Displaying items by tag: ecommerce

Social networking behemoth Facebook has formally announced that it would like to launch its own cryptocurrency next year according to reports by the BBC.

Published in Apps

E-commerce giant Amazon has launched ‘Instant Pickup’ in the US – a free service where goods purchased online can be picked up by consumers from select locations within two minutes or less, instead of waiting hours for an item to be delivered, in the company’s latest move into brick-and-mortar retail.

“As shopping behaviors continue to evolve, customers consistently tell us that they want items even faster,” said Ripley MacDonald, Director, Student Programs, Amazon. “Whether it’s a snack on-the-go, replacing a lost phone charger in the middle of a hectic day or adding Alexa to your life with an Echo, Instant Pickup saves Prime members time. While Instant Pickup is available at select pickup locations today, we’re excited about bringing this experience to more customers soon.”

Items can be picked up at five of Amazon’s fully staffed pickup locations in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Berkeley, Calif., Columbus, Ohio, and College Park, Md. Items available with Instant Pickup include snacks, drinks and electronics, as well as some of Amazon’s most popular devices.

The Amazon App lists hundreds of “need-it-now” items like food, cold drinks, personal care items, technology essentials and Amazon devices like the Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV and a selection of Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers. Users can browse the selection, place an order, even add last-minute items to an online order and pick it up from a self-service locker – all within two minutes or less.

Amazon said it would purchase Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in June, and has come to realize that certain transactions such as buying fresh produce are difficult to shift to online buyers. The company is betting on shifting shopping habits and catering to impulse buying.

Regular brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to keep up with e-commerce giants like Amazon, who offer more convenient options for shopping, even more so now with its Instant Pickup service. Before the launch of the new service, the fastest shoppers could expect to have an item delivered was one hour via the company’s Prime Now program, or within 15 minutes for grocery orders via AmazonFreshPickup.

Instant Pickup is available at five select pickup locations in the US and will be available at more locations in the coming months, Amazon said. The company operates a total of 22 staffed pickup locations on or near college campuses across the country.

Published in Apps

Facebook launched its ‘Marketplace’ feature in October last year – a place where users can trade and sell goods to one another without leaving the social media platform. The feature is now expanding to 17 countries across Europe, having already launched in the US, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and the UK.

Marketplace will be introduced to Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Facebook said the feature will “give more people a single destination on Facebook to discover, buy and sell goods in their local communities.”

The Facebook feature could challenge the likes of eBay and Craigslist. According to Facebook, the new platform is a way to formalize what its some 2 billion users have already been doing in Facebook Groups for years – buying and selling goods with other users.

“Whether you’re a new parent looking for baby clothes or a collector looking for a rare find, you can feel good about buying and selling on Marketplace because it’s easy to view the public profiles of buyers and sellers, your mutual friends, and how long they’ve been on Facebook,” the company said in a release.

In May this year, more than 18 million new items were posted for sale in Facebook’s Marketplace in the United States, and that number continues to grow, the company said. The platform is in fact a second attempt by Facebook to launch a Marketplace, after a failed attempt in 2007.

The best thing about the new Marketplace feature is that Facebook is not charging its users for it. However, the selling platform could have the future potential to further monetize Facebook’s global base, and keep them on the network, AFP reported.

Published in Apps

E-commerce giant Amazon and Whole Foods Market, Inc., a leading natural and organic foods supermarket, announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire Whole Foods Market for $42 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $13.7 billion, including Whole Foods Market’s net debt.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO.

Whole Foods Market will continue to operate stores under the Whole Foods Market brand and source from trusted vendors and partners around the world. John Mackey will remain as CEO of Whole Foods Market and Whole Foods Market’s headquarters will stay in Austin, Texas.

Completion of the transaction is subject to approval by Whole Foods Market's shareholders, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties expect to close the transaction during the second half of 2017.

