Alexa sends Spotify listeners Nars samples

Spotify teamed up with cosmetics brand Nars and Dentsu Aegis Network agencies The Story Lab and Vizeum on a voice-activated ad campaign.

The test is a response to the changes in how people shopped for beauty products during the coronavirus pandemic, and it enables shoppers in the U.K. to get blush, lipstick or mascara samples delivered straight to their doors by interacting with a smart speaker.

Nars enlisted the help of voice-activated sampling company Send Me a Sample to enable Spotify listeners to request samples via Alexa or Google Assistant, while The Story Lab and Nars worked with Spotify to deliver ads specifically via smart speakers, encouraging listeners to say, “Ask Send Me a Sample for Nars.”

The campaign started this week and will run for eight weeks.

Spotify/Nars

Spotify U.K. head of sales Rakesh Patel said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Nars and The Story Lab to deliver this innovative voice-activated ad campaign. At Spotify, we know there is huge potential within audio for advertisers, and it’s fantastic that Nars is utilizing the Spotify platform in a new way to get its products into the hands of our shared audiences. We see voice as a huge growth area within the industry, and we’re excited to be able to deliver screen-less advertising solutions for brands.”

The Story Labs senior partnership manager Hannah Scott added, “During the current climate, we have had to adapt our way of engaging with our audience. Delivering samples directly to consumers’ doors is a great workaround and something we hope can add a bit of delight during these times, as the user has a blush, lipstick or mascara sample to choose from. Given that people in lockdown are tuning into their smart speakers more than ever, collaborating with Spotify was the perfect fit.”

Why it’s hot: As smart-speaker usage increases and advertisers continue to pivot to direct-response options during the pandemic, the benefit in interactive audio ads is worth exploring. With most users spending more time than ever at home, smart speakers have seen increased usage. While voice-activated campaigns are not new, the success of this and others like it could give advertisers another performance-driven ad option.
This partnership highlights one important difference between advertising on smart speakers versus advertising on other digital audio platforms — the opportunity to interact with an ad. Opportunities for measurable engagement with interactive audio ads like this may help Spotify and other music streaming companies capitalize on the trend of marketers shifting spend to more performance-driven formats as a result of the broader economic downturn.

Sources: Adweek, eMarketer email briefing

Netflix Willing to Lessen Revenue in Best Interest of Customers

Netflix to begin canceling inactive user accounts - glbnews.com

Netflix announced that it would begin reaching out to inactive users, who haven’t streamed anything on the platform in a year or more, this month. The pandemic’s impact on the economy inspired the company to ask these customers if they would still like to subscribe. If the users don’t respond, Netflix will automatically stop billing them for the subscription; as Netflix explained, “The last thing we want is people paying for something they’re not using… we hope this new approach saves people some hard-earned cash.”

Let’s be clear: With its latest ‘sacrifice’, Netflix isn’t exactly chopping off a limb here. In fact, these so-called zombie accounts make up less than half of 1% of Netflix’s total user base (which, by the way, has grown by over 15 million as a result of COVID).

Still, this proactive approach deserves applause. Especially when it seems like every industry (not just entertainment!) is trying to get in on the recurring revenue game; even brands like Panera (unlimited coffee for USD 9/month!) and Litterbox (that’s right, cat litter!) are launching subscription services. But consumers are fully aware, of course, that most brands will purposely make these services a hassle for customers to cancel. Netflix’s gesture stands out as a rare play in this sector, as the brand shows consumers — even those who choose not to pay them! — that it has their best interests at heart, and that they’ll make cancelling a zero-effort process. And as a result, the subscription services that don’t demonstrate equivalent levels of empathy will stand out.

Why it’s hot: While most companies want us to know what they’re doing so we feel good about continuing to subscribe to them/buy from them/consume content, Netflix seems to be stepping it up a bit by leveraging a re-engagement campaign in a new way. Instead of actively pursuing lapsed customers to continue their subscriptions, in these trying times, Netflix is making it easy to opt out of its service and if you’re so out of touch from them, they just won’t charge you. This could go a long way for good will in the future as people start to reestablish their fiscal comfort. But also, being honest, if you’ve been lapsed for over a year, they’ve already reaped enough extra cash from you. Hopefully this gesture will encourage other companies to do something similar.

Sources: Trend Watching, TechCrunch

Reservation for…. grocery shopping?

Body image for Open Aisles

OpenTable, a popular restaurant reservation platform, has expanded its service to let users reserve timeslots for shopping at participating grocery and retail stores in the US.

This tool was developed to support consumers during the coronavirus outbreak. While restaurants have been shut down to avoid spreading the illness, people face overcrowded supermarkets where maintaining social distancing measures is a challenge.

Through this new feature, grocery stores and supermarkets can limit the number of people who enter at a time while reducing crowds and waiting times for shoppers. Party sizes and reservation slots will vary depending on the retailer.

Leveraging the same mechanism as restaurant booking, it works in two ways:

1. Reserved shopping times: Just like reserving a table at a restaurant, you can reserve a time to enter a store.

2. Online waitlists: If you haven’t pre-reserved, instead of standing in a physical line to get into a store, simply enter a code on your phone to join an online waitlist. Then wait for the notification in a car or down the street away from any crowds.

