Roundup: this week in digital commerce

Target unveils a snappy way to shop


Much like holiday shopping promotions, back to school campaigns seem to start a week earlier each year. With advertisements for school supplies and dorm furnishings in full swing, this year appears to be no exception. Luckily, Target has given us a new shopping app to talk about as part of their 2014 college campaign.

“In a Snap” is Target’s new image recognition app, which lets users find items using the pictures in printed advertisements – no QR or barcode required. Once you’ve found the item in Target’s stock, you can either buy the product directly from the app, or save it to a wishlist.

In a Snap is Target’s answer to omnichannel offerings like Amazon’s Firefly, which enables users to find items on Amazon simply by aiming their mobile device at a product. While Amazon’s app allows consumers to scan physical products, Target’s In a Snap is currently only compatible with select print advertisements.

Zappos takes personal shopping service to a new level


E-commerce pioneer Zappos is taking another step in elevating its world-class customer experience. The company is testing a new digital tool called Ask Zappos, which acts as a personal shopping assistant by enabling customers to send in images of products they’d like to buy. Zappos employees then use image recognition software to find the product online, sending back shopping links to the customer (even if Zappos doesn’t carry the product). Users can send in images a variety of ways, including by text and through Instagram using the hashtag #AskZappos.

Ask Zappos is the Amazon company’s next step in improving online shopping, delivering a more seamless, personalized experience. The new offering also underlines the central role image recognition technology is playing in omnichannel commerce, with nearly every major retailer either offering or developing an image recognition service as part of their shopping apps.

Amazon launches 3-D printing store


In one more piece of Amazon news (what can I say, it’s been a very Amazon week), the online retail giant has launched a 3-D printing store called Amazon 3D Printed Products. The new store allows customers to print things like jewelry, toys, and novelty items. Amazon 3D Printed Products, which currently boasts more than 200 print-on-demand products, also gives customers the ability to customize pieces by changing their size, color, or material to fit their need. However, Amazon won’t actually be printing the pieces, but rather has chosen to partner with a number of 3D printing houses.

With this new offering, Amazon is joining the ranks of companies like Hasbro that are experimenting with the on-demand 3D printing market.

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