Published in Finance

Amazon announced Amazon Lending surpassed $3 billion in loans to small businesses to date since the program launched in 2011. Amazon Lending offers short-term business loans, for up to 12 months, to invited micro, small and medium businesses selling on Amazon to help them grow their business. With access to more than 300 million active customer accounts worldwide, Amazon provides small businesses the opportunity to quickly reach customers in their neighborhood and around the globe.

“We created Amazon Lending to make it simple for up-and-coming small businesses to efficiently get a business loan, because we know that an infusion of capital at the right moment can put a small business on the path to even greater success,” said Peeyush Nahar, Vice President for Amazon Marketplace. “Small businesses are in our DNA. Amazon is providing capital to small businesses to help them expand inventory and operations at a critical period of their growth. We understand that a small loan can go a long way.”

In the last 12 months, Amazon has lent more than $1 billion to small businesses. More than 20,000 small businesses have received a loan from Amazon and more than 50 percent of the small businesses Amazon lends to take a second loan from Amazon. Amazon has issued loans to small businesses across the U.S., U.K., and Japan and invited small businesses are able to apply for loans ranging from $1,000 to $750,000.

Half of the items sold on Amazon worldwide are from small businesses that offer their products through Amazon Marketplace, many of whom also choose to use Fulfillment by Amazon as a way of making their items Prime eligible. Small businesses and entrepreneurs selling on Amazon come from every state in the U.S., and from more than 130 different countries around the world. Amazon began inviting small businesses to sell on Amazon to increase selection and ensure customers could find and discover anything they wanted to buy online.

“Amazon has had a hugely positive impact on our business,” said Caleb Light, Vice President of Sales for Power Practical, in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Traditional funding vehicles wouldn't support our model of direct to consumer and we needed help. Amazon stepped in and is a great partner for us. The loans from Amazon Lending enabled us to expand inventory and resulted in us having a very strong and successful 2016.”

“Customers expect to be able to buy LonoLife on Amazon. The loan from Amazon Lending gave LonoLife the ability to procure bulk raw materials and packaging to build inventory to keep up with incredible customer demand,” said Lawrence Holland, President of LonoLife Inc., based in Oceanside, Calif. “Amazon’s willingness to provide LonoLife capital ensured that we are able to keep our products in stock and gave us the opportunity to grow our product offering.”

Published in Finance

“I am pleased to confirm that noon is on track to launch this year,” said Dubai-based property tycoon, Mohamed Alabbar, speaking about Noon.com, a project of which he is a founding partner. Noon is a $1 billion e-commerce site developed as a joint venture with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and other Gulf investors.

The new site was expected to go online in January this year with 50 percent investment from the Saudi Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund and the rest from around 60 investors led by Alabbar, who currently leads the UAE’s real estate giant Emaar. Alabbar said last year that distribution centers will be set up in the Saudi cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, as well as a large warehouse the size of 60 football stadiums in Dubai.

Alabbar has hopes to see the site become “the Amazon of the Middle East,” to compete against the region’s existing e-commerce site Souq.com which was launched in 2005 and is currently being acquired by Amazon for as much as $650 million. Souq.com currently accounts for about 78 percent of e-commerce in the Middle East and North Africa. Noon plans to sell products including fashion, books, home and gardens, sports, electronics, health and beauty products, personal care, children’s items, and baby products.

When the launch of Noon missed its deadline there was speculation that the website might be facing issues, but Alabbar insists, “Noon will lead the way in regional e-commerce. We aim to deliver a market-leading customer experience by leveraging great supplier relationships, reliable technology, robust payment systems, and highly scalable fulfillment infrastructure.

He added, “Our beta program has been very insightful, and all the feedback we received from our early customers has allowed us to test and refine our technology and fulfilment model.”

Alabbar said the company is establishing “strategic partnerships” with an extensive range of regional retailers, distributors and global brands. These partnerships will allow noon to provide its customers with a broad catalogue of product across categories.

“With noon, we aim to deliver an e-commerce platform that creates long-term economic value, is truly relevant to the region and supports its home-grown enterprises,” said Alabbar. “It is vital that all our systems and processes work at the highest possible level. The coming months will be spent to ensure this, particularly with some of the many supply chain innovations we have been developing.”