This feature launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles on 31 March 2020, and is currently rolling out across the US. People can check their city through the groceries page in the OpenTable app or website.

Socializing in the Age of Corona[virus]

Digital dance raves. Streaming soundbaths. Book readings by phone. Now we’ve gotta get creative.

Where once technology was thought to be the death knell of human social interaction, it is now bringing us together under quarantine. The housebound are nimbly pivoting to virtual social gatherings.

They’re holding birthday parties and bar mitzvahs over video chat, broadcasting D.J. sets and streaming concerts (some from the luxurious confines of celebrity homes), and establishing quarantine movie nights on Twitter for “virtual companionship.”

A lot of communal events are taking place on Zoom, a videoconferencing app now being used by many classrooms and businesses (thus transforming it into one of the few companies doing well on the stock market). But it’s not just Zoom.

There are, for example, a small but highly vocal number of people gathering in the digital plazas, pet stores and pizza shops of Club Penguin Online. There are happy hours being held on Google Hangout, and poker games taking place over FaceTime. There are flute meditation sessions on Instagram and thousands of people participating in dance raves that are broadcast on Twitch.

It’s a lot for the internet. On Monday, Discord, the chat app popular with gamers, announced that it would increase its capacity by 20 percent to keep up with demand; it crashed shortly thereafter.

Jeff Baena, a film director, loves organizing social activities; it was at one of his game nights, in fact, that he met his girlfriend, the actress Aubrey Plaza. The couple have been in self-quarantine since March 11, and were feeling extremely antsy.

“Our house is one of those hubs where people are always over and hanging out,” Mr. Baena, 42, said by phone this week. “It’s strange to not be able to do that. I was kind of jonesing.”

So he got people together virtually. At 9 p.m. on March 14, a dozen friends — including the actress Alia Shawkat, who said she left the set of a television series she was working on early, before it had been officially shut down because of the new coronavirus — joined a group chat for a few hours of Quiplash and other games by Jackbox, an internet game company.

In order for remote players to see the game screen, Mr. Baena joined FaceTime from two devices, with one camera aimed at his TV.

Of course, the pandemic loomed large over the course of the night. At one point, someone coughed and a chorus of concerned voices wondered who it was.

“It was me!” said Almitra Corey, 40, who is currently working as the production designer for the final season of the Netflix show “GLOW.” (Filming was paused, as for all other Netflix shows, last Friday.)

“I just smoked weed,” she said. “Relax.”

A Remote Rave for 5,000 Guests

In New York this past Sunday, the city’s hottest nightclub was a virtual day rave. Nine hours of electronic music were streamed from an empty warehouse in Brooklyn to nearly 5,000 guests from around the world, including some in Berlin and Seattle, all of whom were watching on Twitch.

The event, which showcased nine electronic musicians, was put together by Christine McCharen-Tran, a founder of Discwoman, a talent agency in Brooklyn and collective of femme and nonbinary D.J.’s and music producers.

“I texted all the D.J.’s that I know that need support right now,” Ms. McCharen-Tran, 31, said. After gatherings of more than 500 were banned in New York on March 13, she said, “I was seeing so many artists being affected directly.”

So last Friday, she reached out to a lighting designer friend named Michael Potvin, who provided a physical space and a domain name (harrisonplace.nyc). Ms. McCharen-Tran got to work building out the site and booking artists.

By the afternoon, harrisonplace.nyc was live and vibing.

“For all of the talk about tech distancing us, it felt very intimate and joyful,” said Jess Ramsey, 35, in a phone interview. Ms. Ramsey, who works on hardware and gaming partnerships at Spotify, projected the rave onto her living room ceiling.

“We’re the most stressed we’ve probably ever been, and there’s no place to go, but you can dance in your living room,” she said. “It was the first time we had danced in a week, and it felt really special.”

Strict safety and hygiene protocols were in place even in the empty warehouse. All D.J.’s wore latex gloves and had access to disinfectant wipes and soap. The suggested size of gatherings has shrunk daily and rapidly, from 500 people to 50, and most recently to 10. At the time, Ms. McCharen-Tran’s 10-person maximum was out of an abundance of caution; now it would be pushing the limit.

Many other bands are performing in empty concert halls for the digital masses. The metal band Code Orange performed a record-release concert with an elaborate multimedia production to an empty room, for example, streaming to more than 12,000 fans.

In order to help fans support the artists in real time, Ms. McCharen-Tran and other producers of these events display the Venmo user names of artists at the bottom of the screen during their sets.

A Google Hangout Happy Hour

Lauren Ashley Smith, a TV writer from St. Louis who lives in Los Angeles, turned to Google Hangout this past Saturday to host a digital happy hour with a few close friends. That turned into 57 close friends, and then, over 60 once her sisters invited friends of their own.

“I know it seems like I invited a lot of people,” Ms. Smith, 34, said, “but I did carefully curate the people that were invited.”

To fit the criteria, a guest had to be someone Ms. Smith felt “wouldn’t take it too seriously” and who was “more extroverted — or would be willing to talk to a bunch of strangers they didn’t know.”

She knew everybody was just home alone, bored or scared. So, she said, “I made a run of show.”

The activities include a game Ms. Smith invented (“in 30 seconds,” she said) called “Who’s That Girl?” She would hold up photos of celebrities (saved on her phone) to the laptop’s camera, and players earned points by being the first person to correctly type the subject’s first and last name in the chat section of the Hangout window.

