The Chinese proverb “Better to Light a Candle than Curse the Darkness” has been digitally updated for COVID-19. The designers at Air, a workplace collaboration tool, created an interactive map of the many direct-to-consumer brands based in New York City where “their employees are currently working remote, but we wanted to illustrate ... the way it was before coronavirus and the way it will return soon. ... If you’ve got a soft spot for any of these companies, now’s the time to show your support.”
Meanwhile, the developer of a Washington, D.C.-area app, “OurStreets,” which focused on dangerous driving behavior, relaunched the app as “OurStreets Supplies,” a tool for the crowd-source reporting of retail shortages or surpluses of in-demand items like canned goods, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and fruits and vegetables. The user snaps a photo of what’s on shelves; reports whether the item appears to be fully stocked, sold out or somewhere in-between; and comments on whether safe social distancing was being practiced while shopping. The information is aggregated and then reported in a real-time map.
Men’s fashion brand Perry Ellis International certainly sets its sights high. It dubbed its interactive sales tool the “Life Ready Application,” boasting that it helps “the unengaged male shopper” put together complete looks, using a lifestyle strategy that presents outfits by occasion. “Unengaged” seems to be code for “digital native” shoppers who need extra assistance outfitting themselves for life events such as job interviews or weddings. The Life Ready application steers the interaction, and offers guidance based on expectations for a given event. Perry Ellis executives say that during a test at three Dillard’s locations, the brand saw a 10%-12% lift in sales and transaction value. The application also uses Google Analytics to monitor traffic flow and correlate which outfits customers most commonly view and purchase by geography. Creative Realities developed the UX, using Elo touchscreens and BrightSign’s mobile app software.
Spotlight: Data Collection
Publix is putting its cookies, web beacons, Google analytics and “FOMO” (fear of missing out) to work with the introduction of Club Publix. This free-to-join membership program is being built around certain shoppers’ desires for “first-to-know” information. Personalized communications (email, direct mail and app notifications) will be based on an individual member’s purchasing data, enabling Publix to push some real hot buttons:
• be “the first notified” about BOGOs and other sales;
• learn about product launches “before anyone else;”
• access exclusive “perks” and coupons based on purchase patterns; and
• get a “sneak peek” at the weekly ad.
Members are advised to enter their phone numbers at the register or pay with the Publix app when shopping to make future communications more personalized. The fine print notes that members consent to Publix’s use of technologies to receive and store data when they interact with these services, including, but not limited to, the devices and software being used, the content viewed, and whether ads places on Club Publix and other websites and apps are effective. The same fine print notes that Publix currently does not respond to web browser “do not track” signals or other mechanisms for opting out of data collection across its sites and online services.
Nielsen Global Connect has announced that Sylo, a third-party verification and measurement platform for influencer marketing, has joined its Connect Partner Network. Under this partnership, Sylo will have access to Nielsen’s proprietary retail sales and shopper marketing data in order to determine, in real time, which influencers are actually influencing sales. According to the companies, until this alliance there had been no efficient, effective measurement service that was fast enough to optimize, in real time, the retail sales impact of influencer marketing campaigns.
During a recent test of a national campaign by a global CPG brand, Sylo and Nielsen say they were able to identify individual influencers that had concentrated regional audiences, and attribute to them sales in the region that outperformed the national trend. Sylo emphasizes that it is “unbiased” because it is completely removed from promoting influencers, since its analytics are based on data directly from the social platform APIs.
Danone is launching a digitally enabled data-collection service called “Track & Connect.” Using a combination of blockchain, serialization and aggregation technology alongside a packing innovation, Track & Connect is intended to give consumers and retailers comprehensive traceability on the movement of Danone’s baby formulas as they make their way from ingredient suppliers to store shelves.
Danone is managing a “global code repository” that generates billions of QR codes and places two on each product package. The first code is laser printed on the outer pack, while a second code is placed inside a tamper-resistant seal so it can only be scanned by consumers, using their smartphones, after purchase. The outer code accesses a web page with the location, date and time the product was produced in Danone’s factories as well as information on its journey through the supply chain. When the inner code is read by a shopper, it registers the package “as purchased” on the global code repository and then enables Danone to offer that shopper customized after-sale support such as access to mobile apps, parenting videos, customer helplines or online e-commerce services.
Track & Connect data will also help retailers to forecast shoppers’ buying habits and personalize offers under their loyalty programs. Danone is initially launching the service in China as well as France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
Label Insight has been granted patents on its methods for automatically deconstructing, analyzing and confirming data on product packaging and labels. CPG packaging typically includes data points on ingredient amounts, nutrition labels, marketing claims and certifications. Sometimes, however, this information gets tailored to the needs of specific grocery retail channel partners, which increases the risk of data inconsistency. To address potential inconsistencies, Label Insight developed an automated data solution which can also identify conflicts between package claims and regulatory guidelines.
Label Insight, which partners with more than 300 retail banners and 5,500 CPG brands, says its goal is to remove “risk and complexity” for its clients as consumers continue to demand greater product transparency. Its database boasts more than 170,000 product nutrients, 397,000 product ingredients and 5 million product claims.
Keeping an eye on venture capital funding to spot potential game-changers over the horizon … Fast, a startup that’s trying to build a universal, platform-agnostic log-in and check-out service for online stores, just raised $20 million. When shoppers visit pretty much any e-commerce site apart from Amazon and their go-to grocer, they usually have to re-log-in, which gets to be a pain. Fast’s proposition is to become everyone’s central log-in by requesting just five pieces of information: name, email, phone number, address and credit card number(s). Its goal is to become the universal profile for all shopper interactions online by offering shoppers one-click login (which is in market now), one-click payment and one-click data (still being developed).
A second company worth noting is Yaguara, a 4-year-old Denver-based startup that recently got a cash infusion from a venture group that includes the founders of Warby Parker, Harry’s, and Allbirds. Yaguara aggregates and unifies e-commerce data across departments, aligns the insights and metrics and then offers predictive recommendations that are powered by network data. The company already has 250 e-commerce customers using the platform.
Everyone was all too familiar with toilet paper shortages, bans on reusable shopping bags, checkout aisle sneeze guards and other supply chain distortions (to say nothing of the countless personal tragedies) brought on by COVID-19. Throughout March, Catalina Marketing mined its Buyer Intelligence Database to track sales in all categories to identify which ones were being reshaped (spikes or declines) by the pandemic. Some key observations:
• Store trips began growing around March 1, and peaked on March 13, with total dollar sales per store up 60%.
• Categories in long-term decline experienced upswings in sales in March, including bleach (up 340%), deodorant soap bars (up 218%), aluminum foil (up 86%); and yes, toilet paper (p almost 400%).
• Quarantining at home spiked sales for books (up 42%), smoking accessories (up 29%), and yes, condoms (up 25%).
• Working from home, on the other hand, led to 25% declines in personal grooming products such as cosmetics, trimming devices and perfume.
How much of this pandemic-induced behavior will endure is anyone’s guess, but the mobile data analytics service Apptopia tracked a sharp divergence in the daily download patterns of delivery apps. The packaged-goods delivery apps (Walmart, Instacart and Shipt) showed significant upticks in March, while the prepared-meal delivery apps (DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Postmates) crashed.
Short analysis: It’s long been theorized that the trick is to get a person to develop their first online shopping list of repeatable purchases, and after that, they’ll be inclined to stick with it. Life post-COVID-19 will test that theory.