Assuming you’re ready to open your MetaMask wallet, pull out some Ethereum and pay the gwei, you could be on your way to purchasing something from Campbell’s art collection of authenticated Non-Fungible Tokens (“NFTs”). Titled “AmeriCANa,” the works are by Sophia Chang, a “street-style” artist who has collaborated with brands ranging from Samsung, Nike and Adidas to Apple, Footlocker and the NBA. Camden, New Jersey-based Campbell Soup Co. made these signed and limited-edition digital creations available in late July to celebrate its new label design. Explaining all the whys and wherefores of NFTs (and their value as an investment) is beyond our scope. The offering’s fine print, however, gives some guidance.
• Pros: You can sell, trade, donate or otherwise transfer this digital asset.
• Cons: Your “right to use the content is limited ... you cannot stop people from seeing or making a print screen of your property ... and [Campbell’s] owns all legal right, title and interest in and to” all of the actual artworks.
While not as prestigious as owning a 1962 Andy Warhol soup can painting (one fetched $11.8 million at auction), the upside is that all the proceeds from these Campbell’s NFTs will benefit Feeding America.
In July, Chicory, a digital shopper marketing platform for CPG and grocery brands, and PureWow, a digital media brand that specializes in women’s lifestyle content, announced a “shoppable technology and contextual media” partnership. Chicory, which recently named former Quotient exec Jason Young as its president, places its “Get Ingredients” button on more than 1,500 recipe websites and thousands of influencer food blogs. It works with CPG brands like Perdue, Kraft Heinz, Mars, Mondelez and Campbell’s, and grocery retailers like Wakefern. PureWow serves a community of 90 million website visitors content ranging from fashion and beauty to food/recipes, travel and technology.
These “in-recipe ad units” will enable brands to target specific ingredients or recipe categories, own ingredients via in-line units, pair a brand’s products within related recipe content, or utilize standalone shoppable links that instantly place items into a consumer’s digital shopping cart.
Investing has always involved risk, but in recent months the combination of social media and various technologies have made it more volatile than ever. Countless inexperienced investors have been swayed by “meme stocks” (companies being hyped through Reddit and Twitter conversations), the relative ease of investing on mobile trading services like the Robinhood app, and the proliferation of cryptocurrencies that have an aura of “minting your own money.”
Well, now if you want to “go for the gold,” there’s an app for that too. In August, Oklahoma City-based APMEX, an online precious-metals retailer, launched what it claims is the first-ever shoppable mobile app in the gold and silver industry. The app gives on-the-go investors access to more than 20,000 products ranging from platinum and palladium to Krugerands, silver dollars and even ancient Roman coins. There’s also a portfolio tool, news alerts and the ability to check live spot prices. APMEX says that it has sold more than $11 billion worth of precious metals in more than 60 countries around the world.
In late July, Twitter launched a pilot of its “Shop Module,” a dedicated space at the top of a business’s profile where it can showcase its products. When people visit a company’s profile that has Shop Module enabled, according to Bruce Falck, Revenue Product Lead at Twitter, they’ll be able to scroll through a carousel of products and tap through items to learn about and even purchase them without having to leave Twitter itself. Falck says Shop Module will “create a pathway” for Twitter conversations that start going viral. If, for example, an MVP quarterback is suddenly traded to a new team, people tweeting about it will be able to impulse buy his jersey without leaving the platform.
The pilot will be visible and accessible only to U.S. Twitter users who are on iOS devices. Falck says that, initially, 10 brands from traditional retail (GameStop), travel (Arden Cove), entertainment and tech industries will have access to the new feature.
The word “grok” was coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1961 novel, “Stranger in a Strange Land.” He defined it as understanding something intuitively. Computer programmers quickly turned it into a verb, as in “to grok something,” meaning they’d learned a coding technique so well that it almost literally became a part of them. This is not a term, in other words, to be taken lightly.
In late June, Facebook AI Research Group announced the expansion of GrokNet, a universal computer vision system designed for shopping with an image recognition system that’s said to represent an advance in exact-product-match accuracy. GrokNet has begun powering various new applications on Facebook and is also scheduled to be added to Instagram’s visual search. Essentially, according to Facebook, the technology can identify a product in an image and then predict its category, like “sofa,” as well as its attributes, such as color or style. But unlike previous vision systems that required separate models for each vertical, GrokNet is the first that can actually “scale across billions of photos across vastly different verticals, including fashion, auto and home decor.” Facebook says this represents a key milestone toward becoming “the world’s largest shoppable social media platform, where billions of items can be bought and sold in one place.”