 “We are excited by what our team has been able to achieve in a short time,” he added. “In the past few months, we have on-boarded additional expertise to enhance our management team and help execute on our plans.

Following the launch of noon, Alabbar said the permanent operational base for Noon will be in Riyadh, and the company is currently scaling up its resourcing and operations there. This allows for “an excellent opportunity to bring into the organization some of best new young Saudi talent working in this field,” he said.

“Noon has the potential to disrupt the nascent e-commerce market in the region. I would like to thank our partners, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, for their continued support and guidance through this process, and our highly dedicated team of experts from a variety of fields, now working around the clock as we translate our vision into reality."

Reports indicate that Amazon is renewing talks to purchase UAE e-commerce site Souq.com for as much as $650 million after discussions stalled in January due to a disagreement over the price. Other firms that sought to purchase Souq.com included mall operator Majid Al Futtain.

Souq.com accounts for about 78 percent of e-commerce in the Middle East and North Africa, which means all of its coverage, will soon be a part of Amazon’s portfolio. According to Reuters, Amazon had agreed to the acquisition.

The e-commerce platform was valued at $1 billion in its last funding round in which it raised $275 million from investors such as Standard Chartered. Other investors in Souq.com include Tiger Management and South Africa’s Naspers Ltd. Reports suggest that the valuation of the acquisition deal is less than Souq.com’s last valuation.

Amazon will now have to take on Souq.com’s new competitor, the recently announced Noon.com, a $1 billion rival platform by Emirati real estate and property tycoon Mohamed Alabbar and backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. However, Noon.com missed its January launch, and no update has since been released.

Souq.com was an attractive bet for Amazon which hasn’t penetrated the MENA region in comparison to other markets such as India. Analyst Colin Sebastian from Baird Equity Research believes the company will likely draw experience from its 2004 acquisition of Joyo.com to gain a presence in China.

Souq.com could prove to be extremely lucrative for Amazon, with its 8.4 million product offering, after expanding into books and groceries. It operates directly in the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and also does shipping to Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.

Published in Finance

Iraq Wallet, the country’s leading mobile wallet and digital payment company, announced it has expanded its ‘ZainCash’ service by introducing and launching chanbar.com, a multi-channel, cloud-based e-commerce platform to support Iraqi online entrepreneurs.

Chanbar.com allows small and medium-sized businesses to launch customizable online stores within 24 hours at no charge to the businesses, and is being delivered through. The first of its kind in Iraq, this life-empowering service is available to Zain mobile customers through the mobile operator’s nationwide 3.9G network.

Chanbar.com eliminates the cost and effort related to designing, coding, hosting, integration and other set-up activities, enabling entrepreneurs to kick off their e-commerce projects swiftly. The initiative also encourages off-line merchants to open new digital selling channels effortlessly.

The introduction of Chanbar.com will play an important role in helping develop economic diversification which is fundamental towards the development of Iraq, and is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals goal 8: “Decent Work and Economic Growth,” which promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

This online undertaking by Iraq Wallet is ideal for a country like Iraq given the country has one of the most youthful populations in the world, with nearly 50% of its inhabitants being under the age of 19 years. The use of technology has also risen exponentially since 2003, with 78% of Iraqis now using mobile phones and 12% of the population owning a personal computer.

Chanbar.com utilizes Messenger to enhance its e-commerce platform and streamline shopping activities. Given that significant numbers of businesses and end-consumers in Iraq are actively present on Facebook and over 1 billion people use Messenger monthly, leveraging this channel to showcase products, converse with customers, and begin the checkout process is viewed as being a highly effective sales channel.

Customers can view merchant's product catalogs while conversing over Messenger, and are then able to tap through to browse and buy products and services, completing the purchase over chanbar.com.