The celebrities were “obscure, to some,” Ms. Smith said. (They included Lala Kent from “Vanderpump Rules,” the singer Keke Wyatt, Christine Brown from “Sister Wives” and Esther the Wonder Pig, whom Ms. Smith described as “a pig influencer on Instagram.”)

The winner received a prize of $50 on the cash-sharing app Venmo. It was ultimately donated to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles, which provides services to currently and formerly homeless women.

After the hangout, Ms. Smith said she received “a lot of heartfelt messages” from participants thanking her for including them. She “absolutely” intends to do it again.

“It’s really easy,” she said. “Social distancing is for the greater good of everyone. And you can still make it really fun.”

Before the event, it struck her that she and her wife had yet to host a party at their new home. “But now I feel like we have.”
Conspiracy Theories on Club Penguin

There once was an online Disney media platform called Club Penguin, which was a kid-friendly social media hub where users could interact as animated penguins in a virtual world. It was formally discontinued in 2017.

But the internet being the internet, there are still multiple simulacra of Club Penguin around: unlicensed duplications hosted on independent servers, filled with the same population of late-born millennials and first wave Gen Z-ers that flocked to the Disney version by the hundreds of millions.

Last Friday, masses of users assembled in a popular fake iteration of the original pretend world — this one called Club Penguin Online — to share their anxieties, wishes and predictions for the uncertain future, and to ask everyone where they were from. Also, to keep frantically serving one another digital pizza.

There existed eerie similarities between the cartoon penguin world and humanity’s own, under quarantine. The sports stadium was devoid of chatting penguins. The skate park was nearly empty; ditto the dance club.

In other corners of the penguin universe, users delighted in that activity increasingly outlawed by public health officials: congregating in large groups.

Although conversations can be hard to follow on Club Penguin Online — a user’s typed message appears briefly above his or her representative penguin’s head wherever on the screen that penguin happens to be standing (or dancing), before disappearing forever — the pizza shop became, around midday, a kind of political salon.

One penguin asked another penguin that purported to be from Italy if, in real life, the grocery stores were out of pasta. Other flightless birds lamented the quality of their officials’ responses to the crisis.

A penguin in a chef’s hat approached and said, “They aren’t telling anyone anything,” before walking away to take another penguin’s pizza order.

Outside, in the plaza, a navy blue penguin was spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories. This penguin had presented itself as an expert on the novel coronavirus, imploring fellow penguins to pose to it any medical questions.

One penguin wondered how likely it was to become infected; the blue penguin replied confidently: “if ur under 60years old odds are 0,2.”

“Do you think someone created coronavirus?” a coral pink penguin said.

This was the opening the blue penguin had been waiting for. “YES,” it said. “Have u heard of 5g”? It went on to describe (in halting increments, because messages typed in Club Penguin Online have a limit of 64 characters) an online conspiracy theory that attributes virus symptoms to radiation caused by wireless internet.

The penguins in the plaza did not seem convinced.
Relaxing Gatherings

Online social gatherings are also taking meditative forms. Justine Stephens, 27, guided a live flute meditation on her Instagram account last weekend to help about 40 friends and viewers deal with stress and anxiety during the pandemic.

“Needed this and didn’t know it. Super anxious about the start of the week,” read one comment during the livestream. “Thank you for curing my Sunday scaries,” someone else added.

This past Sunday, Mikael Acatl, an energy worker and shaman who uses the pronoun “they,” held a healing session from their Brooklyn apartment, surrounded by plants, burning copal and bathed in golden-hour light.

And Josh Peck, 39, and Eliza Philpott, 31, who operate a retreat space in the Hudson Valley in New York, livestreamed a sound bath for about a hundred digital participants. They used two high-end microphones to funnel dual sources of audio to listeners simultaneously, which created the sensation of being in a three-dimensional space.

Other soothing practices included a reading by the writer Ashley C. Ford, of poems by Pablo Neruda. More than 100 people tuned in to the half-hour broadcast on YouTube.

There was also free “mom” advice dispensed by Mary Laura Philpott, an author in Nashville, who tweeted that she had “Big Mom Energy to spare. (Seriously, my teenagers are over it.)”

“I was like, Who needs the mom to tell you to drink your water, to wash your hands, that it’s going to be OK, to get off the internet?” Ms. Philpott said by phone. (She was surprised that the answer was: lots and lots of people.)

Gamers are getting into it, too. On Twitch, Nick Polom, a streamer with some 400,000 subscribers, took a break from streaming rounds of Apex Legends starting on March 11, to share more timely “Just Chatting” broadcasts.

Each is hours long, with names like “Doomsday cooking stream” (in which he livestreamed his stir fry, grocery rundown, and jokes about frozen chicken tenders) and “Girlfriend and Boyfriend stuck in quarantine!” (in which he livestreamed himself playing virtual reality games with his partner, for a remote audience of thousands).

As the novelist Sarah Schulman put it after a reading of hers was canceled in New York (and she offered her own individual readings by phone): “If all the institutional theaters are closed and all the competitive curated spaces are closed, we’re back to just entertaining each other.”

Online Twelve Step Meetings

Alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery frequently warn each other that isolation is a route to relapse; going to in-person Twelve Step meetings, sharing personal stories and talking with other addicts and alcoholics is a means of connection for many in recovery.

