Remember when Target released their insanely popular and highly anticipated partnership with Zac Posen? Back then, the existence of that partnership alone drove enough PR and excitement to make that launch an astronomical success.
Fast forward to today. H&M is dropping its new collection in partnership with Kangol. But that is certainly not enough to entice Gen Z today. Beyond the new partnership and, of course, clothing collection, the brands partnered with British pop start Mabel – not just as a spokesperson but – to create a music video along with new 6 AR-filters that allow people to star in their own music videos (and H&M social channels). Basically, H&M’s new collection is a Tik-Tok campaign on Insta.
Amazon’s new fitness band adds body fat, movement, sleep and mood to the mountain of data Amazon is amassing. Whether streaming on Amazon Prime, shopping on Amazon.com, buying groceries at Whole Foods, Amazon is ready to…errrr…help?
Why it’s Hot – The increasing convergence of our digital and analog lives is brining the questions of privacy and data sovereignty to the forefront, while also creating new potential opportunities for marketers (just think about what a partnership between Microsoft and Walmart to buy TikTok could mean).
From The Verge:
mazonAmazon is getting into the health gadget market with a new fitness band and subscription service called Halo. Unlike the Apple Watch or even most basic Fitbits, the Amazon Halo band doesn’t have a screen. The app that goes along with it comes with the usual set of fitness tracking features along with two innovative — and potentially troubling — ideas: using your camera to create 3D scans for body fat and listening for the emotion in your voice.
The Halo band will cost $99.99 and the service (which is required for Halo’s more advanced features) costs $3.99 per month. Amazon is launching it as an invite-only early access program today with an introductory price of $64.99 that includes six months of the service for free. The Halo service is a separate product that isn’t part of Amazon Prime.
The lack of a screen on the Halo band is the first indicator that Amazon is trying to carve out a niche for itself that’s focused a little less on sports and exercise and a little more on lifestyle changes. Alongside cardio, sleep, body fat, and voice tone tracking, a Halo subscription will offer a suite of “labs” developed by partners. They’re short challenges designed to improve your health habits — like meditation, improving your sleep habits, or starting up basic exercise routines.
The Halo band “is not a medical device,” Amazon tells me. As such, it hasn’t submitted the device to the FDA for any sort of approval, including the lighter-touch “FDA clearance” that so many other fitness bands have used.
The Amazon Halo intro video | Source: Amazon
THE HALO BAND HARDWARE
TheThe Halo Band consists of a sensor module and a band that clicks into it on top. It’s a simple concept and one we’ve seen before. The lack of a display means that if you want to check your steps or the time, you’ll need to strap something else to your wrist or just check your phone.
The band lacks increasingly standard options like GPS, Wi-Fi, or a cellular radio, another sign that it’s meant to be a more laid-back kind of tracker. It has an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones, an LED indicator light, and a button to turn the microphones on or off. The microphones are not for speaking to Alexa, by the way, they’re there for the voice tone feature. There is explicitly no Alexa integration.
It communicates with your phone via Bluetooth, and it should work equally well with both iPhones and Android phones. The three main band colors that will be sold are onyx (black), mineral (light blue), and rose gold (pink-ish).
There will of course be a series of optional bands so you can choose one to match your style — and all of them bear no small resemblance to popular Apple Watch bands. The fabric bands will cost $19.99 and the sport bands will be $15.99.
Amazon intends for users to leave the Halo Band on all the time: the battery should last a full week and the sensor is water resistant up to 5ATM. Amazon calls it “swimproof.”
But where the Halo service really differentiates itself is in two new features, called Body and Tone. The former uses your smartphone camera to capture a 3D scan of your body and then calculate your body fat, and the latter uses a microphone on the Halo Band to listen to the tone of your voice and report back on your emotional state throughout the day.
BodyBody scans work with just your smartphone’s camera. The app instructs you to wear tight-fitting clothing (ideally just your underwear) and then stand back six feet or so from your camera. Then it takes four photos (front, back, and both sides) and uploads them to Amazon’s servers where they’re combined into a 3D scan of your body that’s sent back to your phone. The data is then deleted from Amazon’s servers.
