Amazon Algo Change Favors Private Label Brands; New FastPay Fund Will Issue Credit To Digital Ad Sellers

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Mind The Shop

Amazon updated its product search algorithm to give its private-label brands an edge over other relevant or best-selling items, The Wall Street Journal reports. The secret algorithm change was introduced late last year, according to sources who worked on the project. Amazon’s retail and marketplace team in the Seattle headquarters has for years been pressing Amazon’s search algorithm unit, dubbed A9, to help juice sales of Amazon-owned products. The A9 engineers, based in Palo Alto, Calif., have historically taken a neutral, user-centric approach. But as Amazon tries to turn its sprawling fiefdoms into a cohesive platform, it will face situations like this where it must carefully balance internal disputes and potential antitrust scrutiny. More.

Pay To Play

FastPay, which finances deals between buyers and sellers of digital media, announced an $80 million fund backed by AIG that it will use to issue credit. Read the release. Ad tech and digital media companies often carry high “accounts receivable,” which means they aren’t paid upfront for campaigns they’ve run. But traditional lenders don’t like “accounts receivable.” As Videology and Sizmek learned in the worst possible way, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in accounts receivable revenue isn’t actually money in the bank. It’s a risky move for AIG, USC finance professor Rodney Ramcharan tells the Los Angeles Business Journal. “If the economy tanks, some of the players in this may lack the capacity to make good on their debt,” he said. But there’s plenty of opportunity too, if FastPay’s financial data enables it to discern sustainable and growing private companies in the space from the riskier bets. More.

Cutting Capers

Caper, a company that makes smart in-store shopping carts (i.e. carts with a touchscreen) raised $10 million. Among its backers is the Red Apple Group, which owns grocery chains like Gristedes and D’Agostino. Shopping cart manufacturers may not seem like targets for tech disruption, but smart cart startups have raised tens of millions in the past year. Caper “bridges the digital and physical shopping experiences,” said John Catsimatidis, Jr., principal of the Red Apple Group, in a press release. The in-store tech is pitched to customers as a shopping helper, but data and incremental revenue is the prize. “Caper not only streamlines checkout but also, through its screens on the cart, interfaces with shoppers to deliver product details, recipes, and tailored recommendations as they shop,” CEO Lindon Gao said in a statement.

But Wait, There’s More

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