While long-distance Twelve Step recovery has existed since at least World War II, and moved to email and online chat and video with the rise of the internet, much of Twelve Step recovery still relies on in-person meeting.

With the health guidance for people to not congregate in large groups, those who rely on Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery groups have organized quickly. Many meeting chairs across the country are creating regular meetings on Zoom.

“Many of us have been saying in these online meetings that if we were still drinking and using drugs this would be the perfect environment to self-destruct — fear of the unknown, lack of support, isolation, financial insecurity,” said Nanea, who asked to be identified by only her first name in accordance with recovery guidelines.

She created her own version called the Online Recovery Group. In addition, the central offices of regional Twelve Step groups have jumped in to show what meetings are canceled and which are replaced by chat, video or email.

“We need to have a way to share our experience, strength and hope to new people struggling with addiction and alcoholism,” Nanea said. “I know a lot of people, not just people in recovery, are afraid and feeling isolated right now. I feel very fortunate to have an active community that knows how to support each other.”

On Sunday morning, the Redemption Church in Costa Mesa, Calif., set up its first livestream, in part to broadcast two infants’ dedication ceremonies.

Kristin Castillo, 30, a brand and marketing consultant, and her husband, Nate, 30, had originally planned to gather their family, friends and loving congregation (about 200 members strong) to witness and participate in the religious service, which would officially welcome their newborn son into the church. Afterward, there was to be a celebratory lunch.

“Obviously,” Ms. Castillo said, “that didn’t happen.”

Instead, Kristin and Nate’s in-person guest list was trimmed to one of each of their parents. When the ceremony reached the point where their infant’s “spiritual aunts and uncles” were meant to affirm their support, the family and friends that were asked to accept this duty participated remotely.

“They were texting us in real time: ‘Yes! Yes!’” Ms. Castillo said.

While she found the experience of being on camera “nerve-racking,” she described their baby, nearly 8 months old, as “surprisingly cooperative.”

“Watching a crazy little guy having a good time, hopefully that lifted someone’s spirits,” she said. “And, ironically, by stripping all of the social trappings away, it helped us focus more on the intent of the actual ceremony.

Why it’s hot: The internet has meant a lot of things to many people, it first brought many together far and wide, and then got a bum rap for making us feel like we’re closer to others when we’re actually just voyeurs into other people’s lives. But now, in the time of COVID-19, the internet and social media are enabling a more positive mandatory social distancing experience. From conference calls for work to concerts and raves, games nights and virtual happy hours, to religious celebrations, people are leveraging creative ways to use the internet in a time that could lead to excessive isolation and depression – way to go internet age!

Source: NYTimes

Delta’s turned Minority Report technology into a reality

Delta Airline is adopting new screen technology to add another layer of personalization to customer journeys.

Delta has struck up a partnership with technology company Misapplied Sciences to launch the Parallel Reality beta experience for flyers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Parallel Reality displays are an opt-in technology which, according to Misapplied Sciences, allow ‘a hundred or more’ consumers to view personalized content tailored to their unique journey needs via a single screen.

For Delta, adopting this technology means providing new way-finding opportunities: from displaying only relevant flight information to the viewer and translating that information into a language of the consumer’s choice.

For the beta launch in Detroit, almost 100 customers will be able to view content personalized to their needs. The partnership was announced at CES 2020, which makes Delta the first airline to keynote and exhibit at the event.

Why it’s hot: Delta is taking an existing technology and transforming it into a tool to improve customer experience. It’s taking the idea of one-to-one communication and personalization to the next level. Not to mention the company’s commitment to digital transformation unveiling several other consumer innovations alongside Parallel Reality at CES 2020. The announcements included an expanded partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft to help streamline journeys, a new AI-driven machine learning platform that analyses millions of data points, and even a wearable robotic exoskeleton for its employees.

Source: Contagious.io

Loyalty Evolution Success – Starbucks Rewards Revamp

When Starbucks relaunched its loyalty program in April, it was met with some initial criticism.

  • Would it alienate existing core customers?
  • Would people understand it?
  • Would it really contribute to growth or would it backfire?

Overall, Starbucks’ rewards program is a driver or sales… but that’s not new news.

“…when customers join our rewards program their total spend with Starbucks increases meaningfully,” CFO Patrick Grismer.

Having a loyalty program is one thing. Continually optimizing it based on customer feedback is what keeps it fresh, relevant, and valuable.

Starbucks has crafted a loyalty program that adds importance to customers and, for many, becomes a part of their daily lives. Thus, members engage and spend more frequently.

Starbucks Rewards Has Attracted More “Occasional” Customers

The relaunch of Starbucks Rewards in April allowed greater flexibility among members, making it easier to start redeeming. Grismer noted “significant positive customer response to this change, which was exactly what we had designed for.” This has led to a 15% increase in membership during the past year.

But it’s not just the revamp to the customer facing rewards program…

Starbucks added technology that enables the company to better understand its members. While membership in Starbucks Rewards has increased, so too has the frequency of customer visits. Personalization has played a role in customer loyalty at Starbucks as well. “We took the opportunity to introduce an enhanced personalized marketing engine into our technology stack,” Grismer said. “It allows us, through machine learning, to gain insights around what matters most to our customers, which informs the offers we make to them digitally.”

