Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, meaning the prepared have already made their dinner reservations and the unprepared will be making a rather frantic stop at a jewelry store and florist at some point within the next 24 hours.
And while we here at PYMNTS seriously considered trying to make a valentine for all our readers to express our undying love and devotion, we realized that, for the payments and commerce junkies who frequent this page, there is no better token of our affection than keeping the data pipeline open for business.
This week, coming in the flow: FedEx is stepping up its competitive efforts with Amazon, BoA has decided to give self-service a chance and the Dark Web and Arby’s had something in common this week.
Need to know more?
FedEx Taking The Freight Fight To Amazon
FedEx has officially announced the launch of FedEx Fulfillment, its new merchant-centric eCommerce platform designed to allow its partners to to fulfill orders and track inventory across multiple channels, as well as manage inventory for their stores.
Firms that opt in will be able to store their products at FedEx warehouses in the United States and Canada. When goods are sold, FedEx will manage packing and shipping the goods in customized and branded boxes. (Boxes will be branded to the retailer, not FedEx).
The new service is now a direct competitor for Amazon and its merchant services platform.
FedEx Fulfillment was created by FedEx Supply Chain. Apart from applying logistics expertise, the new service also promises partners access to better data sets for tracking items, managing inventory and analyzing trends.
“FedEx Fulfillment is the latest in a series of offerings designed to help our customers succeed as eCommerce continues to grow,” said Carl Asmus, senior vice president of eCommerce at FedEx Express. “Moving goods efficiently and reliably is what we do best. By teaming up with FedEx Supply Chain and utilizing the world-renowned FedEx networks, customers can focus less on fulfillment and logistics challenges and more on growing their businesses.”
FedEx Fulfillment also offers same-day fulfillment cutoff times and two-day ground shipping to the majority of the U.S. population and also advertises a simplified returns process for participating merchants.
“Online shoppers show deep-rooted loyalty to brands with fast shipments, easy returns, positive customer service experiences and flexible delivery options,” said Ryan Kelly, senior vice president of FedEx Supply Chain.
Will the service be able to compete with Amazon, whose own fulfillment services have been a wildly strong area of growth for the firm? It is hard to say. Amazon manages logistics with a level of expertise that even the most entrenched hater has to admit is impressive, and exposure via the Amazon marketplace is a powerful potential growth tool for digital retailers.
On the other hand, businesses listing products on Amazon have often described it as being something of a deal with the devil. Amazon connects them with customers, but it also competes with these sellers and uses the data it gets from their listings to compete with them more efficiently. FedEx isn’t a retailer and doesn’t have a dog in the eCommerce fight, which could make it attractive to retailers looking for an alternative to Amazon — a reality FedEx seems aware of.
“We’re focused on the retailer and doing what’s right for the retailer in helping them grow their business,” Kelly told CNNTech. “I think that is differentiated in the marketplace. It’s why we’re getting such great feedback.”
Speaking of responding to feedback…
Bank Of America And The Automated Branch
In an attempt to build banking and financial services products for literally everyone, Bank of America is experimenting with a fully automated branch design. For those who prefer their dealings with the outside world be as human-free as possible, there are now three BoA branches in the U.S. that feature no human employees — except those accessed via a screen.
The new automated banking centers feature the option to use an ATM or video chat with employees at other branches, according to BoA spokeswoman Anne Pace.
BoA is one of many U.S. banks looking to reduce its physical footprint and make better and more efficient use of the spaces it leaves open. The new automated branches — apart from being employee-free — are also smaller and more technologically decked out than their standard counterparts. They also tend to be focused a bit differently, with a focus on mortgages, credit cards and auto loans, specifically.
For those hoping to experience the wonder of fully automated BoA branches right now, it will be necessary to live in (or travel to) Minneapolis and Denver — both of which are relatively new markets for the bank. But BoA does plan to open more of these automated branches going forward, provided these early efforts work out to plan.
According to BoA’s Dean Athanasia, it could be looking to open 50–60 new branches in the next year — though, with so many additional closures, that 50–60 new locations might not represent a net increase.
Bank of America opened 31 new branches in 2016 and, as of today, operates 4,579 financial centers. That is a dropoff from the 4,726 BoAs operated during the fourth quarter of 2015 and the 5,900 open for business at the end of 2010.
The Week In Hack Attacks
While one might not tend to think of the Dark Web and Arby’s having much in common, this week, both had websites that faced a common enemy: hackers bent on bringing them down.
The ironic crime of the week was probably the network of thousands of these Dark Web marketplaces being knocked offline by a massive cyberattack last week. Dark Web sites don’t exactly have a sterling reputation for providing anything positive to society. They are favored by child pornographers and hackers to anonymously share information and perpetrate malicious activities. There is something almost enjoyable about this news.
The anonymous attack targeted a web hosting provider named Freedom Hosting II, subsequently disabling nearly a fifth of the Dark Web as of Friday (Feb. 3). Adding insult to injury, the attackers also published a series of databases containing large amounts of the information available on Freedom Hosting II.
Freedom Hosting II was considered to be the largest hosting provider for anonymous websites, and the posted databases included information such as private messages between users and code from servers used to operate compromised computer networks.
“It’s the sort of classes of sites that you’d expect to want to have anonymity,” Troy Hunt, an independent security researcher, noted.
There is no public information available about who operates Freedom Hosting or how to contact them.
Arby’s, on the other hand, is very contactable, and it’s also drawn the interests of the cybercriminal community of late.
The news this week was that the fast food chain has been hit with a breach that affected about 1,000 corporate restaurant locations but only one of its franchise restaurants.
According to reports from cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs, first news of the breach came via a Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) called PSCU, which sent out a non-public alert to the 800 credit union member banks it serves advising that it had received a list of compromised card numbers from Mastercard and Visa.
Though the retailer wasn’t named at the time, PSCU said more than 355,000 credit and debit cards issued by PCSU-associated banks were compromised in the data breach.
According to Arby’s, the breach was brought about by a malware infection on its point-of-sale systems that has since been eliminated. Arby’s reportedly alerted law enforcement after learning of the attack in mid-January and is working with several cybersecurity firms, including Mandiant, as it continues investigating the breach.
“Hundreds of thousands of cards is a big number, and with the Wendy’s breach, the alerts we were getting from Visa and Mastercard were in the six-digit ranges for sure,” B. Dan Berger, president and CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, told Krebs. “That’s probably one of the biggest numbers I’ve heard.”
So, what did we learn this week?
A little bit about what the future will look like.
Retailers will have a mounting competition to handle their logistics, financial services customers will be able to opt for robot help and consumers will get their card data hacked — but at least be comforted by the knowledge that the people who stole it are also at risk of being hacked.
Until next week.