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Amazon Is Launching a New Program to Donate Unsold Products, After Reports That Millions Were Being Destroyed

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Amazon wants its third-party sellers to make better use of their unsold or unwanted products that often get dumped — by giving them away to charity.

Amazon is launching a new donations program, called Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Donations, for third-party sellers that store their inventory in Amazon’s warehouses in the U.S. and UK, CNBC has learned. Starting on September 1, the donation program will become the default option for all sellers when they choose to dispose of their unsold or unwanted products stored in Amazon warehouses across those two countries. Sellers can opt out of the program, if they want.

The donations will be distributed to a network of U.S. nonprofits through a group called Good360 and UK charities such as Newlife and Barnardo’s. After this story was published, Amazon announced the program via a blog post on Wednesday afternoon.

The new donations program is designed to reduce the amount of inventory that must be dumped from Amazon’s warehouses, helping the environment and putting otherwise wasted products to some use. Recent reports found that Amazon routinely discards unsold inventory, with one French TV documentary estimating Amazon to have destroyed over 3 million products in France last year. Given that Amazon generates the bulk of its sales in the U.S., the number of destroyed inventory in its U.S. warehouses is likely much larger than those found in other countries.

“This program will reduce the number of products sent to landfills and instead help those in need,” Amazon wrote in the email to sellers announcing the launch.

Sellers who spoke to CNBC said the new program makes it cheaper to donate their unwanted inventory. Amazon charges 50 cents to return unsold inventory to sellers, much more than the 15 cents charged for disposal. Sellers destroy their inventory for a variety of reasons, including returns that are no longer usable or for safety issues.

In an email statement to CNBC, Amazon’s spokesperson confirmed the launch of the new program, adding it’s “working hard” to bring the number of destroyed products to zero.

“At Amazon, the vast majority of returned products are resold to other customers or liquidators, returned to suppliers, or donated to charitable organizations, depending on their condition,” Amazon said.

By: Eugene Kim

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/

 

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Why Your Customers Should Be Central To Your Innovation Efforts

There’s a big mistake that a lot of companies make. It’s one that until a few years ago was common in my own organization, and it stems from a worthy goal: to boost innovation. The mistake is adopting what I call the “science fair” mentality: encouraging employees throughout the organization to innovate freely but without much, if any, direct contact with the very customers these innovations are intended for.

Unconstrained innovation sounds exciting, like the sort of thing startups do. But the truth is that successful startups actually don’t do that, because they know that innovation without a framework rarely leads to business success. It does lead to inventions that are impressive and creative, but they ultimately prove impractical or irrelevant for driving business growth.

How, then, can you get employees to innovate products and services that actually improve the performance of your business? The answer is by creating a structure that involves your customers, from an early stage, in your innovation efforts.

Focusing on the customer (for real)

It’s a rare company these days that doesn’t claim to put its customers first. It’s also a rare company that doesn’t do market research. But what is exceptional is a company with a framework to channel innovative energies so that they solve customer pain points and result in a commercial outcome the market will pay for.

Getting employees to innovate products and services that improve the performance of your business requires a structure that involves customers, from an early stage, in your innovation efforts.

Building this framework does not mean stifling creative energies under a heavy layer of bureaucracy. Rather, it means making sure that the innovation responds to customer needs and has the flexibility to evolve as you better understand those needs.

For instance, one of the projects I lead at PwC, the Global Innovation Challenge, could be a model for your organization. Invite employees from around your network, from all disciplines, to submit early-stage, technology-enabled business solutions. But require that before a team can enter the contest, it must include examples of marketplace interest — not just an explanation of how (and how soon) the project will meet specific client needs, but also feedback from potential or actual clients on a prototype or pilot.

Internal incubators are also ways you can create ongoing feedback loops with the marketplace. Multiple customer and third-party interviews and growing signs of market interest are required for a project to receive and keep funding from these groups. As you assess the customers’ feedback, the teams make changes in line with the customers’ needs — and if the market response isn’t promising, you pull the plug.

