that's impressive.

It also makes sense that iTunes' visual content is moving over to a dedicated Apple TV area. Set for release in Autumn 2019 (September – November), the Apple TV Plus streaming platform is set to rival competitors like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and the yet-to-be-released Disney Plus.  

However, the closure of iTunes could prove problematic for iPhone users, as Apple's smartphones use iTunes to manage backups and store data; where this function will be moved to remains unclear. 

Still, it's a smart move considering how bloated iTunes has become in recent years; as the data backbone of iPhones and iPads, its original purpose as a place to listen to and store music has been all but forgotten, especially with the rise of music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple's own Apple Music.

Apple Music (Image credit: Apple)

Greg Harwood, pricing specialist and director at marketing consultants Simon-Kurcher & Partners explains that "iTunes has become out-dated and less relevant, especially the use of downloads which has become old-fashioned following competitors such as Spotify introducing successful streaming models".

“Apple, under Apple Music, has tried to respond to this quickly changing landscape," he continues. 

"The move to a unified app strategy will allow Apple to closely bundle the app with the Apple Music streaming service, with Apple now positioned as an entertainment services provider".

How the transition will work is still to be confirmed in regards to your existing iTunes content, but moving downloaded media from iTunes to Apple Music or the Apple TV  app shouldn't prove too difficult – that should in theory be the benefit of Apple working within its own closed ecosystem, of course.

For the last two years Apple has used Music in lieu of iTunes on iOS, and – incessant offers to sign up for a monthly subscription aside – the change was barely noticeable.

So long iTunes – you changed the world, but now it's time to change you, too.

  • iOS 13 – here's what's coming to your iPhone and iPad

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Amazon Prime Day 2019: everything you need to know for the July deals event

Get ready to mark your calendar because Amazon Prime Day 2019 is only a couple of months away. The tech giant hasn't officially announced the date, but based on previous years we know the big shopping event will be held in mid-July. 

Prime Day first launched in 2015 and has grown into the biggest shopping day of the year with Prime Day 2018 even surpassing Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Last year's Prime Day had 89 million visitors that logged on to the site with 100 million products purchased during the sale event. Globally it was the biggest day of sales in Amazon’s history, and we expect Amazon Prime Day 2019 to be even bigger.

It didn't just increase in terms of territories or numbers, but the sale itself lasted longer too. Where 2017's Prime Day ran for only one day (well, 30 hours), 2018 ran for a day and a half (36 hours). We expect this year's sale to last even longer, so Prime members will have even more time snag the hottest deals of the year.

Last year's Prime Day was also the first year that discounts were extended to local Whole Foods Market stores. Prime members were able to save on popular grocery items and earned rewards and cash back through Amazon's site.

Read on to learn what we can expect for this year's Prime Day and everything we've learned from last year's Prime Day.

When is Amazon Prime Day 2019?

Even though Amazon hasn't announced the exact date of the big day, we can take a pretty good guess based on previous years. Last year Prime Day went live on Monday, July 16 at 3 PM ET and lasted for 36 hours. Past years the event only lasted for 24  or 30 hours and happened between July 10 and 12. Thanks to the World Cup, Prime Day started later in the month last year. We predict this year they'll stick to last year's event date and start Prime Day on Monday, July 15. The big question is whether the sale will be extended beyond past years. Each year the sale has been lengthened so we're placing bets that Amazon Prime Day 2019 could be a record 48-hour event.

Last year Amazon didn't formally announce the dates of Prime Day till only a few weeks before the big event. Thanks to some snooping from the TechRadar team, we were able to figure out the date a full month before it was announced.

Top Amazon Deals You Can Buy Now

Even though Prime Day 2019 is still a couple months away, that doesn't mean you can't find stellar deals now from the tech giant. We've scoured Amazon's site to find the best discounts that you can take advantage of today. We'll be updating this page regularly, so check back to shop the best deals up until the big shopping day.

Image credit: Amazon

What were the best-selling items from Prime Day 2018?