Once you have the 3D scan, Amazon uses machine learning to analyze it and calculate your body fat percentage. Amazon argues that body fat percentage is a more reliable indicator of health than either weight or body mass index. Amazon also claims that smart scales that try to measure body fat using bioelectrical impedance are not as accurate as its scan. Amazon says it did an internal study to back up those claims and may begin submitting papers to peer-reviewed medical journals in the future.
Finally, once you have your scan, the app will give you a little slider you can drag your finger on to have it show what you would look like with more or less body fat.
That feature is meant to be educational and motivational, but it could also be literally dangerous for people with body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia, or other self-image issues. I asked Amazon about this directly and the company says that it has put in what it hopes are a few safeguards: the app recommends you only scan yourself every two weeks, it won’t allow the slider to show dangerously low levels of body fat, and it has information about how low body fat can increase your risk for certain health problems. Finally, although anybody 13 years of age and up can use the Halo Band, the body scan feature will only be allowed for people 18 or older.
TRACKING THE TONE OF YOUR VOICE
TheThe microphone on the Amazon Halo band isn’t meant for voice commands; instead it listens to your voice and reports back on what it believes your emotional state was throughout the day. If you don’t opt in, the microphone on the Band doesn’t do anything at all.
Once you opt in, the Halo app will have you read some text back to it so that it can train a model on your voice, allowing the Halo band to only key in on your tone and not those around you. After that, the band will intermittently listen to your voice and judge it on metrics like positivity and energy.
It’s a passive and intermittent system, meaning that you can’t actively ask it to read your tone, and it’s not listening all of the time. You can also mute the mic at any time by pressing the button until a red blinking LED briefly appears to show you it’s muted.
Amazon is quick to note that your voice is never uploaded to any servers and never heard by any humans. Instead, the band sends its audio snippets to your phone via Bluetooth, and it’s analyzed there. Amazon says that the Halo app immediately deletes the voice samples after it analyzes it for your emotional state.
It picks up on the pitch, intensity, rhythm, and tempo of your voice and then categorizes them into “notable moments” that you can go back and review throughout the day. Some of the emotional states include words like hopeful, elated, hesitant, bored, apologetic, happy, worried, confused, and affectionate.
We asked Amazon whether this Tone feature was tested across differing accents, gender, and cultures. A spokesperson says that it “has been a top priority for our team” but that “if you have an accent you can use Tone but your results will likely be less accurate. Tone was modeled on American English but it’s only day one and Tone will continue to improve.”
BothBoth the Body and Tone features are innovative uses of applied AI, but they are likely to set off any number of privacy alarm bells. Amazon says that it is being incredibly careful with user data. The company will post a document detailing every type of data, where it’s stored, and how to delete it.
Every feature is opt-in, easy to turn off, and it’s easy to delete data. For example, there’s no requirement you create a body scan and even if you do, human reviewers will never see those images. Amazon says the most sensitive data like body scans and Tone data are only stored locally (though photos do need to temporarily be uploaded so Amazon’s servers can build the 3D model). Amazon isn’t even allowing Halo to integrate with other fitness apps like Apple Health at launch.
Some of the key points include:
Your Halo profile is distinct from your Amazon account — and will need to be individually activated with a second factor like a text message so that anybody else that might share your Amazon Prime can’t get to it.
You can download and delete any data that’s stored in the cloud at any time, or reset your account to zero.
Body scans and tone data can be individually deleted separately from the rest of your health data.
Body scans are only briefly uploaded to Amazon’s servers then deleted “within 12 hours” and scan images are never shared to other apps like the photo gallery unless you explicitly export an image.
Voice recordings are analyzed locally on your phone and then deleted. “Speech samples are processed locally and never sent to the cloud,” Amazon says, adding that “Tone data won’t be used for training purposes.”