Four steps to make customers your innovation partners

No part of this process is improvised: Criteria and milestones are critical, including a framework that ensures that the customers are guiding the innovation. To take just one example, before PwC New Ventures, an internal software-as-a-service incubator, releases the first round of funding for a project, it needs to see at least 20 interviews with customers. Indeed, many projects have more than 100 interviews over the development period.

Here are some ideas to get that innovation-guiding framework started:

1. Get specific. It’s not enough to say “talk to customers” or “research the market.” Set specific criteria for the quantity and quality of customer interviews.

2. Set milestones. Even after you’ve made the decision to invest in an innovative project, continue to check not just technical progress, but also customer feedback, on a regular basis.

3. Offer expert guidance. Brilliant technical minds aren’t always brilliant at interacting with customers. Assign a person or team to train technical people on customer outreach, and to do the outreach directly when needed.

4. Set procedures to react. Ensure that the team has the time and the processes to reflect on market feedback and adjust design appropriately. Be ready, if the feedback is poor, to terminate the project and reallocate resources.

What happens when you listen

A team at PwC recently developed a new tool for franchise owners designed to quickly, easily, and digitally market their stores. The team planned to make this digital platform the core feature of a new product.

Following our framework — and our core principle of customer-driven innovation — PwC team members reached out to customers. Listening to the franchise owners, the team learned that one of their top priorities was to support their customers, the franchisees. So the team members went back to work, adding components that the owners could use to help franchisees reach their end-users. The resulting product that was introduced to the marketplace attempted to solve problems for our clients while enabling them to solve problems for their clients.

The result of listening with empathy and emotional intelligence is that you will be able to not just mostly fulfill a customer’s needs but truly fulfill them, which is usually the difference between that customer ultimately buying or not buying your product.

Another big benefit of really listening is stronger customer relationships. After frequent interactions with your design teams to ensure that the final product will meet your customers’ needs, these customers start to view your people as partners and friends. And frequently, customers discover needs — which your new product or service can meet — that they didn’t even know they had.

If your innovation efforts are to truly add value to your business, customer-centricity will have to be more than a motto. It will have to be a framework to turn your customers into your innovation partners. The insights they bring will make all the difference in ensuring that the product not only solves their problems, but also provides an exceptional experience they’ll keep coming back for.

Vicki Huff By: Vicki Huff

Source: Why your customers should be central to your innovation efforts

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Cisco, Tilray, Aurora Cannabis, Alibaba, Trade Talks – 5 Things You Must Know

Here are five things you must know for Wednesday, May 15:

1. — Stock Futures Lower Amid Subsiding Trade War Worries

U.S. stock futures were lower Wednesday though sentiment was lifted by a softening of the rhetoric from Donald Trump in the U.S.-China trade war and suggestions that talks could resume in the coming weeks.

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Markets also were soothed by weaker-than-expected economic data from China that pointed to not only slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy but also a weakening bargaining position in Beijing’s trade standoff with Washington.

With Trumps describing the dispute with China as “a little squabble” on Tuesday, as well as confirmation from the U.S. Treasury that Secretary Steven Mnuchin will soon travel to Beijing to resume trade talks, markets were happy to add risk following Tuesday’s gains on Wall Street.

Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 85 points, futures for the S&P 500 declined 8.70 points, and Nasdaq futures were down 23 points.

The economic calendar in the U.S. Wednesday includes Retail Sales for April at 8:30 a.m. ET, the Empire State Manufacturing Survey for May at 8:30 a.m., Industrial Production for April at 9:15 a.m., and Oil Inventories for the week ended May 10 at 10:30 a.m.

2. — Cisco, Alibaba and Macy’s Report Earnings Wednesday

Alibaba Group Holding (BABAGet Report)  posted stronger-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings as consumer growth on its online marketplace surged and its tie-up with Starbucks (SBUXGet Report) , the world’s biggest coffee chain, helped boost revenue and its cloud computing sales surged.

Macy’s (MGet Report)  earned 44 cents a share on an adjusted basis in the first quarter, higher than estimates of 33 cents. Same-store sales rose 0.7% in the quarter vs. estimates that called for a decline of 0.6%.

