The pandemic could make online shopping more secure

COVID-19 is reshaping how consumers shop online. But with the digitization of business services and products comes increased risk of fraud, hacks and scams. A record number of consumers plan to shop online and with smartphones this fall, according to a new report from Visa. And nearly half of these shoppers will spend money with local small and middle-sized businesses. With the surge of online spending, comes a wave of cybercrime targeting merchants and retailers.

Cybercriminals are exploiting the pandemic and see small and middle-sized companies as a fresh market, says Visa senior vice president Michele Herron. 

“What we’re seeing is a lot of these [companies] that haven’t been needed to be digital are getting breached. It used to be that the criminals would go after the big enterprise sites, but they’re going after small business sites or startups” with time-tested scams.

A scam called “card testing” has increased dramatically in recent months. Criminals frequently purchase thousands of stolen credit card numbers on the dark web and illicit sites. They use software that can rapidly test up to 10 million different card numbers to find out which cards are duds and which will work. 

Herron explains that criminals “find an unwitting e-commerce site, and then just pummel that site with transactions, trying to find the good cards that have active balances.” The working cards are resold for a premium. 

As a result, small businesses are rapidly adopting cyberdefense systems. According to Herron, most of these systems use technologies like machine learning and contactless payment systems to reduce fraud and protect consumer data. “Businesses today have the tech tools to fend off scams as they’re happening, in real-time,” Herron said. “That’s pretty powerful.”

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Here’s What Local Businesses Need to Know

Vivial offers strategies to stand out during an unusual year

DAYTON, Ohio, Oct. 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — There’s no denying that shopping for the holidays will look and feel a lot different this year. Financial burdens, shuttered stores and stay-at-home orders will change the way consumers shop for the gift-giving season. Vivial, a leader in local business digital marketing solutions, is offering a look the holiday shopping landscape along with tips for business owners to thrive during a time when business is anything but usual.

Holiday Shopping in the Time of COVID
Many Americans are hesitant to head out and shop brick-and-mortar stores, so online shopping will continue to increase this year. According to a Google survey, 75% of U.S. shoppers who plan to shop this season said they will shop online more this year than they did in past seasons.

When they do shop in store, they will shop local. According to the Google survey, 66% of shoppers said they will plan to shop more at local businesses. Regardless of where purchases are happening, shoppers are starting even earlier this year to avoid delayed and out-of-stock gifts. According to the National Retail Federation, this holiday season will be longer than last year with 74% of retailers surveyed agreeing that consumers are likely to spread out their holiday shopping over several months.

What does all of this mean for local businesses? “For businesses that haven’t already looked into eCommerce options or updated their websites to be responsive and mobile-friendly, time is off the essence,” said Laura Cole, VP of Marketing at Vivial. “Also critical for local businesses is a solid digital marketing strategy allowing them to be found online where and when consumers are searching for gifts.”

Marketing Tips for Local Business Owners
Cole offers the following advice to help local business owners ensure they have a plan to win this holiday season.

  • Set up a Google My Business profile: Leverage Google My Business to help local business appear higher in Google Search. Using it also ensures customers can access information that’s accurate, like the business name, street address, hours of operation, safety measures, and website – all critical information when customers are looking to holiday shop.

  • Create a marketing plan for every platform: Take advantage of various platforms to get enough traction to ensure the success of holiday campaigns. Online advertising, social media platforms, text messaging, and email marketing – all of these are viable options that can effectively enhance brand recall and awareness, capture the attention of current and potential customers, and drive consumer engagement.

  • Be consistent with messaging: Holiday marketing content should have the same overall look, feel, and message. Not only does this avoid any confusing or conflicting information, but it helps build the business as reliable, trustworthy, and memorable.  Be sure to clearly communicate holiday promotions and sales along with shopping precautions such as touchless shopping and curbside pick-up.

Early and informed planning and decision making around marketing strategies

Discover Surges With October Becoming New December for Shopping

(Bloomberg) — Discover Financial Services shares surged after the company said spending on its cards improved in September, the first increase during the pandemic.

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Sales volume climbed 4% in September and 7% in the first half of October, Discover said in a third-quarter earnings presentation Thursday. Growth in retail sales and grocery purchases have been enough to offset a 49% drop in travel spending so far this month.

“A lot of retailers have been conservative — they’re telling their customers it’s a good time to buy early,” with supply shortages looming and possible shopping disruptions from a second wave of coronavirus infections, Discover Chief Executive Officer Roger Hochschild said in a telephone interview. “October is the new December.”