Why it’s hot: While loyalty can be incentived, ultimately it’s earned. Whether you’re providing a rewards program via points or freebies, the key to loyalty is evolving based on your customers’ needs. Starbucks is successful because it listens to its customers to minimize pain points, all while focusing on three main pillars: the in-store experience, beverage innovation, and digital customer engagement. These pillars create a compelling value proposition that customers can both experience and benefit from.

Source: Clarus Commerce blog, Loyalty360

The Circle of Life… When Old Becomes New Again

Back Market, an online marketplace that sells refurbished and discounted electronic goods like smartphones, wanted to launch its service in the US.

However, Back Market had to find a way to promote its refurbished products in a country that is more interested in new technology than old, without a media budget to afford high profile influencers.

Back Market realized that all of the second-hand products that it currently sells have already been promoted by celebrities on social platform Twitter, back when they were originally released.

Back Market analyzed hundreds of the most well-known US celebrities’ Twitter accounts to find old Tweets about products now available on its site, replied to them and re-posted them as if they had just been published.Body image for Refurbished Tweets

In total, Back Market ‘refurbished’ the Tweets of 311 celebrities, including Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and 50 Cent. The online marketplace also sent 187 celebrities the smartphones that they had wanted years before.

The Refurbished Tweets campaign was promoted with a comical video explaining how the French company took over the Twitter feeds of US celebrities.

According to the case study video, more than 26,000 orders were placed for refurbished products within 48 hours of the campaign launch and visits to Back Market’s US website increased by 457% within one month, with no media investment.

Why it’s hot: Entering a new market is challenging, especially without a media budget. Back Market’s creative approach to “refurbishing” old tweets from famous celebrities and influencers was clever way of leveraging existing tweets as their own.

Source: Contagious.io

Can you see this now?

In Ukraine, a lack of people taking eye examinations combined with increasing mobile device usage has led to a national eyesight problem, so Luxoptica, a Ukranian optician, decided to leverage the problem device to get people to take eye exams, all on their own accord.

Luxoptica ophthalmologists created an eye test that sat within Instagram Stories. All users had to do to take the test was tap on the brand’s Instagram story and hold their smartphone at a distance, then text appeared on the screen. If they could see the letters clearly, they would be instructed to tap to the right, which took them to the next text – in smaller type.

As soon as users could no longer see the writing, they were instructed to swipe up. The result of the test then appeared on the screen with a prediction of their visual ability and a recommendation about what to do next.

Body image for Instoptica

If the vision score was below normal, Luxoptica recommended a visit to an ophthalmologist to prevent further reduction in vision and provided a direct link to book an appointment at any Luxoptica store.

Why it’s hot: Luxoptica was smart in its “show don’t tell” strategy by providing consumers with a free experience of an eye exam instead of lots of medical claims and reasons to go to your optometrist to get an exam. Its creative use of Instagram stories made their message easily accessible to their target audience, mobile phone users, giving them the freedom to experience the exam on their own time, ultimately driving 1 in 7 people to an optician for an eye exam, over 6,800 visits.

Source: Contagious

Our Platform Isn’t Secure, So Give Us Your Credit Card Number

Facebook is launch[ed] a new payments system, appropriately named Facebook Pay. It will be available across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and it’s designed to facilitate payments across Facebook’s popular social networks and apps. You’ll be able to use Facebook Pay to send money to friends, shop for goods, or even donate to fundraisers. The service will be separate from Facebook’s new Calibra wallet and the Libra network, and it’s “built on existing financial infrastructure and partnerships,” according to the company.

Facebook is planning to start rolling out Facebook Pay on Messenger and Facebook in the US this week. It will initially be available for fundraisers, person-to-person payments, event tickets, in-game purchases, and some purchases from pages and businesses that operate on Facebook’s Marketplace. “Over time, we plan to bring Facebook Pay to more people and places, including for use across Instagram and WhatsApp,” explains Deborah Liu, Facebook’s vice president of marketplace and commerce.

Facebook Pay will be available in the settings section of the Facebook or Messenger apps, and it will support most debit and credit cards and PayPal. Facebook is using Stripe, PayPal, and others to process these payments.

Facebook isn’t revealing exactly when this payment system will be available across all of its apps, nor when it will launch internationally. Facebook Pay comes just weeks after a large number of payment companies dropped out of Facebook’s Libra project. PayPal, which is supporting Facebook Pay, was one of the first companies to distance itself from the Libra Association, the nonprofit organization that oversees the creation of the cryptocurrency and its rollout.

Every major US payment processor has now exited the association, and it’s left Facebook with the daunting task of convincing governments that Libra is an option, just when trust in Facebook is at an all-time low. That’s not stopping Facebook from launching a more traditional payment system today, though.

“Facebook Pay is part of our ongoing work to make commerce more convenient, accessible and secure for people on our apps,” says Liu. “We’ll continue to develop Facebook Pay and look for ways to make it even more valuable for people on our apps.”

Why it’s hot: With the massive lack of trust about its data privacy practices and approach to how its platform is used and can be manipulated, it’s a strange time to ask for people to trust you with their credit card information. Not to mention the plethora of ways to execute digital payments (Apple pay, Samsung pay, Venmo, Paypal, etc.) that exist.