Earnings reports are also expected Wednesday from Cisco Systems (CSCOGet Report) and Jack in the Box (JACKGet Report) .

Cisco is a holding in Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells CSCO? Learn more now.

3. — Tilray Rises After Revenue Beat, Aurora Cannabis Slumps

Tilray  (TLRY) shares were rising 4% to $50.71 in premarket trading Wednesday after the Canadian cannabis company posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter sales, while its domestic rival Aurora Cannabis (ACBGet Report) slumped after revenue missed analysts’ forecasts amid caps on retail store growth in the Canadian market.

Tilray said first-quarter revenue rose 195% from a year earlier to $23 million, as sales in Canada surged following the country’s decision to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The adjusted loss in the quarter was 27 cents a share, wider than analysts’ estimates, after a 5.7% drop in the average price per kilogram sold.

CEO Brendan Kennedy also said Tilray was looking to further its partnerships with U.S. and international companies as the potential $150 billion global market for cannabis undergoes a generational change in both regulation and consumer acceptance.

“We’ve been inundated with contacts from Fortune 500 companies who are interested in exploring partnerships with Tilray,” Kennedy told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. “And it’s a range of companies from a broad variety of industries.”

“We’re also starting to have conversations with U.S. retailers who are interested in carrying CBD product in the second half of this year,” he added.

Aurora Cannabis, meanwhile, was tumbling 4.7% to $7.99 in premarket trading after its fiscal third-quarter revenue of C$75.2 million missed Wall Street forecasts of C$77.2 million and consumer cannabis sales were just under C$30 million as provincial regulators limited the number of retail outlets.

The company reported a loss attributable to shareholders in the quarter of $C158 million said Aurora Cannabis said it was “well positioned to achieve positive EBITDA beginning in fiscal Q4.”

Aurora Cannabis is in TheStreet’s Stocks Under $10 portfolio. To find out more about how you can profit from this investing approach, please click here.

4. — Walmart Considering IPO for U.K. Unit Asda

Walmart (WMTGet Report) is considering an initial public offering for its U.K. grocery subsidiary Asda, a listing that that could value the company at as much as an estimated 8.5 billion pounds ($11 billion), Bloomberg reported.

The news comes just weeks after U.K. antitrust regulators blocked a planned merger between Asda, Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket, and rival J Sainsbury.

“While we are not rushing into anything, I want you to know that we are seriously considering a path to an IPO,” Judith McKenna, the company’s international chief, told employees at an event in Leeds, according to a summary of the event provided by Asda. Any preparations for going public would “take years,” she said, Bloomberg reported.

5. — Nelson Peltz’s Trian May Wage Activist Campaign at Legg Mason – Report

Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management may wage an activist campaign at Legg Mason (LMGet Report) and push the mutual fund company to improve its flagging results, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

It would be the second time in 10 years that Trian has targeted the mutual fund company, according to Reuters.

Trian recently has held discussions with Legg Mason about the need to cut costs and improve profit margins, the people told the Journal. The two sides may still negotiate a settlement that sidesteps a proxy fight, the sources added.

On a conference call with analysts Monday, Legg Mason CEO Joseph Sullivan said the company was moving to slash expenses.

“While there is much work to be done, we now have increased visibility into and have gained even greater confidence in our ability to deliver $100 million or more of annual savings now within two years,” he said.

By:

 

Source: Cisco, Tilray, Aurora Cannabis, Alibaba, Trade Talks – 5 Things You Must Know

Japan Casino Resort Hopeful Wakayama Makes Its Case

Tuna fileting demonstrations at Kuroshiro Market are a signature attraction of Marina City, proposed site of a Wakayama integrated resort.Muhammad Cohen

Integrated resorts in Japan’s largest cities promise to be spectacular successes. But most action on the IR front right now is in the so-called regional sector, areas that have been losing population and relevance as economic power becomes more concentrated in major urban centers. Hokkaido, north of main island Honshu, held an IR showcase in January with seven IR operators participating. Last month, Wakayama, east of Osaka, hosted 300 people for an IR forum.