Firmwide, Discover’s net charge-off rate fell 5 basis points to 3% in the third quarter and the firm set aside $750 million to cover souring loans, less than analysts expected. That helped increase net income slightly to $771 million, topping analysts’ forecasts.

Discover shares rose as much as 11% in New York Thursday morning, their biggest intraday increase since early June. The stock has dropped 24% this year, more than the 19% decline in the S&P 500 Financials Index.



Discover rises on increase in spending on company's cards


© Bloomberg
Discover rises on increase in spending on company’s cards

Discover recently extended remote work for all employees who are able to do their jobs at home until at least May 31. The firm probably won’t need as much office space over time, Hochschild said, but it’s still planning for a “broad return” to its physical work spaces once the pandemic subsides.

“Our concern is for people early in their careers,” he said. “A lot of your learnings come from informal contacts, whether it’s with peers — you all go out to lunch and talk about what you learned and what’s going on — or a boss who takes 10 minutes after a meeting to call you into their office to tell you about things you could have done better.”

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Apple expanding ‘Express’ retail setups ahead of holiday shopping surge

Apple is adding more of its “Express” store formats across the United States and Europe as both regions continue to face an uptick in news coronavirus cases.

The tech behemoth expects to expand these curbside formats from 20 to 50 such shops within both markets by the end of the month, representatives from Apple confirmed to FOX Business.

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In front of each store, Apple will place be a wall with sales counters protected by plexiglass where customers can pick up online orders placed online or speak with an Apple technician, according to Reuters. Behind the counters will be shelves filled with some accessories including phone cases or its Airpods.

NEW 5G IPHONES KICK OFF POACHING SEASON FOR CARRIERS

The new layout comes amid an unconventional holiday season in which an increasing number of retailers are adjusting business strategies in order to curb crowds as much as possible.

Apple, in particular, may face an even greater influx of shoppers, particularly customers vying for the latest iPhone model.

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Deirdre O’Brien, senior vice president of retail and people at Apple, told Reuters that it’s a “swifter” and safer way for us to serve customers.

“It allows us to maintain all the appropriate social distancing and maintain all of our health protocols within our stores,” O’Brien said.

Its latest lineup — the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPad Air — will be available for purchase in-store, online or by phone starting Oct. 23.

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Influencers’ next frontier: their own live shopping channels

Carla Stevenné’s first live stream terrified her. As part of Amazon Live’s influencer beta group, she needed to find stuff to sell, and she needed to figure out how to fill her allotted hour. She had never tried to hawk products live before, let alone fill 60 minutes talking to herself and a camera. She looked around her house. A few things stood out: a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, Crest 3D Whitestrips, and a Bluetooth karaoke machine.

“I’m looking at the time, I was 15 minutes in, [and] I’m like, ‘O. M. G., 45 more minutes to get to an hour — I do not know how I’m going to do this.’” she says.

Almost no one tuned into Stevenné’s first stream, but now, more than 200 streams later, she says an hour is nowhere near as daunting, and hundreds of people can tune in at a time.

2020 has been the year of live shopping for US tech companies. Amazon launched Amazon Live for influencers in July, and Instagram and Facebook launched live shopping features in August. Google’s R&D division, Area 21, also launched Shoploop, which isn’t live but offers shoppable stories, and smaller startups continued their efforts to make live shopping not just a thing, but the future of retail. On every platform, it ends up looking like a modern twist on QVC — but with influencers instead of celebrities, and those influencers getting a cut of the sales.

Carla Stevenné showed off beauty products on a recent live stream.

There’s good reason for tech companies to believe live shopping could be big in the US: it’s already massive in China. In March, 60 million people tuned into shopping live streams, an increase of 126 million compared to last June, according to a report published by the China Internet Network Information Center. Even Kim Kardashian West partnered with a prolific Chinese influencer on a live shopping stream and reportedly sold 15,000 bottles of perfume almost instantly.

“Live shopping is this really fantastic one-two punch of discovery and consideration in one-go, and it naturally is a medium that lends itself to entertainment, so shopping as entertainment,” says Layla Amjadi, Instagram’s product lead for shopping. “You get to not only discover that product but then you get to hear about it, you get to see it in motion, see it in action.”

Plus, with a pandemic shutting down retail storefronts, the transition to online shopping has only intensified. Live shopping could become a tenet of retail, especially when coupled with the reach and enthusiasm of influencers.

Hélène Heath shows mascara in one of her Shoploop videos.

Amjadi says that 40,000 people tuned in when makeup YouTuber Nikita Dragun hosted a live shopping event on Instagram. Five thousand items were added to shopping carts throughout the segment, she says. And the sales were all a boon for Dragun since she only sold her own branded products.