Commenting on the introduction of this latest e-commerce platform, Yazen Altimimi, CEO of Iraq Wallet said, "We see a lot of talented entrepreneurs in Iraq who only require the tools to start profitable and sustainable businesses. We are keen to support their efforts and believe the Chanbar platform can and will encourage thousands of budding entrepreneurs in Iraq to turn their ideas into reality.”

Altimimi continued, "We are building a forward-looking platform that reflects the latest trends in shopping behavior. We believe utilizing Facebook messenger as another selling vertical is a progressive step given the service’s popularity, and we expect it to prove highly successful.”

Messenger is popular among Iraqi consumers, who spend a substantial amount of time discovering, evaluating, and communicating on Facebook.

Youth development plays a significant role in Zain Group’s corporate sustainability efforts, and this is even more evident in a market such as Iraq given its youthful population and limited formal employment opportunities given the social instability in the country. Thus, Zain continues to be an active player in promoting entrepreneurship, e-commerce and the digital economy in Iraq. 

ZainCash Mobile Wallet was incorporated in March of 2013 to develop financial solutions via mobile and web and was granted a license by the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) in December 2015. It is the largest e-banking service provider in Iraq, offering the Iraqi customer the easiest and most convenient access to financial services across the country.

Its main consumer services include P2P money transfer, utility bill payments, digital goods, mobile recharge and e-commerce checkout. All these transactions can now be conducted directly from a Zain mobile customer’s phone, be it a smartphone or a regular mobile, or at an appointed Iraq Wallet Agent.

All current and future ZainCash services will also be subject to the systems and safety protocols instituted and overseen by the Central Bank of Iraq, which has established operational regulatory and administrative frameworks for these services in line with international standards.

The Central Bank of Iraq’s mission is to promote confidence in the economy through the creation of a safe economic environment coupled with a sound competitive system for all. This outlook has been reaffirmed through several policies and procedures introduced by this major financial institution on several occasions.

Accenture, a global professional services company in the IT sector, unveiled a series of exciting new e-commerce solutions at Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona. It was in the area of IoT and 'connected devices' that Accenture excelled and garnered most attention. The IT services colossus outlined its plans to implement technologies in order to create what it describes as 'frictionless transactions'.

In one demonstration, Accenture representatives displayed an application which would enable a driver to be able to fill up his car with whatever fuel the particular model required, proceed to pay for the transaction, receive a receipt and avail of some instore offers and discounts without even getting out of his vehicle. The driver wouldn't have to communicate with onsite staff in order to facilitate all these tasks – all the driver would have to do is use the mobile application, or the application designated for the vehicle dashboard.

According to Managing Director of Accenture Digital, Richard Meszaros, who also heads Accenture's commerce team, the key focus from Accenture's point of view is enabling its clients to avail of the new 'innovation architecture' the company is providing - and to create new commerce models to provide services in an autonomous fashion.

"We're really focusing on a lot of the innovations that we work on with our clients in order to create our new Accenture innovation architecture," said Meszaros. "I lead our commerce tower, which is focused on enabling new commerce models within the world of Internet of Things. Some of the things we're focusing on at MWC include an IoT marketplace that allows devices to make purchases for consumer services in an autonomous manner."

In addition, the Accenture executive spoke of the company's vision for blockchain technology with a particular focus on its specific use for smart solutions such as contracts and other related devices which can be connected.

"We're also focusing on blockchain technology and specifically its use for smart contracts and the ability to use that capability to be able to automate a complex transaction across a broad ecosystem of partners, and this, along with our innovation architecture, is just two examples of some of the solutions we're showcasing here at Mobile World Congress."

When asked about how he viewed the impact IoT would have on businesses and organizations that adopt it, Meszaros was emphatic that not only would the area continue to expand rapidly but that it had the unique potential to allow companies to completely transform their business and redefine structures.

"Depending on the research you see, there will be anywhere between 30-50 billion devices by the end of this decade," he said. "What I think is really exciting is that these devices are becoming smart and contextually aware – which allows our clients with Accenture's help to reinvent their entire business models.