“Wakayama continues to be aggressive in letting everyone know that they desire to host one of Japan’s three potential IRs,” Global Marketing Advisors government affairs director Brendan Bussmann, who spoke at the event, says. Government plans call for Wakayama’s IR to have 2,500 guest rooms plus convention and exhibition facilities and cost about US$2.5 billion to develop.

“Attendees seemed pleased – this was, for most, the first time they were able to listen to and meet with IR operators,” Hogo managing partner in Japan Chris Wieners says. The hospitality and entertainment marketing specialist organized the half-day event along with publisher Asia Gaming Brief, supported by the Wakayama Prefecture Government and Chamber of Commerce plus four IR operators, Manila’s Solaire, France’s Groupe Barriere, US tribal Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment and Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment.

Wakayama Governor Yoshiniobu Nisaka provides strong support for the IR effort.Wakayama Prefecture Government

Wakayama may be the least risky regional IR location from numerous perspectives. Unabashedly pro-IR Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka was reelected to a fourth term last November by a four-to-one margin in a campaign that Nisaka’s opponent declared a referendum on casinos.

Like Osaka, Wakayama has selected its IR site. Unlike elsewhere, “You can start construction right away,” Governor Nisaka says. Wakayama’s IR will occupy roughly half of Marina City, a 49 hectare (121 acre) artificial island in Osaka Bay that’s a short drive from downtown Wakayama City, the prefecture capital. The island currently houses tourist facilities including seafood and fruit markets: Wakayama is famed for oranges and plums.

Marina City also has a yacht harbor, hotel, onsen (hot spring) with sea views and fishing pier. There’s room for a ferry to connect to the airport and even cruise ship facilities. IR plans call for capitalizing on the seaside location with water sports and a leisure vibe. An amusement park now on the IR site would be easily demolished, and there are no chemical or archaeological surprises looming.

Seiganto-ji Temple is among the UNESCO World Heritage sites that attract more than 30 million visitors annually to Wakayama.Wakayama Prefecture Government

Wakayama Prefecture already annually attracts 33.4 million overwhelmingly domestic tourists, drawn mainly by UNESCO World Heritage Buddhist shrines, Waikiki sister beach Shirarahama and Adventure Land, a wildlife and amusement park featuring pandas. Wakayama City hosts Japan’s Olympic sailing training center and annual national scholastic sailing competition.

Wakayama’s top selling point: it’s in Kansai region, Japan’s second largest population center with more than 22 million people. Wakayama City is 40 minutes by car from Kansai International Airport, the region’s overseas gateway, marginally closer than Osaka and just over an over by train or car from Osaka city. Access to potential domestic and foreign customers boosts Wakayama’s case.

It’s widely assumed that Osaka will win an IR licenses, bolstered by its successful bid for the 2025 World Expo. With just three IR licenses on offer nationally, skeptics doubt Japan would award two to the same region. Many also suggest a Wakayama IR couldn’t compete with an Osaka IR expected to cost four times as much.

Wakayama City seen from Wakayama Palace. Proposed IR site Marina City is over the arch bridge in the left background.Wakayama Prefecture Government

“One IR won’t for enough for Kansai,” Barriere Japan president Jonathan Strock says. “Osaka and Wakayama IRs are not competitors, they’re complementary,” Osaka as a primarily domestic destination with Wakayama targeting foreigners. Barriere, which runs more than two dozen casinos around France, has made Wakayama “the focus of our IR efforts.”

It will likely take about a year until the central government is ready to assess IR bids from localities to consider awarding licenses. If two or more of Japan’s largest cities use that time to follow Osaka’s lead and enter the IR fray, the central government must decide whether to issue a regional license or take a more lucrative urban opportunity – central and host governments split the 30% gaming tax and ¥6,000 (US$54) casino entry fee for Japanese residents. That’s a political decision.

“The national government appears to be heading in the general direction to re-balance the focus and concentration of wealth, talent and population from Tokyo and other major prefectures, to these regional areas, lest the imbalance widen,” Vector Risk Management managing director Kenji Okamoto says. “Providing a regional license may also help garner support and interest for IRs, both of which are still lacking among the general populace.”