“There’s a lot of latent demand for discovering brands and products from the people that you

Target’s new holiday safety measures includes reservation system

Shoppers will be able to check Target’s website to see ahead of time if there’s a line outside their store. If there is, customers can reserve their spot in line.

Target has announced several new safety measures the company will be adding for the holiday shopping season. 

The Minneapolis-based company revealed Thursday it’s set up an online reservation system where guests can see ahead of time if there’s a line outside their store due to coronavirus capacity limits. Shoppers can visit Target.com/line to check their local store before leaving home. If there’s a line, customers can reserve a spot and they’ll receive a text when it’s their turn to go inside. 

Target said it’s also doubling the number of parking spaces for its Drive Up service, adding 8,000 more spots nationwide. Customers using curbside pickup will no longer have an employee scan a barcode, instead shoppers will just show their Target app with a personal identification number through their car window to pick-up purchases they’ve made. More than 1,500 stores will also have fresh and frozen groceries available for curbside pickup this holiday season. 

Target CEO Brian Cornell said the investments the company has made through the years has made Target the “easiest place to shop in America.” 

“As we’ve navigated the pandemic, that focus has evolved to ensure we’re also creating the safest place for our guests to shop,” Cornell said. 

The company has also deployed 1,000 more MyCheckout devices, which lets employees help shoppers checkout from anywhere inside the store. 

Customers using self-checkout will also be able to scan their Target app in the product scanning area to use the “Wallet” mobile payment option instead of needing to use a hand scanner. 

RELATED: Target giving $200 bonus to hundreds of thousands of workers

RELATED: Walmart to spread out deals to avoid Black Friday crowds

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Target Is Upping Its Store Safety Measures For Holiday Shopping Including Virtual Line Reservations

Photo credit: Sandy Huffaker
Photo credit: Sandy Huffaker

From Delish

Ahead of Black Friday and an increase in foot traffic around holiday shopping, Target has announced some enhanced safety measures it will be implementing in an effort to keep customers and team members safer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The store, like many others, has been making adjustments since March, but is taking extra precautions as more in-store shoppers are expected this winter. First up is contactless in-store payment. This means that customers can now use Wallet, AKA the mobile payment option in the Target app, to pay for their Target haul. This will remove the need to take out your Target credit or debit card and scan it, reducing surface contact. This will also allow your Redcard payment, Target Circle offers, coupons, and gift cards to be applied all in one straight shot.

Target will continue limiting the number of customers in the store, but is also giving people better insights into what they can expect when they arrive. You can visit Target.com/line starting now to see if there is a line outside your chosen Target store. If there is, you can reserve a spot online and receive a text when it’s your turn to go in.

Additionally, the chain is adding 1,000 more MyCheckout devices nationwide, which allow Target workers to check out customers without them having to wait in line. Target will also be doubling its parking spots for Drive Up pick-up, as well as no longer requiring Drive Up customers scan their app barcode in order to receive their items.

You can read even more about Target’s safety plans here.

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Google adds price tracking, curbside availability for holiday shopping

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Emilija Manevska/Getty Images

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Online shopping for the holidays has already kicked off, with Prime Day and early Black Friday deals available this month. And with more shoppers looking for deals online instead of in stores due to the coronavirus pandemic, Google is adding new tools to Google Shopping in the US designed to make it easier to compare and track prices across online and local stores — essentially trying to take the place of browser extensions like Honey.

To find these features, search for a product on Google (you can be general or specific — “boots,” for instance, or a certain brand or style). Then select the Shopping tab at the top of the page, and click on the exact product you want more information on from the results. 

Read more: The best deals and coupons online can be found with these 4 tools

price-comparisonprice-comparison

Compare prices across different websites and local stores with a new Google Shopping feature.


Google

Starting Thursday, you’ll be able to see price insights — whether the price asked for a product is high, low or typical, compared with other prices across the web and in nearby stores. On that same page, you’ll be able to see different price and purchasing options from both online and local stores, so you can compare. Over the next few days, you’ll see whether the item is available for curbside or in-store pickup as well. 

If you want to try waiting for a better deal, you can turn on price tracking from the Shopping product page, and get alerts on any item you’re considering buying. If you’re signed in to your Google account, you’ll get notifications through email or in the Google Search app. You can check on all the things you’re tracking or unsubscribe from alerts in the My Activity section of your account. 

For more on shopping and saving money, check out our list of Chrome extensions that can save you lots of money, how to take advantage of Amazon Warehouse Deals, and all of the deals we collect daily on CNET. 