Prime members around the world purchased more than 100 million products during the 2018 Prime Day event. The top-selling items from last year's Prime Day included a mixture of home goods, electronics, and Amazon devices. In fact, it was the biggest event ever for Amazon devices with the Fire TV Stick and Echo Dot leading the pack of best-selling items worldwide. The top selling products in the US from Prime Day 2018 consisted of the 6-Qt Instant Pot, Fire TV stick, Echo Dot, 23andMe DNA Test, and the LifeStraw personal water filter.

Image credit: Shutterstock

How can I sign up for Amazon Prime?

To participate in the big shopping event, you must be an Amazon Prime Member. Your membership will not only let you partake in Prime Day, but you'll also have access to Amazon Prime movies, books, music, photos, and more. You can sign up here for a 30-day trial and cancel at any time. All you need is an Amazon account with a valid credit card tied to the account. Once you sign up for your free trial, you'll have access to all the Prime benefits, receive free two-day shipping and partake in the biggest shopping event of the year.

other stores amazon prime day deals

Image credit: Amazon

What other retailers participate in Prime Day?

Every year more and more retailers are trying to compete with the tech giant by participating in their own version of Prime Day. You'll find discounts on clothing, tech, home goods and more from a variety of online and local retailers. Last year Walmart joined in on Prime Day by offering free two-day shipping without membership fees and free same-day pickup on qualifying items. They also discounted a wide array of products that included TVs, Google Home devices, kitchen appliances, laptops and much more. Other big retailers like Target, Best Buy, Macy's and eBay also promoted their own one-day sale with discounts on best-selling items throughout their site.

We expect this year that more retailers will participate in the July event and will even extend the one-day sale to a weeks worth of discounts.

Amazon Prime 1-day delivery

Amazon just recently announced plans to offer free one-day shipping for Prime members on most orders. Amazon's CFO Brian Olsavky revealed the ambitious project during Amazon's first-quarter earnings call. To achieve this, the tech giant says they plan to invest $800 million in the second quarter of 2019 and continue its expansion of their fulfillment and logistics network.

Amazon currently offers free 2-day shipping for all Prime members and offers free one-day and same-day delivery on certain items in eligible zip codes. Amazon's future plans include increasing the locations and available items so free one-day delivery replaces the standard two-day Prime delivery window.

While we don't think the new one-day delivery will be rolled out in time for Prime Day, we do believe there will be more items available for one-day and same-day delivery in eligible zip codes for the big shopping day.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Prime Day and Whole Foods

Last year Prime Day extended its sale from devices and electronics to discounts on groceries at the Whole Foods Market chain. Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 and Prime Day 2018 was the first time they promoted the big sale event at the grocery store. Savings included price cuts on popular food items and discounts for first time users of the grocery delivery service Prime Now. Amazon also offered $10 back in Amazon credits to use on Prime Day for members that spent $10 at Whole Foods. Amazon credit card users also received double the rewards when they used their card at Whole Foods during the week leading up to Prime Day.

We expect this year to be more discounts on groceries in-store as well as promotions with the Amazon Rewards Card and Prime Now.

Image credit: Amazon

How much money did Amazon make on Prime Day?

Amazon was predicted to gross $3.4 billion on Prime Day last year, although we don’t know if that prediction is accurate as Amazon doesn’t release such information. However, it did announce that third party sellers shifted a billion dollars of product in just one day. As for its own sales, Amazon was content to say that “sales this Prime Day surpassed Cyber Monday, Black Friday and the previous Prime Day, when comparing 36-hour periods, making this once again the biggest shopping event in Amazon history.” That’s a little sneaky, mind you: last Prime Day only ran for 24 hours, not 36.

What were the best deals on Prime Day?

As ever, some of the best deals on Prime Day were on Amazon’s own devices. The Echo Show dropped from $229.99 to $129.99, the Echo Spot from $129.99 to $99, the Echo Dot from $49.99 to $29.99, the Echo from $99.99 to $69.99 and the Echo Plus from $164.98 to $99. There was a big drop on the Amazon-owned Ring video doorbell pro too, which went from $249 to $174, and on the Echo Look camera: that went from $199.99 to $99.99.

