Market Trends January 2018
Robots For Construction Sites
Gramazio Kohler Research plans to design specialized robots to help automate some construction jobs. Each robot would be created for a particular task, such as stacking materials in nonstandard formations. Robots designed to work with timber construction and mesh mold metal will use cameras to process data and then work to arrange materials on site. For some industry observers, robots are construction's next big disruptor. From miners that can delve where humans cannot, to an autonomous track loader and rebar-tying robot, recent years have seen mounting evidence pointing to what could be an emerging robotic revolution.
Lifestyle Trends Shaping Home Trends
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that today’s homeowners are looking for a place to unwind and spend time with family and friends. Many are also looking for a sense of community. In addition, an increasingly aging population is also influencing home design. Kitchens are now viewed as the heart of the gathering place at home, as they expand and absorb formal dining rooms and family seating areas. With expansion is coming a trend to add more technology to the area with Wi-Fi enabled home automation and smart appliances. Outdoor living areas are also becoming increasingly more important, and now feature things like fireplaces, fire pits, sofas and even televisions. The line between indoors and outdoors is becoming more blurred, with some homes using accordion-style glass doors. There are also more areas in new homes that don’t have a dedicated purpose, enabling them to meet a family’s individual needs for a suite for an aging relative or a quiet office for someone who works from home. Lastly, homeowners are demanding that homes become more energy efficient. Solar power, better insulation and windows with increased thermal performance will continue to grow in popularity. Water conservation is also becoming more and more important.
Warehouse Growth Leads to Robotics Race
The warehouse industry employed 960,400 American workers in October 2017, up 42% over the past decade, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and builders spent $2.6 billion on warehouse construction in September, more than triple what they spent in September 2012. Retailers and logistics companies are struggling to find the workers they need for warehouses. In September last year 219,000 employees were hired by transportation, warehousing and utilities companies while another 246,000 open positions went unfilled. Amazon bought Kiva Systems, a company that specialized in automated warehouse robots, a couple of years ago, triggering a robot race as robotics companies gear up to try and take advantage of the booming market.
Artificial Intelligence Growing
Amazon announced a range of new machine learning features for Amazon Web Services that will enable AWS customers to develop and quickly “train” their own artificial intelligence algorithms, build software applications capable of translating language, analyze video and scan text for trends or key phrases. Amazon released 1,300 new AWS features in 2017, up from just over 1,000 in 2016. Microsoft and Google are actually viewed as being further advanced than AWS as far as artificial intelligence goes.
Alexa Goes to Work
Amazon wants workers to use Alexa to book conference rooms, launch meetings, make calls and check security camera feeds. Alexa for Business already has a range of skills, including the ability to dim lights, lower blinds and call a meeting to order, as well as make phone calls. Amazon hopes to let software developers build apps that manage work calendars, find open meeting rooms and order supplies. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are also rolling out capabilities for the office.
Target is buying online delivery company Shipt, a move that will let most Target customers have groceries dropped off at their front door shortly after they place an order. The $550 million cash deal links Target’s network of stores with Shipt’s more than 20,000 personal shoppers, who pick up products for customers and deliver them within a few hours. Walmart has tested delivery runs with both Uber and Lyft and Costco is reportedly launching two new delivery options for members later this year.
How Amazon Pays for Free Shipping
According to a recent study that appeared in the Columbus Telegram, one of the main mechanisms that enables consumers to get free shipping is the fact that merchants pay fees on the back end that consumers do not see. Merchants also pay significant fees for participating in the Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) program. Amazon’s standard monthly inventory charge is $0.64 per cubic foot of volume for the first nine months of the year; during the fourth quarter the rate goes up to $2.35 per cubic foot. Long-term storage fees for items that sit between six months and a year add $11.25 per square foot, and go up after a year or more. Shipping still incurs a net loss for Amazon that generally totals around 5% of net sales; for the first quarter of 2017, Amazon had $35.7 billion in sales and $4.4 billion in shipping costs, along with more than half a billion dollars in profit.
Top Omnichannel Retailers
Amazon, Williams-Sonoma and Kohl’s are the top three brands in ForeSee’s annual Retail Customer Experience Rankings, which are based on survey data from more than 40,000 shoppers across their store, Web and mobile experiences. The report also examines the success of retailers by individual channels. Other key findings include the facts that 57% of shoppers use a mobile device while shopping in a store and 49% who start in mobile are now staying in mobile through the purchase. That’s up significantly from 33% last year. Forty-one percent use two or more channels during the purchase process. The retailers included in the study were chosen using the 2017 Deloitte Global Powers of Retailing report, which ranks global omnichannel retailers by revenue. ForeSee selected the top 50 non-grocery brands with operations in the US, U.K. or Canada for the study.
Life-Changing Tech Trends
The Wall Street Journal rounded up the tech trends they believe will be life-changing in 2018. They include the wide-ranging impact of artificial intelligence, more affordable electric cars and a resurgence and reinvention of Facebook. Amazon remains a major force and is continuing to explore new opportunities, from office services to grocery to brick and mortar retail. Amazon is on track to employ more than 500,000 people in 2018, making it America’s second-largest employer. The revocation of net neutrality regulations for the internet may cause internet providers to offer consumers more incentives to do business with them. Smartphone software will continue to evolve, with the next generation of Apple’s iOS system providing even more screen interaction and personalization. Security experts warn that consumers could face new security and privacy threats, particularly in their internet-connected TVs, toys and other smart appliances and goods.
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