Would you trust Facebook pay with your credit card info?

Will Facebook pay go the way of Snapcash?

Source: The Verge

Sustainable Baby Clothes

UpChoose, a year-old startup, aims ‘to reimagine and redesign consumption in a way that’s less wasteful and more sustainable and efficient’ with its organic babywear rental service.

Body image for Always in fashion

New parents are confronted with endless choices of baby clothes, toys and accessories. Whether they feel pressure to buy the latest products or are given them by well-meaning family and friends, what we think of as an exciting time in our lives, entrepreneur and sustainability advocate Ali El Idrissi, the founder of UpChoose, views the occasion as a source of enormous waste, with many of the products outgrown in a matter of weeks.

But instead of lecturing people to buy less, he’s providing a sustainable and somewhat affordable alternative.

Body image for Always in fashion

Why it’s hot: With UpChoose, El Idrissi is democratizing sustainability. While sustainable subscription services aren’t new, one targeted to new parents seems to be. UpChoose is a way for individuals to help tackle over-consumption in their lives, while governments and companies attempt to tackle it on the larger world stage. Also, depending on where your live, the option to have temporary baby clothes, and eventually even furniture (his plan to expand at some point in the future), could be a real time and space saver for urban families in cities with itty-bitty living spaces (NYC).

Source: Contagious.io

Puppo Brings Personalization to the Dogs

In an effort to launch in one of the biggest and most saturated markets in the world, Mars’ Puppo, a subscription-based and personalized service for dogs, took personalization to a new level, creating 100,729 bespoke ads for each dog licensed in Manhattan.

Puppo created an algorithm that extracted data from the NYC Dog Licensing Dataset to find out the name, age, breed, borough and zip code of each dog. A modular copy and art direction system then generated an individual print ad for each dog that linked to a health benefit from using Puppo’s services.

Owners were targeted by zip code and print posters were placed within dog-walking distance from their homes. The Every Dog Has its Ad campaign was also promoted by digital OOH and display ads.

The campaign saw a 68% increase in new site users within one week, 28% of which came directly from the posters. There was also a 144% increase in organic searches for Puppo.

Why it’s hot: Clients are always looking for ways to personalize their communications in unique and attention grabbing ways — here, Puppo used a variety of data (licensing information, zip code, dog breed, etc.) to create personalized geo-targeted ads to dogs and their owners. succeeding in grabbing attention and driving awareness of their product in a personalized and relevant way.

Source: Contagious.io

You can still be a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid

Toys ‘R’ Us back… sort-of…

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Tru Kids, the owner of the Toys ‘R’ Us brand is “bringing back the Toys ‘R’ Us brand in a modern way through a strong experiential and content-rich omnichannel concept,” Richard Barry, CEO of Tru Kids, said in a statement.

Learning from its prior mistakes of not embracing technology and a digital transformation, this relaunch is purely digital and content-focused in nature, partnering with Target and Candytopia to help with ecommerce and real-life, memorable experiences.

Dubbed “The Toys R Us Adventure,” the company partnered with Candytopia to create the experiential pop-ups in Chicago and Atlanta and feature more than a dozen interactive play rooms, larger-than-life toys, and installations featuring Geoffrey, the brand’s giraffe mascot.

Why it’s hot: Toys ‘R’ Us’ was the poster child for death by tech, with its rejection of ecommerce and digital transformation. Now the company is trying to show everyone it can learn from its mistakes. The question is, will the nostalgia of Toys ‘R’ Us be enough to drive expensive experiential store visits. It’ll be interesting to see if this attempt at jumping into the digital deep end will have a happy ending. If it does work, will we start seeing the return of other brands who failed to innovate? Blockbuster Video? Tower Records?

Sources: FastCo, Business Insider, ToysRUs.com, Forbes

 

Get paid to drink Pepsi (and eat Fritos)…

Pepsi is launching a PepCoin loyalty program that rewards you for buying both a single-serve beverage and a Frito-Lay snack by sending money to PayPal and Venmo accounts. If you scan enough codes on bottles and bags, you’ll receive a little bit of cash. You’ll have to earn $2 before it goes to your account, but this is real spending money.

How it works:

  • Buy a PepsiCo beverage and Frito-Lay snack.
  • Scan the codes on the bag and under the bottle cap with your phone.
  • Link the program to your PayPal or Venmo.
  • Once you accumulate $2, the money automatically transfers to your account with Venmo or PayPal.

It’s not a dollar for dollar point system, each transaction earns a person about 37 cents. So, like, 5.4 purchases.

Why it’s hot: Companies with multiple brands are increasingly using loyalty programs as a vehicle to sell across their portfolio and drive awareness of the many different products within it. With the exception of credit and debit cards, that apply cash back as a credit to your account, cash back incentives in the form of actual cash have yet to be tested (as far as I could tell). Truly successful loyalty programs thrive on creating engaging experiences and emotional connections with their consumers — it’ll be interesting to see whether Pepcoin will be able to establish a true connection with customers, past the initial shock and enroll stage and whether it’ll change how loyalty and rewards programs provide benefits to consumers in the future.