Kindles and Fire ranges got deep discounts. The Fire Stick went from $39.99 to $19.99 and the Fire TV Cube from $119.99 to $89.99 (we told you it was worth waiting a few weeks before Prime Day) while Fire Tablets dropped significantly: the Fire 7 went from $49.99 to an incredible $29.99, the Fire 10 from $149.99 to $99.99 and the Fire 7 Kids from $99.99 to $69.99. 

There were good deals on TVs too. In the US, the excellent TCL TVs were massively discounted and better known brands such as Hisense were chopped too: for example Hisense’s 43-inch 4K TV dropped from $349.99 to $239.99. 

The best phone deal we spotted in the US was a big drop on the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which went from $799 to a much more affordable $549.

amazon site down on prime day. Dogs of amazon

Image credit: Amazon

Why did Amazon crash on Prime Day? Did the crash cost it money?

Amazon struggled to cope with traffic on Prime Day, an issue that affected not just the Amazon site but services such as Prime Video and Twitch. Customers found their shopping carts would suddenly empty, or links simply wouldn’t work, or they couldn’t access Amazon at all. The issues were largely confined to the US website and customers, although problems with Prime Video lasted well into the evening in the UK.

Some sites got their calculators out and concluded that the worst outage, which lasted for 63 minutes, cost Amazon just under $100 million in lost sales. Amazon disagrees, saying that the effect on sales was “minimal”. 

CNBC has seen internal documents that describe what happened. First, it didn’t secure enough servers to cope with the demand; secondly, that shortage caused a “cascading series of failures” that knocked out key services; and thirdly, Amazon temporarily killed all international traffic to reduce the load. All of those things happened within the first 15 minutes of Prime Day. 

The outage wasn’t the only issue Amazon faced on Prime Day. There were also strikes in protest at the way it treats its workers.

Image credit: Amazon

Why were workers striking and supporters urging Amazon boycotts on Prime Day?

Prime Day wasn’t the first time Amazon has been accused of terrible working practices, but it was a great day to get the issue into the papers. Workers in Spain and Germany went on strike over working hours and conditions while activists urged people to send Amazon a message on Prime Day by boycotting it altogether over its treatment of workers and its tax arrangements. It was also marked by a surge in health and safety complaints from UK workers. 

As you’d expect, Amazon denies the allegations, with a spokesperson telling us: These allegations and the data are just not accurate — safety incidents in our fulfillment centers did not increase around Prime Day, they actually decreased from the previous week. We’re proud of our team and our workplace, and invite anyone to come see for themselves – we offer public tours of our buildings and you can learn more at amazonfctours.com."  

Amazon also told Wired that the Organise campaign behind the publicity was indulging in fake news. “To our knowledge, Organise doesn’t verify that respondents actually work for the company they claim to work for.”

Amazon delivery

Image credit: Amazon

What could Amazon have done better on Prime Day?

It should have anticipated and been able to cope with the load not just on its ecommerce site but on its cloud services too: we weren’t the only ones irritated because we couldn’t get our Preacher fix on Amazon Prime Video. It’s all the more embarrassing when you remember that Amazon provides the cloud infrastructure for many high-profile sites and services: Prime Day wasn’t a great ad for that side of its business.

Our main criticisms aren’t technological, though. Navigating the deals was hopeless and many of the deals were laughable, especially in gaming: we frequently found much better console bundles on AO.com’s eBay page than we did on Amazon. 

Here’s a great example. On Prime Day, one of the flagship deals we identified was $50 off a set of Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones. That brought the price down from $299 to $249. Just three weeks later, Amazon US was listing the same headphones for $169.

Image credit: Amazon

Will Amazon Prime Day 2019 do things differently?

Yes. CNBC reports that Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO of worldwide retail, has already demanded improvements to prevent a repeat the previous Prime Day’s capacity problems: “tech teams are already working to improve our architecture”. 