Those goals may or may not outweigh the political imperative that every IR be an overwhelming commercial success. As a regional location accessible to an urban population, Wakayama has a pair of aces in the hole.

Hong Kong On Air author Muhammad Cohen is Editor At Large for Inside Asian Gaming. Follow him on Twitter @Muhammad Cohen.

Source: Japan Casino Resort Hopeful Wakayama Makes Its Case

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How To Extract Business Value From Data Science: It’s All About The Teamwork – Jack Soat

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To make an impact at the enterprise level, the data science group can’t work in isolation, said Ian Swanson, Oracle vice president of machine learning and artificial intelligence product development, during a presentation at the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference. “In order to do data science right, it has to be a team sport,” said Swanson, former CEO of DataScience.com, which Oracle acquired earlier this year.

Team Members

One of the data science group’s most valuable teammates is the IT organization, for multiple reasons, he said. The DS group relies on IT to manage and secure the data it uses; support the needed analytics tools; and deliver ready access to scalable bandwidth, compute, and storage capacity to build and train production-oriented analytic models.

Another important ally is the application development team. Developers must incorporate the models DS builds into their “ecosystem” as regular features among the many they use to build production applications, Swanson said.

That points to a significant attribute of production-oriented models: reusability. An ecommerce recommendation engine, for instance, might be reused for forecasting an item’s revenue stream, he said. A key performance indicator for one technology company Swanson worked with on a DS project was “how often that model was used by other parts of the business,” he said.

Line-of-business managers are a valuable constituency as well, because they’re tasked with performing the actions—and getting the results—from applications that use analytic models. An underestimated advantage line-of-business managers bring to the analytics model-building process, Swanson said, is their domain expertise—their experiences working with customers.

As for the top brass, they don’t need “to be involved in every step of the model, but they need to understand how it will be used, the opportunities it offers, the things it can achieve,” Swanson said. “If you’re not involving the top, if they’re not part of the team, data science is not affecting the heart of the business.”

Awash in Tools

Because data science is the new darling of the technology marketplace, the number and variety of analytics tools are staggering. Swanson said he worked with a company whose DS team had accumulated 682 different tools. “How is IT managing 682 different tools?” he wondered.

Still, building predictive analytics models is complicated, requiring a “full stack” of tools, libraries, and languages—preferably open source, which encourages standards and self-service, Swanson said. As DS matures, its practitioners will have to comply with enterprise programming standards, in particular version control. “If you’re writing production code, you should be using some sort of system that encourages working together to follow best engineering practices, such as checking in code and making sure its reproducible,” he said.

But enterprise data science goes beyond programming. “It requires a platform that removes barriers to production, improves collaboration, manages the tool sprawl, provides self-service access to data, and helps with model planning and retention,” Swanson said.

Reliable Outputs

Calling data scientists “the architects and engineers of digital transformation,” Swanson noted that there are DS use cases “in every industry and function,” providing the means to generate “new business channels and new business models.” But achieving those goals requires the will—and a strategy—for extending the work data scientists can do as widely across the enterprise as resources will allow.

“It’s about creating a process that delivers reliable outputs to drive business outcomes,” Swanson said. “You need to put it into action—that’s real DS.”

 

 

 

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The Next Recession Is Coming: Here’s How To Protect Your Portfolio – John E. Girouard

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Everyone wants to know how to create the elusive “recession-proof” portfolio. In 2008, I was asked to write a column on the topic, and since millions of us were still reeling from losing everything, the title I suggested was, On Monday I was Ready to Retire, Now It’s Tuesday. Catchy, yes, but when people woke up to find $10.2 trillion in wealth had been wiped out from the American economy, they wanted answers. More importantly, they wanted to take back some semblance of control over their financial lives and find a way to protect themselves from “next time,” which had quickly become their new worst fear……………

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/investor/2018/11/20/the-next-recession-is-coming-heres-how-to-protect-your-portfolio/#36fefa831682

 

 

 

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