Every so often shopper marketing finds itself caught between competing social forces. After its 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple suddenly updated its App Store Review Guidelines to allow apps that facilitate the legal sale of cannabis. The primary qualifier is that they are “geo-restricted to the corresponding legal jurisdiction.”
This marked a dramatic U-turn from a long-established policy restricting marijuana companies from conducting business on Apple’s app store. Within days, a California cannabis-delivery service named Eaze announced that consumers could finally shop for marijuana on its iPhone app, handling everything from registration and ID verification to product selection, payment and doorstep delivery. TPCO Holding likewise launched Caliva, enabling California-based consumers to make cannabis purchases through the app and receive rewards through its loyalty program. Talk about getting hooked by marketing.
But Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away. In June a new app called Fakespot rolled out on the Apple App Store. It was touted as a way, through artificial intelligence and natural language processing, to analyze customer reviews on Amazon and other online retailers and “spot shady sellers and products with dishonest reviews.” One feature the developers claimed was an ability to analyze a product listing with, for example, a 4.5-star rating from reviews and inform the shopper that it may only rate a 3.1. Fakespot was even referenced in a The New York Times pandemic article on how to spot counterfeit masks on Amazon.
It’s hardly surprising then that within days of the app’s release, Amazon protested, claiming that Fakespot was “injecting code and content” into its site, and arguing that its findings about product reviews were mostly wrong. On July 16, Apple took it down. Fakespot’s developers vow to fight the decision. Stay tuned.
SPOTLIGHT: STORE EXPERIENCE
In May, Lightning Labels, a custom printer based in Denver, announced that it was rolling out a proprietary technology for augmented reality labels, teeing it up as a way for smaller marketers to enter the AR arena using sustainable packaging. These labels can be made using BioStone, an environmentally friendly label material that’s made from “stone paper” and does not involve the use of trees or petrochemicals. Using an earth-friendly material that’s literally made from stone (80% calcium carbonate and 20% polyethylene resin), it is said to have excellent ink adhesion properties. Suggested applications include labels for organic food, bath/body or nutraceutical products, essential oils and herbal remedies.
In July, Austin, Texas-based Clerk (rebranded this spring from Popspots) announced a merchandising partnership with Meredith Corp. to help manage the merchandising of the latter’s publications. Clerk will use its machine-learning technology to ensure that Meredith magazines (such as People, Southern Living and Allrecipes) are in stock and shelved correctly in more than 15,000 stores. Clerk, which works with many CPG companies, including Hershey, Mars and Amplify (Skinny Pop, Pirate Booty, etc.), operates a “human in the loop” artificial intelligence (AI) platform. The “human” examines the photos of displays and shelves being taken by the system’s in-store cameras and occasionally overrides what the AI is “spitting out,” say company executives. Having someone monitor “the loop” and feed correctives back into it helps improve the AI. Meredith’s goal is to ensure that the products consumers see online are consistently available in-store through its 2 million newsstand pockets. Custom dashboards will enable Meredith execs to understand on-shelf availability and planogram compliance, track out-of-stock rates by product, retailer and region, and track other in-store performance metrics such as sales velocity and fixture permanence rates.
In late June, Fayetteville, Arkansas-based Field Agent launched a self-service platform that reconfigures its suite of retail solutions into an on-demand experience. Clients can now use the platform to assemble the services required (store audits, product demos, shopper insights, etc.) and launch a campaign in minutes and at up to 40% less cost, according to the company. “Launching a store audit used to take an hour,” says CEO Rick West. “Now, it can take less than 5 minutes.” The self-service platform offers various services including some that can drive trial online and in-store and others that provide visibility on in-store execution.
On March 30, Albertsons announced a multi-year partnership with Google to place shopping information such as delivery providers (including Instacart), pickup and delivery windows, order minimums and fees inside of Albertsons stores’ business profiles on Google Maps and mobile search sometime later in 2021. The companies say they’ve been collaborating behind the scenes for the past year and that more than 100 artificial-intelligence-powered improvements to Google Maps are being considered. Future shopper-facing benefits under this partnership could include shoppable maps that have dynamic, hyperlocal features; AI-powered conversational commerce; and the use of predictive technology for building grocery lists.
Google also reports that it has a grocery-pickup pilot underway in Portland, Oregon, with Kroger’s Fred Meyer division. Once a pickup order is placed, it is added to Google Maps, which can then notify the shopper when it’s time to leave, providing an arrival time with the store and updating it continuously based on location and traffic.