We’d like to think that Amazon will also improve the navigation and discoverability of its deals for Prime Day 2019, although we aren’t holding our collective breath: both factors’ general rubbishness didn’t stop Prime Day breaking all records, so there’s not much incentive for Amazon to change it unless it decides better navigation will drive significantly higher sales. But that's why we're here to show you the best Prime Day deals!

It’s a safe bet that Prime Day 2019 will be longer. It’s already grown from one day to one and a half; further inflation seems inevitable.

Image credit: Amazon

What does all this mean for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

It’s clear that Amazon is prioritising Prime Day over Super Black Friday Deals Month or whatever convoluted name it’s going to give its Black Friday sales period in 2019: according to Digitalcommerce360.com, 67% of this year's Prime Day deals were lower than comparable deals on the preceding Black Friday. 

That’s not to say Amazon won’t take part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It will, and it’ll offer the same kind of discounting that we’ve seen in recent years. But Prime Day is more important to the firm, and we’d expect its discounts to be deeper, especially on its own devices.

Image credit: Amazon

Prime Day: why does it matter more to Amazon?

There are some crucial differences between Prime Day and Black Friday. The first is that Prime Day is Amazon’s own day. It’s right there in the name, which of course refers to Amazon’s Prime membership programme and associated services. Amazon doesn’t own Black Friday, and that means ultimately it’s just another retailer shouting for attention – a massive retailer with a really loud voice, of course, but Black Friday is a sales event for the entire retail sector. It’s much harder for rivals to muscle in on something that Amazon has effectively created from thin air.

The second and more important difference is that Black Friday doesn’t create new spending. It just moves it slightly. As we’ve discovered in recent years, the money people spend over the Black Friday period is money they were probably going to spend anyway: all Black Friday really does is concentrates pre-Christmas shopping in the last week of November. 

Prime Day spending is different in two ways. First of all, people aren’t spending the money they’d already planned to spend on Christmas presents. And secondly, they’re buying mainly for themselves, not for others. If you go back to the list of bestsellers there’s an awful lot of impulse buying in there: Instant Pots and Hue Lightstrips, frying pans and dishwasher tablets. This is new spending, not merely moving pre-planned spending. 

There’s another key benefit for Amazon. Its best-sellers on Prime Day weren’t just Amazon devices; they were Amazon devices that connect to Amazon services. Fire TVs, Kindle Fires, Echo devices, Alexa remotes. Each one of them connecting to Amazon Prime, and each one of them requiring a Prime membership to buy in the first place. So when Black Friday rolls around, Amazon will have a whole bunch of Prime members for whom shopping on Prime is the default, and who might want to enhance their Amazon-powered smart homes with Amazon-branded Black Friday deals.

Prime Day means that for Amazon, Christmas now comes twice a year.

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Apple HomePod now has voice recognition for multiple users

Starting soon, Apple HomePod will be able to pick up on who's speaking and give them personalized recommendations and notifications for Apple Music, Messages, Notes, Reminders and more, all part of Apple HomePod's new multi-user feature.

The feature was announced during the WWDC 2019 keynote and is just one of many updates coming to the smart speaker later this year. 

Some other features coming our way are Handoff, the feature that allows you to share an audio stream from an iOS device just by holding it close to the speaker. HomePod will also be getting live radio support for over 100,000 stations from all around the world.

Many of these features were also announced for the new version of iOS (iOS 13) and the new version of tvOS (tvOS 13). 

A HomePod for everyone in the house

Apple made a big deal out of personalized results at this year's WWDC keynote – in fact, it's a cornerstone of both iOS and tvOS. The HomePod features are really an extension of that – i.e. while it makes a ton of sense to see personalized TV show recommendations, it also makes sense for the HomePod to be able to know who's talking and tailor results to that person.

It's also the kind of thing Google Assistant has been able to do for the last year, so it's high-time that Apple catches up.

So when can we expect our HomePods to be a bit more personal? Expect to see these new features land with the full release of iOS 13 which, based on previous launches, is likely to land in September 2019. 

  • Catch all the announcements from the event in our WWDC 2019 news hub

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