Data can be shared with third parties, including some partners like WW (formerly Weight Watchers). Data generated by the “labs” feature is only shared as anonymous aggregate info.
ACTIVITY AND SLEEP TRACKING
TheThe body scanning and tone features might be the most flashy (or, depending on your perspective, most creepy) parts of Halo, but the thing you’ll likely spend the most time watching is your activity score.
Amazon’s Halo app tracks your cardio fitness on a weekly basis instead of daily — allowing for rest days. It does count steps, but on a top level what you get is an abstracted score (and, of course, a ring to complete) that’s more holistic. Just as Google did in 2018, Amazon has worked with the American Heart Association to develop the abstracted Activity score.
The Halo band uses its heart monitor to distinguish between intense, moderate, and light activity. The app combines those to ensure you’re hitting a weekly target. Instead of the Apple Watch’s hourly “stand” prompts, the Halo app tracks how long you have been “sedentary.” If you go for more than 8 hours without doing much (not counting sleep), the app will begin to deduct from your weekly activity score.
The Halo band can automatically detect activities like walking and running, but literally every other type of exercise will need to be manually entered into the app. The whole system feels less designed for workout min-maxers and more for people who just want to start being more active in the first place.
Speaking of heart tracking, the Halo band doesn’t proactively alert you to heart conditions like a-fib, nor does it do fall detection.
The Halo band’s sleep tracking similarly tries to create an abstracted score, though you can dig in and view details on your REM sleep and other metrics. One small innovation that the Halo band shares with the new Fitbit is temperature monitoring. It uses a three-day baseline when you are sleeping and from there can show a chart of your average body temperature when you wake up.
HALO LABS, PARTNERSHIPS, AND THE SUBSCRIPTION
Finally,Finally, Amazon has partnered with several third parties to create services and studies to go along with the Halo service. For example, if your health care provider’s system is compatible with Cerner, you can choose to share your body fat percentage with your provider’s electronic medical records system. Amazon says it will also be a fully subsidized option for the John Hancock Vitality wellness program.
The flagship partnership is with WW, which syncs up data from Halo into WW’s own FitPoints system. WW will also be promoting the Halo Band itself to people who sign up for its service.
There are dozens of lower-profile partnerships, which will surface in the Halo app as “Labs.” Many of the labs will surface as four-week “challenges” designed to get you to change your health habits. Partners creating Labs range from Mayo Clinic, Exhale, Aaptiv, Lifesum, Headspace, and more. So there might be a lab encouraging you to give yoga a try, or a set of advice on sleeping better like kicking your pet out of your bedroom.
Amazon says each Lab needs to be developed with “scientific evidence” of its effectiveness and Amazon will audit them. Data crated from these challenges will be shared with those partners, but only in an aggregated, anonymous way.
Virtually all the features discussed here are part of the $3.99/month Halo subscription. If you choose to let it lapse, the Halo band will still do basic activity and sleep tracking.
In charging a monthly subscription, Amazon is out on a limb compared to most of its competitors. Companies like Fitbit and Withings offer some of the same features you can get out of the Halo system, including sleep tracking and suggestions for improving your fitness. They also have more full-featured bands with displays and other functionality. And of course there’s the Apple Watch, which will have deeper and better integrations with the iPhone than will ever be possible for the Halo band.
Overall, Halo is a curious mix. Its hardware is intentionally less intrusive and less feature-rich than competitors, and its pricing strategy puts Amazon on the hook for creating new, regular content to keep people subscribed (exercise videos seem like a natural next step). Meanwhile, the body scanning feature goes much further than other apps in directly digitizing your self-image — which is either appealing or disturbing depending on your relationship to your self image. And the emotion tracking with Tone is completely new and more than a little weird.
The mix is so eclectic that I can’t possibly guess who it might appeal to. People who are more serious about exercise and fitness will surely want more than what’s on offer in the hardware itself, and people who just sort of want to be a little more active may balk at the subscription price. And since the Halo band doesn’t offer the same health alerts like fall detection or abnormal heart rate detection, using it as a more passive health monitor isn’t really an option either.