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What Brands Can Gear Up For

With this new shopping feature, brands will directly engage with prospective buyers on the site and sell their products

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With 2 billion active monthly users, YouTube is the world’s largest online video platform. At the same time, it is also the second-largest search engine in the world, right after its parent company Google. Brands have been advertising on YouTube extensively and some D2C brands even get about 10 per cent of the sales on their website from YouTube. That is the power of YouTube! So it only makes sense for YouTube to take on the next big step—foraying further into the world of e-commerce. And as a brand to tap this opportunity to the fullest.

YouTube has been an effective marketing channel for years now through advertisements and affiliate links. However, with this new shopping feature, brands will directly engage with prospective buyers on the site and sell their products. The feature is currently undergoing initial testing with a limited number of video channels, according to information provided by a YouTube spokesperson. Once launched, it could become a tremendous game-changer in e-commerce and open up major avenues for retailers worldwide.

How will YouTube Shopping work?

YouTube has recently started asking content creators to use their software to tag and track the products they feature in clips. The data is to be linked to Google’s shopping tools and analytics. Google has also been testing ways to integrate Shopify for selling through YouTube.

Online shopping has significantly boomed in the pandemic period, allowing social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to reap benefits through their shopping feature wherein users make purchases directly on the site by browsing through catalogs offered by sellers. Through YouTube Shopping, you can create video content that will be used to create catalogs for the viewers to explore and buy directly. It has been unclear so far as to how YouTube will earn revenue through the new shopping feature, but they will presumably make a cut from the sales made on their site by the retailers.

What does this mean for retailers?

As a retailer, there are several ways in which you will be able to take advantage of his new feature.

No more intermediaries: With the new shopping feature, you can actually do away with any intermediary and act as a direct call-to-action for customers to buy your product. Users will be able to shop your products after or even in between watching a video without having to leave the site.

Better opportunities for influencer marketing: This new feature will make marketing via YouTube influencers a more lucrative strategy for your brand. There is a diverse range of video content being uploaded on YouTube daily in the form of tutorials, unboxing videos, travel and lifestyle guides, hauls, etc., that

Target says it will hold your spot in line as it looks to make holiday shopping safer during Covid pandemic

  • Target said it will add new features at its stores to make holiday shopping safer and easier.
  • Among them, the company will double the number of parking spots dedicated to curbside pickup and allow customers to use their own smartphones instead of shared scanners in the self-checkout lanes.
  • Shoppers can check on Target’s website to see if there’s a line outside of their store and reserve a spot ahead of their visit.



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As the coronavirus pandemic and holiday season collide, Target said Thursday is is rolling out new measures over the next few weeks to put shoppers at ease.

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It will double the number of parking spots dedicated to curbside pickup. Customers can use their smartphones instead of shared scanners in the self-checkout lanes. More employees will have handheld mobile devices that allow people to skip the line and make purchases in different parts of the store. And shoppers can look on Target’s website to see if there’s a line outside of their store and reserve a spot ahead of their visit.

The big-box retailer usually throws a glitzy event in New York City to show off its holiday merchandise. This year, however, CEO Brian Cornell emphasized the different way it wants to stand out during the global health crisis — by besting competitors on comfort and convenience.

“We anticipate that our guests will visit our stores frequently this holiday season,” Cornell said on a call with reporters. “Many will do so to pick up their online orders from the comfort of their cars and many more will come to browse our aisles for holiday inspiration.”

In its holiday plan, Target is “doubling down on safety,” he said.

Target’s announcement comes as Covid-19 cases rise across much of the country. The U.S. is reporting roughly 60,000 new cases daily, an increase of nearly 17% compared with a week earlier, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The escalating infection rate has forced officials to plan ahead and start making tough calls to slow the virus’ spread. Boston Public Schools announced Wednesday that will switch all students to remote-only learning effective Thursday. New York health officials have been responding to coronavirus “cluster zones” by tightening restrictions on businesses and social activities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned on Wednesday that infection rates will likely grow.

Shoppers seek out safety

Cornell said Target’s changes were in the works ahead of the coronavirus spike. He said Target began planning some of the safety measures in July, and he sees them as an extension of the procedures Target already put in place, such as requiring masks and increasing cleaning at its stores.

“Our teams have continued to innovate and iterate to make sure that Target is the safest place to shop as we go into the holiday season,” he said.

Target is handing out 1,000 more mobile checkout devices across the country. It will add nearly 8,000 drive-up spots at its stores. The number of