The Wall Street Journal reports that in some markets, shoppers return up to 60% of the clothing they buy online. Little wonder then that some women’s fashion execs – in this case, the team launching an app called The Yes – hope to “redefine the architecture of e-commerce.” The Yes app is said to “get smarter as you shop” by having a shopper click “yes” or “no” to items while a special algorithm re-ranks those products in real time. Machine learning then encodes that shopper’s personal fashion style while computer vision creates an experience “tailor-made” for her. By ranking everything, the user’s feed is filled only with her preferred brands, correct sizes and taste-matching styles. This is said to reduce the frustration of fruitless searches and annoyingly irrelevant recommendations. Other features include a new-product feed that’s refreshed daily; one-tap in-app frictionless buying; and the ability to see what friends are looking at.
The Yes has raised $30 million in funding from venture capitalists and will carry 150-plus brands, including Ralph Lauren Collection, Everlane, Vince, Acne Studios and Balenciaga.
In May, Mountain View, California-based Quotient began offering groceries and household digital coupons to customers through the Shipt website and app. According to the companies, this partnership enables Shipt to, for the first time, offer national manufacturers’ coupons for CPG brands from, among others, Bayer HealthCare, Kimberly-Clark, Colgate-Palmolive, and Johnson & Johnson. Birmingham, Alabama-based Shipt, an independently operated subsidiary of Target, has built up a network of more than 90 retailers in 5,000 U.S. cities. Customers discover coupons as they browse, and the offers also appear for applicable items on product pages. Coupons are redeemed when items are purchased and delivered by a Shipt Shopper. Customers can also “clip” coupons in the Savings Tab in the app to later be redeemed at checkout.
Over the winter, food platform Whisk updated its service in a major way: Now users can convert recipes from Whisk’s publishing partners and turn them into a one-click, collaborative “smart” list that’s shoppable across 29 integrated online grocery retailers or used for buying in-store. Whisk also finds and remembers the user’s preferred grocery-delivery service such as Amazon Fresh or Instacart. Users can also take advantage of integrated nutrition data, serving-size adjustments, the automatic combination of ingredient purchases across recipes, and a shopping list that can be sorted by aisle or recipe.
Reports of Brandless.com’s death have been grossly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain. In February, the shopping site for everyday products that aims to eliminate the “BrandTax” – hidden costs one pays for when buying established brands – shut down. But in late June, the site and its newsletter suddenly fired back up again, offering a new “Brandless Bundle” (Cooking, Cleaning, Baby, Him and Her) every Monday, several of which reportedly sold out in days. It’s a work in progress, with an odd assortment that includes suitcases, pots & pans, spatulas and cheese boards. However, the company says its goal is to offer 300-plus products with a focus on eco-friendly cleaners and sanitizers, organic lotions and creams, gummies, superfood smoothie blends, and pure essential oils. A “Startup of the Year” from 2018, Brandless had a half-million followers on both Instagram and Facebook when it closed. The company said it’s taking its time restarting, “working round the clock to make sure we do this the right way.” Brandless 2.0 will also maintain its policy of not offering products that contain any of 400-plus banned ingredients.
Consider this a tool for brainstorming: Over the summer, Ikea and its Copenhagen-based research lab SPACE10 launched a new platform called EverydayExperiments.com, a collection of digital proposals and prototypes that challenge the role of technology in the home. The platform uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and spatial intelligence. Currently, there are as many as 18 of these “experiments” underway, according to Ikea. One, called “Extreme Measures,” is a speculative design prototype that uses LiDAR (laser light measurement) to better visualize and possibly better utilize available spaces in a home by filling its nooks and crannies with inflatable elephants. Another prototype, “Point and Repair,” lets users gesture at a piece of worn or damaged furniture and see a variety of personalized solutions: up-cycle it, depending on the damage, repair it yourself or visit a page where you can order parts.
The pandemic has many of us trying telemedicine consults with doctors for the first time. Sunbury, Pennsylvania-based Weis Markets has picked up on the trend, launching “Healthie,” an online platform that enables its registered dietitians to provide nutrition counseling via video chat technology. The 30- and 60-minute virtual counseling sessions (available in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey at this time) cover topics ranging from Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and celiac disease to “Mindful Eating,” shopping on a budget and cooking with kids.
SPOTLIGHT: INTERNET OF THINGS
Etsy is rolling out augmented reality as a beta feature (iOS only for now) on its app to boost sales of the 5 million items in its “Art and Collectibles” category. The first step is selecting a masterpiece from the sub-categories of Paintings, Photography or Prints. Next, tap a hexagonal AR icon that appears in the top right corner of the item image, and the user is prompted to point the smartphone’s camera at a space where the family treasure can be hung. Once the contours of the wall are detected and mapped, the user can move the timeless heirloom’s image around, adjust its size (if available), and finally add it to a basket for purchase via Apple Pay.
Sport and lifestyle sunglass-maker Bolle just introduced the “AR Sunglass Experience,” enabling shoppers to both try on and try out its flagship lenses without physically touching them. Using a QR code within Bolle marketing materials or a special link from Instagram, the smartphone demo’s selfie or “try on” mode first lets shoppers see how the glasses look on their face.
Then, by flipping to front-facing “try out” mode, the lenses are superimposed onto their actual view. This mode, where the shopper can test special effects such as high contrast, anti-fog, and light-adaptive views in their actual surroundings, is considered an industry first. Once shoppers settle on a style that meets their needs, they’re directed to a Bolle retailer. The system was developed in partnership with two New York City-based companies, QReal and M7 Innovations.
In late June, Meijer announced a new partnership with the Aira app to provide visual assistance services at no cost to users inside the perimeter of its stores. The Aira service connects smartphone-using blind and low-vision people to highly trained, remotely located agents who can provide immediate visual assistance for anything from steering a cart to reading in-store signage and locating products. Upon entering any Meijer store or neighborhood market, an Aira user will get a notification that usage will be complimentary. It’s also accessible via Meijer’s free Wi-Fi. The Aira app can be downloaded by visiting www.aira.io.
Support for Amazon’s “Dash Wand” was cut off a few weeks ago (July 21, to be precise), striking a blow against clueless-but-brand-loyal shoppers like me (“I just want that jelly in the blue bottle”), and brand marketers as well. When the wand was introduced in 2014, bar code scanning everything in your cupboard, pantry and fridge was the easiest way to precisely transmit specific preferences (brand, flavor, package size, etc.) onto a digital shopping list without having to wade through Amazon’s blizzard of suggested substitutions.
Now that the wand is gone (along with the “Dash Button,” which was turned off last fall) you’ll need a later model Echo Show (5 or 8) to bar code scan (a feature added in February). Older models offer a clunky workaround, however: an Alexa feature called “Show and Tell,” designed to help blind and low-vision customers identify grocery and household pantry items. Hold a product package up to even an older Echo Show camera and ask, “Alexa, what am I holding?” Alexa tries to identify it through advanced computer vision and machine learning technologies for object recognition. It does seem to recognize some bar codes too, but the list-adding step seems very hit-and-miss.