In 1918 a journalist named Robert Ripley animated a panel of “amazing facts,” most of which were about sports. Hence the name, Champs and Chumps.
By 1932, Ripley’s little comic had grown into something of an American institution with 80 million syndicated readers nationwide and a staff of two men who spent 12 hours a day in the New York Public Library looking for interesting facts for Ripley to bring to the people.
The world was a tough place pre-Google.
By 1932 the feature had acquired the name most of us still know it by: Ripley’s Believe Or Not.
And this week, we feel a little bit like we are channeling the ghost of Robert Ripley.
Setting aside the macro events taking place on the world’s political and financial stage, there’s a mountain of payments and commerce headlines to get through.
The short list — the very short list — includes Mastercard and VocaLink’s big pair-up, Visa and PayPal’s big pair-up, Worldpay’s two-week malfunction, Cabela’s taking its place on the auction block, Walmart pulling the plug on Visa in a few stores in Canada and Amazon sticking its toe into the student loan waters.
Then, of course, there’s the genuinely one-off stuff related to our world floating around out there. So, for your Saturday pleasure we present some of the “amazing facts” in payments and commerce that you might have missed while you were busy focused on the largish and game-changing stuff that could really rock your world.
Think of this as the payments and commerce version of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
Jeff Bezos Boldly Goes Where No Man Has Gone Before
Given the numerous expansions Amazon has made since its humble beginnings as the internet’s favorite bookseller, the statement “Jeff Bezos can do anything” is maybe a touch hyperbolic, but not really inaccurate.
Amazon today is the largest retailer in the world by market cap, it has a staggering and evergrowing base of fanatically loyal Prime customers, it brought the word “drone” into popular usage, they’re developing their own air and sea cargo infrastructure, Alexa represents IoT’s first big mainstream move, they’re widely forecasted to be a true contender in the apparel segment after less than a year selling clothes, they launched a content streaming platform and they literally invented a shopping holiday to celebrate its own anniversary and rake in the sales. Sales volume this Prime Day over last, rose 60 and 50 percent, respectively, worldwide and in the U.S. That clocks out to 51 million products, including 2 million toys, 1 million pairs of shoes, 90,000+ TVs, and 200,000 headphones.
We could go on (and on and on), but the upshot version is if you’re a movie star, Jeff Bezos probably isn’t a threat to your business; if you aren’t, watch your flank.
Or at least, that would have been the upshot version until this week. Apparently, Jeff Bezos has found a new thing to disrupt: “Star Trek.”
We are not talking about Blue Origin, the Bezos-backed space exploration outfit inspired by his childhood love of “Star Trek.” We literally mean “Star Trek” – the opening-nationwide-this-weekend-summer-blockbuster, “Star Trek.”
Bezos managed to finagle himself a cameo role in the new movie. Not that he would be easy to recognize, but hey, he’s in there. How did the cast like working with Jeff Bezos? Chris Pine (Captain Kirk) had the following to say.
“I was there for the bit with his, like, nine bodyguards and three limos. It was really intense. I had no idea who he was. Not a clue. But he was obviously very important.”
Live long and prosper, Jeff. We imagine Chris Pine will know who you are when you are actually crowned galactic emperor.
The Slurpees Are Coming! By Air!
Like most Americans, a cool refreshing beverage probably sounds pretty good to you right about now. We imagine that a Slurpee falling directly from the sky would count as pretty great news.
Brace yourself, great news is coming your way.
Well, if you live in Reno, anyway.
In partnership with a startup called Flirtey, 7-Eleven is hoping to beat Amazon to the fruit punch with drone delivery to customer homes in the U.S. Flirty builds and operates delivery drones for humanitarian and health work, as well as for the retail and food industries, from soup to nuts. Flirtey builds its drones, develops the software to run them, and creates the proprietary packaging that keeps deliveries safe and secure in flight.
During the 7-Eleven test run, Flirtey successfully transported: some Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, doughnuts, hot coffee and candy to the home of the family who placed the order.
And according to 7-Eleven EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins, the goal is to roll this out far and wide as soon as the various regulatory issues can be cleared.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is expected to put new rules into effect in late August that allow the operation of small, unmanned aircraft in the national airspace. Both houses of Congress have also passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 which requires the FAA to develop drone delivery rules, and to conduct research on “BVOS” or beyond the visual line of sight flying of drones.
Meaning soon, you will never have to suffer through a hot day without a Slurpee and a doughnut to comfort you ever again. Just watch your head.
Apple Sinks Wearables
Apple has been accused of many things over the years — some fair and some not — but being an anchor is definitely a new one for the world’s most successful tech firm.
But if the latest data on smartphone sales is accurate, then when it comes to wearables, an anchor is precisely what Apple is these days.
Smartwatch sales dropped from 5.1 million units sold in the second quarter of 2015 to 3.5 million units sold in the same quarter of 2016, an overall reduction of 32 percent. So watch that first drop, it’s a big one.
The shocker in the results, though, is that Apple is driving the losses, and hard. Sales on the Apple Watch cracked 55 percent year over year.
Apple, which accounts for 47 percent of the smartwatch market, sold 1.6 million smartwatches in the second quarter of 2016, compared to 3.6 million in the same quarter of 2015.
“Consumers have held off on smartwatch purchases since early 2016 in anticipation of a hardware refresh, and improvements in watchOS are not expected until later this year, effectively stalling existing Apple Watch sales,” Jitesh Ubrani, a research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement. “Apple still maintains a significant lead in the market, and unfortunately, a decline for Apple leads to a decline in the entire market. Every vendor faces similar challenges related to fashion and functionality, and though we expect improvements next year, growth in the remainder of 2016 will likely be muted.”
The “good” news here is that Apple may experience a dramatic version of a hiccup, as it often sees in iPhone sales, where consumers begin to hold off on buying a new one because they know Apple will eventually release an upgraded model with newer and “cooler” features, which puts some big gravity on sales figures.
But Apple’s gravity is coming when its competitors in the space are looking pretty darn buoyant.
Samsung, which ranks second in the market, saw its sales jump by 51 percent; Lenovo, which comes in third, saw a 75 percent sales boost; LG Electronics, fourth in market share, saw a 26 percent bump; and fifth-placed Garmin saw a 25 percent sales increase.
Combine that data with reports that consumers just aren’t getting into the big buzz for the iPhone 7 — and, well, we’ve said it before — Apple only has so much consumer goodwill to coast on before it has to pony-up with something genuinely exciting.
The numbers so far indicate that exciting item isn’t going to be the Apple Watch.
What will it be?
We’ll have to wait and see.
But whatever else happens, we can pretty sure it is going to be a wild ride. If the last week is any indication, anyway. Until then, live long and prosper with Slurpees air dropped on demand to people probably not wearing smartwatches tracking their progress.