That doesn’t mean the Halo system can’t succeed. Amazon’s vision of a more holistic health gadget is appealing, and some of its choices in how it aggregates and presents health data is genuinely better than simple step counting or ring completion.
We won’t really know how well the Halo system does for some time, either. Amazon’s opening it up as an early access program for now, which means you need to request to join rather than just signing up and buying it.
This Back-to-School (BTS) year is unlike any other and so is its advertising. According to research, BTS advertising so far in July is down almost 50% vs. year-ago period as many retail marketers pull back on spending and families remain unsure of whether kids will return to in-person classes this Fall.
But there’s a silver lining to this. Despite BTS advertising budgets being down, the quality of the work that does exist – which is usually pretty cliché filled with sunny and happy kids in yellow buses – is up.
From JansPort backpacks #LightentheLoad campaign tackling mental health in today’s volatile and uncertain environment through candid teen interviews to Old Navy’s campaign starring five activists (reflecting today’s civil rights movements and concerns) to the Tik-Tok influenced campaigns by Hollister and American Eagle, the work is more relevant and grounded as it leans into the realities of the pandemic head on.
Although Hollister’s creative isn’t necessarily my favorite, their light-hearted “Jeanology” campaign which riffs on the idea of conducting science experiments with Bill Nye has a lot going for it. As part of the campaign, Hollister entered a long-term partnership with the D’Amelios, who rank among the most popular content creators on TikTok. The tie-up extends beyond social media content, as the D’Amelios’ hand-selected denim picks will receive a special tag in stores and online starting today.
TikTok also continues to have a strong hold on the attention of Gen Z: The percentage of U.S. consumers ages 13 to 35 who use it rose to 27% in April from 19% in January, according to Civic Science data, as the service saw a surge in activity as a result of the coronavirus.
Why it’s hot: It’s interesting to see how brands are adapting to address the moment – not just from a messaging but production standpoint. Also, for Hollister in particular, it’s cool to see that the campaign extends beyond the video app to cover all of the brand’s social media channels, as well as in-store activations. A true URL + IRL campaign.
Sales of voice control devices are expected to experience a boom in growth, thanks to people being locked down and working from home. This is also expected to fuel growth in the broader ecosystem of smart home devices – as instructions to minimize contact with objects that haven’t been disinfected, make things like connected light switches, thermostats and door locks more appealing than ever.
Why It’s Hot: A critical mass of device penetration and usage will undoubtedly make this a more meaningful platform for brands and marketers to connect and engage with consumers.
With so many millions of people working from home, the value of voice control during the pandemic will ensure that this year, voice control device shipments will grow globally by close to 30% over 2019–despite the key China market being impacted during the first quarter of 2020, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.
Woman Preparing Meal At Home Asking Digital Assistant Question
Last year, 141 million voice control smart home devices shipped worldwide, the firm said. Heeding the advice to minimize COVID-19 transmission from shared surfaces, even within a home, will help cement the benefits of smart home voice control for millions of consumers, ABI Research said.
“A smarter home can be a safer home,” said Jonathan Collins, ABI research director, in a statement. “Key among the recommendations regarding COVID-19 protection in the home is to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas,” such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.
Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space, Collins said. Using voice control means people can avoid commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones, to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles, and more. Voice can also be leveraged for online shopping and information gathering, he said.
When used in conjunction with other smart home devices, voice brings greater benefits, Collins said.
“Voice can be leveraged to control and monitor smart locks to enable deliveries to be placed in the home or another secure location directly or monitored securely on the doorstep until the resident can bring them in,” he said.
Similarly, smart doorbells/video cameras can also ensure deliveries are received securely without the need for face-to-face interaction or exposure, he added. “Such delivery capabilities are especially valuable for those already in home quarantine or for those receiving home testing kits,” Collins said.
He believes that over the long term, “voice control will continue to be the Trojan horse of smart home adoption.” Right now, the pandemic is part of the additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home to help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications, Collins said.