Sources: Engadget, Thrillist, MediaPostPYMNTS.com, Pepcoin, Pepsi press release

Bringing online habits to offline shopping

Price Kaki app by CASE

Price Kaki is an app that crowdsources and compiles the prices of daily goods sold across multiple physical retail stores in Singapore. The app enables price comparison of groceries, household items and hawker food, across outlets, thus helping shoppers make informed decisions and get value for their money. Users are invited to contribute real-time updates on prices and promotions, with the most active rewarded with e-vouchers. Developed by Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), the app is inspired by e-commerce price aggregators, and aims to bring the same level of transparency and consumer empowerment to offline shopping.

Fun fact: ‘kaki’ is local Singaporean lingo for ‘buddies’ .

Why it’s hot:  E-commerce is outgrowing physical retail, yet offline still dominates. As a result, businesses pursuing further growth are focusing on revolutionizing brick-and-mortar, by integrating the best aspects (like price transparency) of online retail.

Sources: Trendwatching and Channel News Asia

Quit Clowning Around

Burger King’s latest attack on McDonald’s is tapping into the upcoming release of the IT prequel with its new Escape the Clown campaign, an interactive campaign that targets McDonald’s customers in Germany using AR and geo-tagging. Playing on popular culture, Burger King successfully stole its rival’s customers at point of sale (kind of a big deal) and drove app downloads.

Burger King placed an AR-enabled advertisement in a film-themed magazine found in McDonald’s restaurants. Customers were prompted to download the BK app in order to scan the advertisement and access an Escape the Clown coupon for a one cent Whopper at the nearest Burger King. The app gave directions to the nearest restaurant and a countdown began, encouraging customers to leave McDonald’s restaurants (and escape the clown) immediately.

Burger King also used geo-targeting to invite McDonald’s customers to seek out the magazine and scan the app in targeted ads on Facebook and Twitter.

Source: Contagious.io

Why it’s hot:
While not a new tactic for Burger King, in fact, it’s become a bit expected, by targeting customers who are already in McDonald’s restaurants, this campaign reaches its audience at the point of purchase, which in this category would’ve been an all-is-lost moment. Burger King also gamified a discount by positioning it as a challenge (get to the nearest Burger King before the countdown times out), which added an element of urgency and excitement to the offer. Not to mention that the many app downloads it generated are now also a new data source to help inform the King of other opportunities to conquest its rival.

An Insurance Company that Pre-Pays?

Australian insurer, National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), is refunding customers that spend money to protect their homes from disaster by using claims data to identify homes at risk of flooding, storm damage and other disasters.

It invited people to download Safety Hub, a custom-built app, and rewarded them for carrying out home maintenance tasks that reduced the risk of catastrophic damage.

The app combined geographical data with risk profiles to tell people about personalized tasks that they could complete to lower the risk of damage to their homes.

Each time a task was completed, money was paid straight into the customer’s bank account. If the task required the services of a professional, NRMA would pay for that, too.

By giving customers authority over the safety of their home and rewarding them for completing checks, NRMA can not only reduce how much it must pay, it creates transparency. And giving people partial control over their safety can work to empower those in high-risk communities where they are more likely to suffer disasters.

Source: Contagious

Why it’s hot:

NRMA has the chance to create a new standard in insurance with this new initiative. While it saves the company money, it also demonstrates its commitment to its customers, to help them avoid disasters.

This is a good example of how a company leveraged its first-party data with geographical data to create a predictive model and help incentivize customers to avoid costly disasters.

Cadbury Chocolate Feeds the Malnourished

In the Philippines, where almost one third of children under five are malnourished, the Cadbury has created a chocolate bar without milk, the Generosity Bar, and is donating the glass and a half to children in need.

The Generosity Bar launched at a pop-up store in a popular Manila mall and for every candy bar purchased, Cadbury redirects the forgone milk to malnourished children through its partnership with NGO Reach Out Feed Philippines.

So far 200,000 glasses of milk have been donated to Filipino children.

Other chocolate brands might struggle to form a meaningful partnership with a malnutrition charity, but Cadbury found a way to make this initiative feel natural and relevant. Rather than use its packaging and platform to just draw attention to the Philippines’ child malnutrition problem or encouraging consumers to make donations, Cadbury enabled its customers to donate simply by buying the product: a win-win for Cadbury, the children and the consumers.

Why it’s hot:

CSR has become a hot topic in the advertising world, but doing it right isn’t always easy as many times brands sometimes lack the ability to put others first. This is a great example of a brand wholly dedicating itself to a cause and providing an easy way for its customers to participate and give back by doing something they already do, eat chocolate.

Source: Glass half full – Contagious I/O

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Expands “Love Notes” to Even More Children

Last year, the Kellogg cereal brand teamed up with the National Federation of the Blind to create specialized “Love Notes” with phrases like “You’ve Got This” to “Love You Lots” written in braille for parents to share with children who are blind. Now Rice Krispies is continuing its mission with a new kind of love note, one designed with children living with autism or on the autism spectrum.

Since not every child communicates love through words, the cereal company partnered with Autism Speaks to create touch-and-feel sensory “Love Notes” so children can actually feel love and support as they transition back to school. The four “lightly reusable” stickers come in a range of supposedly calming colors and different textures, including fleece, faux fur, satin, and velour for sensory-focused kids to feel the love through a tactile experience.