"It enables them to be able to take advantage of the unique capabilities of these devices and all of the data that is available to really define new ways to serve their customers, create new business opportunities, and ultimately address challenges in their business today, and that's the most exciting thing for us at Accenture."

IoT is a big topic that has transfixed the industry and research indicates it's about to get a lot, lot bigger in the forthcoming years. However, as more and more businesses embrace the technology; one issue that consistently arises is that of IoT security.

Can organizations protect their data from cybersecurity attacks when adopting IoT devices? Meszaros believes security is of "paramount importance" in relation to IoT for Accenture – but said it was important to find out firstly what data is on the device and establish whether or not the device actually needs access to it.

"Security has to be paramount when you think about IoT and how these devices will interact with these new ecosystems," said Meszaros. "I think the key area to think about is what data is on the device. We have to establish whether or not that device needs access to the data or if it can it be tokenized for instance to be able to facilitate the transaction."

In an e-commerce environment, no consumer would want to put a 16 digit credit card number into a refrigerator, Meszaros explained, but the ability to use a token that represents that payment credential and that fridge could initiate that transaction by using that token. "It's a great example of how the industry can use existing capabilities to be able to facilitate these new next generation commerce experiences."

These are exciting times for Accenture which indicated clearly at MWC that it will be vying to retain its position at the forefront of IoT technologies in the forthcoming years as mass adoption of IoT and the creation of connected applications, devices and platforms continue to expand at a rapid pace.

However, for now, according to Meszaros, Accenture's vision is to help its clients take advantage of the new IoT world and allow them to innovate and transform their business by using Accenture's solutions.

"What we're about is helping our clients take advantage of this new IoT world and to innovate in that area, so that's what is so exciting about the release of Accenture innovation architecture," said Meszaros.

"It allows us to work with our clients from concept all the way to rapid prototyping, to scaling these solutions all the way to an enterprise launch. That's primarily what we're focused on here at Mobile World Congress: how we can help our clients transform and innovate in their business using that architecture."

Published in Interviews

Investment in technology and innovation in the online financial services sector is now essential in the Middle East, according to research on digital use and e-commerce in the region conducted by Hootsuite and We Are Social. The findings show that in the UAE, 62 percent of people bought something online in the last month, a 25 percent year on year rise, and 47 percent of people made a purchase using their mobile in that period.

Research by Hootsuite, a platform for managing social media, and We Are Social, a global social media agency, confirms that consumers in the Middle East now demand online solutions that they can access through their mobile phones on social media platforms. Therefore, it’s essential that the online financial sector invests in the appropriate technology or risks being left behind.

Hootsuite and We Are Social recently released ‘Digital in 2017’, a report of social media and digital trends around the world, examining data from 238 countries. The report revealed interesting figures from the more affluent nations in the GCC, revealing that 99 percent of people in the UAE use the internet, 70 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 93 percent in Bahrain.

What’s more, the research shows that Qatar and the UAE have the highest social media penetration of any country in the world (both 99 percent), while Saudi Arabia has seen the highest growth in penetration with a 73 percent rise resulting in 59 percent of the Saudi population using social channels.

The research also reveals that of the 246 million people living in the Middle East, 60 percent (147 million) now use the internet, which is up 15 percent from 2016. In addition, 34 percent (93 million) are active on social media, representing a 47 percent year on year rise, and there are an incredible 312 million mobile phone subscriptions in the region.

On a global scale, the amount of web traffic on mobile devices has soared in recent years, with just over half (50.3 percent) now being accessed this way, a significant rise from 2013 (35 percent) and from the first figure recorded in 2009 of 0.7 percent.

The research revealed interesting findings on e-commerce, with 1.61 billion people buying online in 2016 (22 percent of the global population). This equates to a total business to consumer market of US$1.915 trillion in 2016, which is US$1,189 on average per person.  

In the UAE alone, 62 percent of people bought something online in the last month, according to the research, which is a 25 percent year on year rise, and 47 percent of people made a purchase using their mobile in that period. In Saudi Arabia, 39 percent of people made online purchases, an increase of 57 percent from last year, and 33 percent of people bought online using their mobiles.