“Greater emphasis and understanding, and above all, a change of habit and experience in moving away from physical actuation toward using voice in the home will support greater smart home expansion throughout individual homes,” he said. “A greater emphasis on online shopping and delivery will also drive smart home device adoption to ensure those deliveries are securely delivered.”
The legacy of COVID-19 will be that the precautions being taken now will continue for millions of people who are bringing new routines into their daily lives in and around their homes and will for a long time to come, Collins said.
“Smart home vendors and system providers can certainly emphasize the role of voice and other smart home implementations to improve the day-to-day routines within a home and the ability to minimize contact with shared surfaces, as well as securing and automating home deliveries.”
Additionally, he said there is value in integrating smart home monitoring and remote health monitoring with a range of features, such as collecting personal health data points like temperature, activity, and heart rate, alongside environmental data such as air quality and occupancy. This can “help in the wider response and engagement for smart city health management,” Collins said.
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.
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.
Home-related publications like Real Simple, Hunker and Domino are using model houses to create experiential retail experiences that can drive affiliate revenue.
Domino magazine has created staged homes for years. But this year’s house, located in Sag Harbor, NY was the first to include shoppable technology into the space. In partnership with Stage&Shop, a real estate agency and an app developer, Domino created an app that integrate codes into all of the house’s furniture and design elements that people touring the home could scan to purchase them.
Domino’s winter issue will have a feature on the home, which will also include QR codes for those products that readers use their smartphone to scan.
Brands were included in the home through product placement, and affiliate links were used in the shoppable content as well as in the house itself. But the primary revenue driver for the project still comes from the content created surrounding the home, including its print spread and digital elements. And while it’s an ongoing franchise for the brand, Cho said that Domino isn’t leaning on that revenue, but is looking for constant iterations of how to make the project better and a bigger piece of the puzzle.
Why It’s Hot: An interesting convergence of digital and physical, potentially symbiotically solving parallel/complementary problems of retail and ecommerce experiences:
Online purchase is convenient, but I don’t get to see, touch, try physical goods before buying.
Retail purchase is experiential, but I don’t want all of the friction of purchase and transport home.
The Alabama football coach, has long been peeved that the student section at Bryant-Denny Stadium empties early. So this season, the university is rewarding students who attend games — and stay until the fourth quarter — with an alluring prize: improved access to tickets to the SEC championship game and to the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, which Alabama is trying to reach for the fifth consecutive season.
But to do this, Alabama is taking an extraordinary, Orwellian step: using location-tracking technology from students’ phones to see who skips out and who stays. “It’s kind of like Big Brother,” said Allison Isidore, a graduate student in religious studies from Montclair, N.J.
It also seems inevitable in an age when tech behemoths like Facebook, Google and Amazon harvest data from phones, knowing where users walk, what they watch and how they shop. Alabama isn’t the only college tapping into student data; the University of North Carolina uses location-tracking technology to see whether its football players and other athletes are in class.
Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director, said privacy concerns rarely came up when the program was being discussed with other departments and student groups. Students who download the Tide Loyalty Points app will be tracked only inside the stadium, he said, and they can close the app — or delete it — once they leave the stadium. “If anybody has a phone, unless you’re in airplane mode or have it off, the cellular companies know where you are,” he said.
But Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog, said it was “very alarming” that a public university — an arm of the government — was tracking its students’ whereabouts.
“Why should packing the stadium in the fourth quarter be the last time the government wants to know where students are?” Schwartz said, adding that it was “inappropriate” to offer an incentive for students to give up their privacy. “A public university is a teacher, telling students what is proper in a democratic society.”
The creator of the app, FanMaker, runs apps for 40 colleges, including Clemson, Louisiana State and Southern California, which typically reward fans with gifts like T-shirts. The app it created for Alabama is the only one that tracks the locations of its students. That Alabama would want it is an example of how even a powerhouse program like the Crimson Tide is not sheltered from college football’s decline in attendance, which sank to a 22-year low last season.
