In mid-August, Old Navy, a division of San Francisco-based Gap Inc., launched BODEQUALITY, a fundamental rethinking of how women’s fashion should be merchandised and marketed. Basically, from now on Old Navy will offer every one of its women’s styles, in every size, with no price difference. For online shoppers, the chain has merged its Women’s and Women’s Plus collections in the navigation menu, so it serves as a single, size-integrated destination for sizes 00-30. Old Navy also administered body scans of 389 women to create digital avatars based on real women’s bodies. Now an online shopper can toggle all fashion imagery to default to their preferred model display size. In-store, all women’s styles (sizes 0-28) will be merchandised together — no special sections — along with inclusive marketing imagery and visual merchandising cues such as mannequins in sizes 4, 12 and 18.
In early September, Hunt Valley, Maryland-based UnDigital launched “Unboxing Marketing Automation.” This system uses proprietary software and on-demand printers to enable brands to place personalized inserts and offers into their e-commerce packages and then measure the results. These inserts can include loyalty acquisition programs, first-order promotions, tips on using the items ordered and even automated “handwritten” notes. Brands can access a dashboard to track metrics, such as revenue per campaign, impression count or the buying behavior of users.
On International Women’s Day in March, Minneapolis-based General Mills and its Betty Crocker brand introduced the BettyLab, an online STEM-learning platform that combines kitchen experiments with chemistry lessons. The site features step-by-step, science-based tutorials on, for example, how to make rock candy or ice cream in a bag, how to test the pH scale in lemonade, or what a slow cooker can do to a s’mores cake. A special-edition Betty Crocker/Barbie Dream Gap Project called “Baking Better Futures” cake mix was available at retailers for a limited time. Some critics (i.e., TheBoston Globe) argued that putting STEM into the kitchen felt like a throwback to “home economics” classes.
New Taipei City, Taiwan-based Perfect Corp., the developer of the YouCam Makeup app, announced a partnership with Avon Mexico in late August. Now, when Mexican customers are visited (back in the 20th century, the ad tagline “Avon Calling” was everywhere) by Avon’s 400,000 DTC sales reps, a facial-analysis “smart beauty” tool built with augmented reality and artificial intelligence technologies will be used to give personalized recommendations. Perfect Corp. uses a patented “Agile Face” technology that automatically identifies unique facial features like eye and eyebrow shapes.
In August, Procter & Gamble period-care brand Always and Thrive Global, a behavior-change tech company, launched “Always You,” a wellness app that helps women track their cycles. Always You also offers personalized, science-backed articles and videos, as well as Thrive Global’s “Microsteps,” which are small, science-backed actions that users can track daily to promote healthy habits, increase productivity and reduce stress. By registering with the app and tracking “every period or bladder leak event,” users earn points that can trigger donations of period products to help #EndPeriodPoverty through partners like Feeding America.
The pandemic hammered the out-of-home (OOH) ad business hard, contracting it by as much as 20%, according to some estimates. In late August, Istanbul, Turkey-based Airsqreen launched what it claims is an industry-first: An ad platform for the digital-out-of-home (DOOH) segment connecting advertisers to screen operators. Airsqreen says that advertisers mistrust DOOH because they can only get delayed reports from the screen operators. The company says its “built-in ad verification technology” will perform as an agnostic third party, reporting on digital campaign performance in real-time. The company has operations in 20 countries across the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific regions. It claims L’Oreal, Knorr, Castrol and Algida (Unilever) as clients.
It’s been quite a summer for Madison, Wisconsin-based Fetch Rewards. In late July, Parsippany, New Jersey-based Reckitt announced a partnership with the shopper app to earn points on the purchase of select brands, including Airwick, Finish, Woolite, Resolve and Lysol Neutra Air. A month earlier, Fetch announced its first-ever retailer partnership, a deal with AlbertsonsCos. in which exclusive offers are made available through the chain’s 2,200 supermarkets in 34 states. Perhaps most notably, Fetch raised another $210 million in Series D funding in April, bringing the total to $328 million and making it one of the few startups with headquarters outside of Silicon Valley or New York to reach the “unicorn valuation milestone” (a valuation of more than $1 billion.) CB Insights reports that as of August 2021, there were only 800 of these “unicorns” in the world. Fetch reports that its app has 8 million users and more than a million five-star reviews from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store.
In August, Plano, Texas-based Crossmark, a sales and marketing services agency, launched Accelerator, a data-analysis platform for CPG sales and marketing activities. Developed with IBM, Microsoft and several other tech companies, the platform is built on what Crossmark calls one of the “largest datasets in CPG” and delivers an “intuitive visualization” of the analytical tasks needed for smarter selling. Accelerator’s design is said to merge information sources and info about virtually every transaction in supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchants. It can then dissect the data using a “decomp tool” that evaluates the results of promotions and recommends a course of action.
SPOTLIGHT: Internet of Things
If you’ve ever tried to “Hey Google” a blaring Alexa speaker or aimed the wrong app at an uncomprehending smart thermostat, then you know that home automation is hardly automatic. The sheer number of smart outlets, HVAC controls, door locks, garage doors, sensors, security systems, window coverings, TVs, access points and who-knows-what-else coming our way is staggering, especially considering that they really don’t play nice together.
The good news is that the internet of things (IOT) industry realizes that their incompatible platforms are a buzzkill for consumers. In May, The Zigbee Alliance (an organization working toward open standards for IoT device communication) was rebranded as the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA). The CSA board includes executives from Amazon, Apple, Google, Huawei, IKEA, The Kroger Co. and Signify (formerly Philips Lighting.) CSA then announced that the Project Connected Home over IP or “CHIP” initiative was being re-organized as “Matter.” Sometime in early 2022, Matter’s single, cross-functional standard will begin to be implemented. The prospect for shoppers is that, eventually, the devices produced by these competing brands will nonetheless work natively together and thus become much easier to purchase and use.
The plan is that these items will carry the Matter logo, a sign of assurance along the lines of the UL or Good Housekeeping seals of approval. Members projected to be early adopters of Matter include Amazon, Comcast, Google, Schlage, Schneider Electric, Signify and Texas Instruments. (Note:CSA should not be confused with the ioXt Alliance, which was founded by many of the same companies as an IoT product security program.)
Your smart fridge now has company. In late July, Keurig Dr Pepper rolled out BrewID, a new connected-technology platform for its single-serve coffee-makers. Keurig Dr Pepper (which is dual headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts, and Frisco, Texas) says its smart coffee-maker can identify the specific brand and roast of more than 900 different K-Cup pod varieties and then fine-tunes its temperature, strength and size settings to the recommendations of the coffee expert who created it. The best part of not waking up is a feature called “Smart Auto-Delivery,” which will automatically reorder K-Cup pods based on consumption.
Frank Mayer and Associates has long been the tech-nerdiest of in-store marketing companies. Since the 1970s, the company was the earliest-adopter of game-changing technologies like video-game console displays, interactive kiosks and smart monitors, so when you see them touting turnkey “smart lockers” now, take it seriously. Amazon paved the way for contactless shopping with its Hub Lockers: Place an order, get a PIN or QR code sent to your phone, skip any lines, scan or enter it, grab the order from “your” locker and go.
But now, Grafton, Wisconsin-based Frank Mayer sees opportunities in restaurants (using lockers for take-out orders), BOPIS and rental orders for retailers, cannabis dispensaries, hospitality (spas and fitness centers) and so on. Frank Mayer’s metal lockers have seven cubicles, as well as a control panel module on each side. Customizable “GRUBBRR” software provides the fully-integrated contactless experience.