Meanwhile, Optimizely raises $50 million and DHL expands its African ecommerce app to more countries, as well as news from Lands’ End, Whitebox and Shoptalk.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google agreed to buy data analytics platform Looker Data Sciences Inc. for $2.6 billion. This expands Google’s services to help customers manage data in the cloud.

The acquisition gives Google a new tool in its campaign to sell more cloud storage and software. So far, the company has struggled to compete with larger rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp., No. 1 and No. 112 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000, respectively. Late last year, Google replaced its head of cloud Diane Greene with longtime Oracle Corp. executive Thomas Kurian.

167 merchants in the Top 1000 use Amazon Web Services for web hosting and cloud services; 9 use Microsoft; and 15 use Google, according to Top500Guide.com.

The deal is Google’s biggest since it acquired smart home company Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Cloud is important for Google because growth is slowing in its core search advertising business. Adding Santa Cruz, California-based Looker to Google cloud will provide customers with a “more comprehensive analytics solution,” Google said in a statement, “from ingesting and integrating data to gain insights, to embedded analytics and visualizations—enabling enterprises to leverage the power of analytics, machine learning and AI.”

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The acquisition builds on an existing partnership between the two companies who share more than 350 joint customers, including BuzzFeed, Hearst, King, Sunrun, WPP Essence, and Yahoo!. The acquisition of Looker is expected to be completed later this year, subject to regulatory approval.

In other ecommerce news:

  • A/B testing technology platform company Optimizely raised $50 million in a Series D funding round, led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing and included Accenture Interactive as a strategic investing partner. This brings the company’s total funding to $251 million, according to Crunchbase. “Companies that understand the increasing need to deliver better experiences to their customers invest in experimentation and build it into their company culture,” says Jay Larson, CEO at Optimizely. “We are looking forward to partnering more closely with Accenture as we uncover more global brands that need our help to survive and outperform in this digital economy.” 133 merchants in the Top 1000 use Optimizely for its web performance services, according to Top500Guide.com.
  • Worldwide delivery service DHL has rolled out an ecommerce app to more markets in Africa following the success of DHL Africa eShop. Already in 11 countries, the eShop app will be expanded to nine more counties in Africa. The DHL Africa eShop enables African consumers to shop directly from more than 200 U.S.- and U.K.-based online retailers and have their purchases delivered by DHL Express. The eShop app has already had “impressive growth” after several weeks, says Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa. “The uptake and usage of this platform over the past seven weeks has been incredible, with exponential growth in subscribers and physical orders,” Heymans says.
  • Apparel retailer Lands’ End Inc. (No. 60 in the Top 1000) promoted Sarah Rasmusen to the newly created position of chief customer officer from her previous position as senior vice president of ecommerce “As we further develop our uni-channel distribution model, we will continue to focus on creating a consistent, high-quality, seamless customer experience across channels to enhance our customer connection whenever, wherever and however our customer chooses to shop,” said Jerome Griffith, Lands’ End’s CEO and president. Rasmusen has been with the apparel retailer for almost two years after nearly six years at Kohl’s Corp. (No. 24) as vice president of digital merchandising and analytics and optimization.
  • Ecommerce automation and fulfillment technology company Whitebox raised $5 million in a Series A funding round, led by TDF Ventures, for its ecommerce logistics platform. Whitebox says it plans to use the funding to grow its customer base, hire more subject matter experts, invest in sales and marketing, refine its logistics technology and open additional fulfillment centers in the U.S. “We are using technology, logistics, fulfillment and marketing solutions to streamline the brand-to-consumer relationship,” said CEO Marcus Startzel.
  • Kenneth Cassar, formerly principal analyst at research firm Slice Intelligence, left his position after nearly six years. He is now vice president of research at Shoptalk, an annual retail conference and event.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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