Daily Review: How Google and IBM are Fighting Amazon

No competitive edge remains an edge forever, and while it may seem like Amazon has commerce figured out, there are more battles to win if the company wants to remain a dominating force across the digital world. While Amazon builds its highly integrated ecosystem to monopolize niches, Google, IBM, and Apple are looking Europe, and will beat the opportunity to power the underlying technology for all sorts of players. In the long term, the approach to be an enabler rather than a sole leader may be winsome, but it largely depends on solutions offered to businesses.

Pick #1. Google Introduces ‘Shopping Actions’ to Help Retailers in their Battle with Amazon

Google will allow retailers to list their products across Google Search, in its Google Express shopping service, and in the Google Assistant app for smartphones and on smart speakers, like the Google Home. The program offers online shoppers a universal cart whether they’re shopping on mobile, desktop or via a voice-powered device.

Google is working with a range of top retailers on the new effort, including Target, Walmart, Ulta Beauty, Costco, and Home Depot. Some of these were detailed in the company’s official announcement of Shopping Actions, as the program is called.

According to Google, retail partners saw the average size of a customer’s shopping basket increase by 30% after joining the program, and Ulta saw average order values increase 35%. Target, which has been live for six months, says its Google Express shopping baskets increased nearly 20%, on average.

The program is live now in the US and open to any retailer.

Read more (+ Google official announcement).

Pick #2. IBM’s Watson Assistant Lets Any Company Build Alexa-Like Voice Interfaces

IBM is launching Watson Assistant, a new service aimed at companies looking to build voice-activated virtual assistants for their own products.

Watson Assistant is a white label product. Clients can train their assistants using their own data sets, and IBM says it’s easier to add relevant actions and commands than with other assistant tech. Each integration of Watson Assistant keeps its data to itself, meaning big tech companies aren’t pooling information on users’ activities across multiple domains.

IBM has already secured a couple of small partnerships for Watson Assistant. One with Harman, building a voice assistant for a Maserati concept car; another at Munich airport, where Watson Assistant is powering a Pepper robot that offers visitors directions; and a third with smart home company Chameleon Technologies, where the voice tech powers its smart home meter.

Read more.

Pick #3. Apple & IBM Unveil Artificial Intelligence Service That Coca-Cola Is Testing

Apple and IBM have teamed up on an artificial intelligence service that is intended to make it easier for business customers to create apps.

The new artificial intelligence service is intended for corporate developers to build apps themselves.

The service, Watson Services for Core ML, links Apple’s Core ML tools for developers that it unveiled last year with IBM’s Watson data crunching service. Core ML helps coders build machine learning-powered apps that can more efficiently perform calculations on smartphones instead of processing those calculations in external data centers. It’s similar to other smartphone-based machine learning tools like Google’s TensorFlow Lite.

Read more.

Pick #4. N26 Raises $160M Co-Led by Allianz X & Tencent

N26 has raised $160 million in a Series C Funding round co-led by Allianz X and Tencent. The funding represents the largest equity financing round (non-IPO) in the FinTech industry in Germany to date and one of the largest in Europe and will be used to accelerate N26’s global growth strategy and product vision. Total funds raised as of today are $215 million.

Since its launch in January 2015, N26 has acquired more than 850,000 customers. The goal is to reach more than 5 million customers by the end of 2020. N26 has processed over €9 billion in transaction volume to date, with a projected volume of more than €13 billion in 2018 alone.

The funding will be used toward N26’s overall growth strategy and international expansion, particularly into the US and UK later this year. It also will support product development for existing markets.

N26 wants to make the banking experience smarter and more personalized for customers through the use of artificial intelligence. N26 believes that artificial intelligence will allow the bank of the future to become more adaptive to customers’ needs and solve problems in a way that is currently missing among traditional retail banks.

Read more.