Data Dive

Data Dive: Embracing The Uncertainty Edition

Despite living in a world awash in data, it’s surprising how much our lives are defined by uncertainty. What’s coming next is hard to measure in a world where it seems entire news cycles can be made — and broken — with but a single well-placed tweet.

There are ways to stay ahead of the predictive curve, of course; reading PYMNTS in a good start (and Starbucks is offering a drinkable crystal ball at the moment), but sometimes there’s no choice but to steer into the uncertainty.

So, who’s going into this week with a whole lot of question marks?

 

Toys R Us Suppliers Wonder If They’re Ever Getting Paid

Toys R Us has publicly promised to do its absolute best to pay its suppliers in the wake of its bankruptcy.

But about 50 of those suppliers — including big names like Lego and Mattel — are not happy with the company’s current bankruptcy proceedings and are very worried about getting stiffed.

Their fear is not totally unwarranted, since the retailer is looking for approval to stop over $450 million in payments to suppliers, according to Reuters. Adding to the complexity, the toy store bought many of its goods on an unsecured credit line, so some of its trade vendors want the retailer to send back unpaid inventory.

The retailer could conceivably sell the inventory and use the money to pay bankruptcy lawyers as well as secured lenders. However, Toys R Us continues to maintain that it’s doing everything it can to pay back the vendors it owes.

“We’re making every effort to make sure (trade vendors) will be paid in full,” Lazard’s David Kurtz, who is advising Toys R Us, said in bankruptcy court, according to Reuters.

Toys R Us is looking at shuttering its entire retail operation — some 700 stores nationwide. If that liquidation takes place, it will be the largest since Sports Authority shuttered 500 stores a few years ago. Beyond the U.S., Toys R Us Chief Executive David Brandon said the company may liquidate its operations in France, Spain, Poland and Australia.

“We’re putting a for sale sign on everything,” Brandon told employees, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Frankly, all anyone has to do is offer one dollar more.”

Looks like those vendors will have a lot of uncertainty in their future.

 

Venmo Users Wait for Instant Pay to Get All the Way Back Online

Customers who’ve been regularly using Venmo’s Instant Transfer service since its rollout to a mass audience in January may have run into something of a roadblock this week. The system, which promises full delivery of funds to a Venmo user’s Visa or Mastercard debit card within 30 minutes (even on weekends) for a cost of $0.25, was shut down earlier this week.

Venmo did not offer any official full explanation of why the feature was removed. Instead, the firm noted it needed to “make a few changes” to the service.

What those changes are, or why they needed to be made so suddenly, is still unknown.

As of the end of the week, instant transfers were back online for some users.

Venmo’s traditional, next-business-day bank transfer option is still available for all.

It’s still not known when the service will be fully up and running again.

 

Will Google Be an eCommerce Competitor?

Google made its biggest direct push into eCommerce to date this week with the launch of its Shopping Actions product with Target and Walmart. In its latest move to monetize its search engine, Google will be able to capture a cut of sales from listings on Google Search and Google Express.

The new program will allow retailers to list products on Google Search, Google Express and Google Assistant on mobile and voice devices and sell them directly from the platform. Those listings will incorporate branded features like loyalty programs, according to Reuters.

Google President of Retail & Shopping Daniel Alegre said the new program was inspired by the fact that mobile searches asking “where to buy” products jumped 85 percent over the past two years.

The way that path normally terminates is the customer then jumps to Amazon after their Google search. The new program, which Google is calling Shopping Actions, will let customers make that purchase more directly.

“We have taken a fundamentally different approach from the likes of Amazon because we see ourselves as an enabler of retail,” Alegre said in a Reuters interview. “We see ourselves as part of a solution for retailers to be able to drive better transactions … and get closer to the consumer.”

Alegre further noted that retailers that are already using Shopping Actions saw the average size of customers’ shopping baskets jump by 30 percent.

Target Chief Information and Digital Officer Mike McNamara said in the report that Target customers like the ease and convenience of using voice to order and purchase items.

“This is just the beginning for Target and Google,” he said, noting that customers will be able to link their online account and loyalty card with their Google accounts and get 5 percent off on purchases as well as free shipping.

So, can Google compete with Amazon by offering a digital and voice shopping platform for every big retailer that doesn’t want to sign a deal with the digital devil (Amazon)?

No way to know just yet.

But that’s okay, since this week’s big lessons are about learning to live with uncertainty.

When Venmo’s Instant Transfer service goes fully live again, Toys R Us suppliers get paid and Google’s Assistant starts offering serious competition for Amazon’s Alexa, we’ll be the first to let you know.

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