Real-time digital transactions will transform Middle East e-commerce by 2020, said Souq.com recently, the region’s largest e-commerce platform, when it confirmed a tie-up with SAP. In line with this prediction, the partnership between Souq.com and SAP will help accelerate real-time transactions to support the scaling up of Middle East small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and further drive the e-commerce market. 

According to a recent report by online payment provider Payfort, the Middle East’s e-commerce market is set to nearly triple in value, from US$25 billion in 2015 to US$69 billion by 2020. Most of the Middle East’s e-commerce growth, the research shows, will come in a massive shift from business-to-consumer transactions in items such as mobile phones, clothes, and watches, to business-to-business items.

“The region is poised to become a key player in the global e-commerce market and today’s tech savvy and connected consumers expect access to everything wherever, whenever and in real-time,” said Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO and co-founder of Souq.com, discussing the company’s partnership with SAP, which he says will “further scale up our platform and provide real-time, robust, and secure e-commerce platform for SMEs to grow exponentially and sell thousands of items effortlessly at one time directly to large enterprises.”

In late January 2017, US online retail giant Amazon ended negotiations to acquire Souq.com for a speculated US$1 billion. Amazon reportedly began discussions to acquire the company in November 2016, after the Dubai-based e-commerce site had appointed Goldman Sachs to find buyers for a stake earlier in the year. Souq.com’s current investors include Tiger Global Management and South Africa’s Naspers.

Amazon reportedly caught on to the rapid digital growth in the region and hoped to make a big footprint, hence its interest in acquiring Souq.com. The company was said to be looking to acquire all of Souq.com, which initially only planned to sell about a 30 percent stake. Souq.com runs on a similar model to Amazon, and became the highest-valued internet company in the Middle East after a US$275 million round in February 2016, according to Standard Chartered, which has invested in Souq.com.

However, Souq.com’s position in the regional e-commerce market is being challenged by well-funded competitor Noon.com, which is backed by UAE billionaire Mohamed Alabbar and Saudi’s Arabia Public Investment Fund. Alabbar promised to dominate Middle East e-commerce with the firm, which was expected to launch in January.

“We expect to become a world player but will concentrate firstly on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” said Alabbar last year at a press conference. His company Emaar was behind the construction of the world’s tallest tower in Dubai – the Burj Khalifa. Eventually, Alabbar expects the online retail site to reach Egypt, the most populous Arab state, by the end of 2017 or in early 2018.

IoT spending driving regional growth

Research by IDC (International Data Corporation) suggests that with e-commerce and cloud driving Middle East digital transformation, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – the two largest economies in the region – will spend a combined US$14 billion on IT in 2017. In particular, security spending in the wider Middle East, Africa, and Turkey will reach USD 2 billion in 2017, IDC adds.

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) Internet of Things (IoT) market is forecast to defy the region's moderate economic outlook by growing 19.6 percent year on year in 2017 to total $7.8 billion, according to the Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide’from IDC. This compares favorably to the healthy 18.1 percent growth seen in 2016, with IDC attributing the market's performance to the proliferation of digital transformation initiatives across the region as businesses and government entities strive to boost productivity and improve efficiency.

“The MEA IoT market is becoming increasingly competitive, enabling organizations to source a range of innovative digital solutions aimed at transforming business operations, improving the customer experience, and enhancing employee engagement,” says Wale Babalola, research analyst for telecommunications, IoT, and digital media at IDC MEA. “Indeed, IoT now offers a myriad of industry-specific solutions that can be easily deployed by organizations in a bid to stay ahead of competition.

"Numerous smart city projects are already underway across the region, and the propagation of such initiatives will continue to fuel IoT adoption by both public and private sector organizations," Babalola added. "Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading the charge when it comes to smart cities, so it makes sense that these two countries will account for the highest contributions to overall IoT investment in MEA during 2017, with a combined value of more than $1.6 billion."

Published in Reports
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