Why it’s hot:
Kellogg’s expansion of its “Love Notes” write-able wrappers demonstrates the brand’s commitment to all parents – providing an otherwise under served audience (parents with children with autism and children who are blind) – helping them provide their children with love and support anywhere they are. They found a simple way to make love notes meaningful to any child.

Sources: Fast Company, Kellogg’s Love Notes

Is Uber having an identity crisis?

Uber Wants to Sell You Train Tickets. And Be Your Bus Service, Too.
The ride-hailing company, craving growth, is looking to public transit for riders and revenue. Cities aren’t sure whether to welcome it.

The public transit ticket option in Uber’s app is denoted by a train icon. Riders in Denver can also use the app to obtain train and bus schedule information.

In an April NYTimes article, Uber wanted people to view its ride-sharing business as the foundation for a larger “platform” spanning multiple transportation industries.

And now, Uber is no longer just talking the talk. The company is partnering with municipalities around the world to tap its network of drivers to provide rides in areas that do not have reliable bus routes, provide access to mass transit tickets within the app and transport people with disabilities. Cities will often subsidize the rides so that passengers pay what amounts to a bus fare rather than a typical Uber fee.

Why it’s hot:
Uber has said it wants to be the Amazon of its vertical and that cars are to Uber as books were to the retail giant. With this new initiative, it continues its evolution from a ride platform to a partner for cities in dire need of ramping up their public transportation systems, while at the same time continuing its Amazonian goal that initially started with UberEats.

Source: New York Times

German Staycations Made Possible by Real-Time User Data

72% of Germans travel abroad for their holidays. With that knowledge, German Rail set out to encourage Germans to vacation in their home country by focusing on price and picturesque German locations that mirror famous foreign tourist destinations.

German Rail targeted travel enthusiasts interested in specific destinations on Instagram and Facebook. Then, through geo-tagging technology and Google Search, the audience was served video ads updated with real-time prices, comparing two gorgeous locations (one in Germany and one abroad), detailing the cost of travel from their closest airport to the foreign country and carbon emissions created by travel.

Why it’s hot:

Brands talk about using data all the time but we don’t always see it done in a smart, multi-dimensional way. German Rail successfully tapped into the insight that the record of the holiday (on Instagram & Facebook) is just important as the holiday itself and leveraged real-time user data to influence behavior of the German traveler.

Source: Contagious.io

Smart Diapers – it’s about more than just poop!

Pampers has announced a new product called Lumi by Pampers, a “connected care system” to monitor your baby. The package includes a special “smart” diaper, which tracks your baby’s pee and sleep patterns, a mobile app, and Logitech video monitor. The one thing it doesn’t track? Poop.

Introducing the world's first all-in-one Connected Care System

Pricing has yet to be announced, but as a disposable product, they’re likely to become expensive. The bigger question is why, especially since this tracker tracks everything except your child’s poop patterns. This is a bigger trend in the diaper and baby industry overall. Getting “smart” keeps companies and products relevant and as people are starting families later and having fewer babies, Pampers, and other big diaper brands (Huggies) are trying to maintain their bottom lines.

Why it’s hot:

In addition to the “smart” revolution in which we’re currently in the midst, these types of innovations and new utilities don’t always come naturally to every brand. It’s interesting to see how the diaper industry is trying to find its way. We’re also seeing this challenge on Enfamil, which is trying to partner with companies to show their commitment to both babies and moms — while not every baby needs this type of monitoring, it could be an interesting partnership opportunity for the brand.

Article source: Mashable
Additional product links: Pampers

Google project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 at 2.06.56 PM

A new project from Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120, aims to help people find things to do and others who share your same interests. Through a new app called Shoelace, users can browse through a set of hand-picked activities, or add their own to a map. For example, someone who wanted to connect with fellow dog owners could start an activity for a doggie playdate at the park, then start a group chat to coordinate the details and make new friends.

The end result feels a bit like a mashup of Facebook Events with a WhatsApp group chat, perhaps. But it’s wrapped in a clean, modern design that appeals more to the millennial or Gen Z user.

Why it’s hot:

If Shoelace is successful at bringing like-minded and like-interested people together, the functionality could be used by clients, like Enfamil, that are trying to inspire real-world and real-life connections between moms, in an authentic and less brand-centric way.

 

Source: New Google Area 120 project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests | TechCrunch

Forget a Thousand Words. Pictures Could Be Worth Big Bucks for Amazon Fashion – Adweek

Amazon is rolling out StyleSnap, its AI-enabled shopping feature that helps you shop from a photograph or snapshot. Consumers upload images to the Amazon app and it considers factors like brand, price and reviews to recommend similar items.

Amazon has been able to leverage data from brands sold on its site to develop products that are good enough or close enough to the originals, usually at lower price points, and thereby gain an edge, but its still only a destination for basics like T-shirts and socks. With StyleSnap, Amazon is hoping to further crack the online retailing sector with this new offering.

Why It’s Hot

Snapping and sharing is already part of retail culture, and now Amazon is creating a simple and seamless way of adding the shop and purchase to this ubiquitous habit.  The combination of AI and user reviews in its algorithm could change the way we shop when recommendations aren’t only based on the look of an item, but also on how customers experience it.

 

Source: Forget a Thousand Words. Pictures Could Be Worth Big Bucks for Amazon Fashion – Adweek

Other sources: https://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-stylesnap-uses-ai-to-help-you-shop-for-clothes/