Need to Know to May 14th

What you might have missed in the second week of May: acquisitions, results, site upgrades, social and research.

In company news

London-based virtual reality firm Improbable has raised $500m (£388m) from Japan’s Softbank. This represents one of the biggest investments in an early stage European technology business. The deal, which values the company at $1 billion gives Softbank a non-controlling stake. The company has said the funds will be used to continue to develop the company’s technology for large-scale virtual words, the key to which is the distributed operating system Spatial OS.

In launch news

Curalate has launched in the UK, with Farfetch and Lipsy among more than 50 European brands already working with the US-based digital marketing technology company. Its ‘discovery-driven commerce’ platform enables retailers to leverage visual content from a variety of sources and make it fully shoppable for consumers. Curalate’s technology tags each image and video with the products it contains, and then allows the brand to make the same content shoppable in every location it appears online. has become the first UK merchant to deploy Visa Checkout as it launches in the UK. Shoppers with the retailer will be able to use the checkout, which stores shipping and payment details to enable customers to checkout with only their username and password.

TripAdvisor is partnering with GrubHub to implement instantaneous access to delivery menus from its website and its mobile app. Consumers browsing TripAdvisor restaurant listings in the U.S. will now have the option to order food from tens of thousands of Grubhub’s restaurant partners in 1,100 cities. By clicking the “Order Online” button, consumers are brought to Grubhub’s online or mobile platforms to quickly and easily place an order.

 In social news

Beauty brand L’Oreal swapped traditional advertising for real social media buzz to introduce its Pure Clay Masks – and got a 51% sales boost. L’Oreal Paris UK partnered with influencer marketing firm BzzAgent to harness the power of social media on the mobile image messaging app Snapchat, for the launch of its Pure Clay Mask skincare products. From its global network of “everyday influencers”, BzzAgent – customer-science company dunnhumby’s advocacy platform – engaged more than 2,000 of its UK Agents in the campaign targeted at women aged 20 to 55 years old. It inspired them to pamper themselves by “claying the day away”, sharing photos, reviews and videos on Snapchat and other social-media platforms.

Spotify has launched Spotify Codes, which lets users share any track, artist, album, or playlist available on the platform. The new function be accessed by tapping the ‘…’ menu to reveal the code, which will appear on the bottom of the relevant release’s artwork. Users can scan codes from other devices to follow specific playlist and share their Spotify profiles on social media.

In retailer news

Healthcare education giant Laerdal gets website revamp with Amaze. Laerdal Medical’s, the producer of the ‘Resusci Anne’, has got a new global website built in conjunction with agency Amaze. The new website will significantly improve and personalise the user experience through compelling content and storytelling, as well as help streamline Laerdal Medical’s global internal processes and drive greater operational efficiency. The website launch marks the first phase of Laerdal Medical’s wider digital transformation plans and follows a thorough discovery process. This included in-depth profiling of Laerdal Medical’s diverse customer base to establish a series of core customer personas.

An ecommerce sales boost of 35 per cent has helped SuperGroup, owner of the Superdry brand, to a 27.2 per cent rise in sales in its latest financial year. Retail sales rose by 12.7 per cent in the year to April 29, on a like-for-like basis that strips out the effect of store openings and closures.

House of Fraser has emphasised the premium customer experience as it appoints Alex Williamson as its new chief executive. Williamson, who joins from The Goodwood Estate, known for its motor and horse racing flagship events, will start in his new role on July 31.

Gear4Music plans to become a leading online retailer of musical instruments and music equipment around the world from its headquarters in York, where it also has a showroom and distribution centre. The company reported sales of £56.1 million in the year to February.

More customers shopped more often at Zalando in the first quarter of its financial year, helping it to revenues of €980.2m in the first quarter of its financial year – 23.1 per cent up on the same period last year. Earnings before interest and tax reached €20.3 million, flat with the previous year.

In research news

When UK shoppers buy groceries online, the chances are they’ll be doing it over their phones, according to a new study out this week. Forty per cent of all online grocery shops now take place on mobile, according to the UK FMCG Deep Dive – Taking Stock of the Future.

The rise of reviews – 75 per cent of UK shoppers trust other customers over retail staff

Chatbots could save businesses billions of pounds, with banks and healthcare gaining the biggest cost savings

Shoppers went online and to the high street to spend over Easter, helping to lift ecommerce sales by more than 10 per cent in April and overall sales by more than 5%, new British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures suggest

Tablet ownership rates are falling. A study from Global Web Index shows that internet users are not only failing to purchase new tablets, but that many users are choosing not to upgrade their tablets.

Nearly 9 out of 10 (86 per cent) UK and US marketers believe that for maximum success they need to collect as much information as possible on their customers, despite coming GPDR legislation

Viral marketing trends: Just 1% of social video goes viral The research comes from Wochit, a social video creation platform, who analysed more than 4,000 videos from over 100 publishers around the world during a three month period

UK online consumer spending falls for the first time since 2013