The Tide Loyalty Points program works like this: Students, who typically pay about $10 for home tickets, download the app and earn 100 points for attending a home game and an additional 250 for staying until the fourth quarter. Those points augment ones they garner mostly from progress they have made toward their degrees — 100 points per credit hour. (A regular load would be 15 credits per semester, or 1,500 points.)
The students themselves had no shortage of proposed solutions.
“Sell beer; that would keep us here,” said Harrison Powell, a sophomore engineering major from Naples, Fla.
“Don’t schedule cupcakes,” said Garrett Foster, a senior management major from Birmingham, referring to Alabama’s ritually soft non-conference home schedule, which this year includes Western Carolina, Southern Mississippi and New Mexico State. (Byrne has set about beefing it up, scheduling home-and-home series with Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, but those don’t start until 2022.)
In the meantime, there is also time for students to solve their own problems, which is, after all, the point of going to college. An Alabama official figured it would not be long before pledges are conscripted to hold caches of phones until the fourth quarter so their fraternity brothers could leave early.
“Without a doubt,” said Wolf, the student from Philadelphia. “I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s the first game. There will be workarounds for sure.”
As for whether the app, with its privacy concerns, early bugs and potential loopholes, will do its job well enough to please Saban was not a subject he was willing to entertain as the sun began to set on Saturday. He was looking ahead to the next opponent: South Carolina.
Why It’s Hot:
Another example of a brand/institution using gamification to influence behavior, this takes it a step further – pushing towards the edge of the privacy conversation, and perhaps leading us all to consider what might be an acceptable “exchange rate” for personal information.
Keeping an eye on subtle changes in common health risks is not an easy task for the average person. Yet, by the time real symptoms are obvious, it’s often too late to take the kind of action that would prevent a problem from snow-balling.
Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed an app that appears capable of turning a 30-second selfie into a diagnostic tool for quantifying a range of health risks.
“Anura promises an impressively thorough physical examination for just half a minute of your time. Simply based on a person’s facial features, captured through the latest deep learning technology, it can assess heart rate, breathing, stress, skin age, vascular age, body mass index (yes, from your face!), Cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke risk, cardiac workload, vascular capacity, blood pressure, and more.”
It’s easy to be skeptical about the accuracy of results possible from simply looking at a face for 30 seconds, but the researchers have demonstrated accuracy of measuring blood pressure up to 96% – and when the objective is to give people a way of realizing when it might be time to take action, that level of accuracy may actually be more than enough.
Why It’s Hot
For marketers looking to better identify the times, places and people for whom their products and services are likely to be most relevant, the convergence of biometrics with advanced algorithms and AI – all in a device most people carry around with them every day – could be a game-changer.
(This also brings up perennial issues of privacy & personal information, and trade-offs we need to make for the benefits emerging tech provides.)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., singled out Grubhub over the weekend, calling for greater oversight after allegations of unfair trade practices. The senior New York senator was reacting to recent reports that the delivery app company had improperly charged restaurants fees even when an order had not taken place.
Councilman Mark Gjonaj, the New York City lawmaker spearheading the push to regulate Grubhub, said it goes beyond just bogus fees.
“These mom-and-pop shops have an unfair disadvantage,” Gjonaj told CNBC’s “Fast Money ” on Monday. “They’re competing against billion-dollar venture capital-invested companies. The fee structure is up to 33% of the total charges, and we know [their] profits are 6% to 12%. On every order, there is a net loss to these small businesses.”
Grubhub, DoorDash, UberEats, etc. have created a huge benefit for consumers to easily have food delivered easy peasy, but whenever someone wins, somebody else usually loses. In this case the consumer is winning with food delivery wars creating tons of competition and incentives for us to have food delivered for a small fee and ultra convenience.
Well this story shows how it impacts these local restaurants with crazy fees that result in net losses in a low margin business to begin with. This brings to light if these disruptive digital businesses are viable with their high fees and increasing costs (higher minimum wage), etc.
DoorDash recently passed up GrubHub in revenue and eyeing an IPO, but for that convenience are small and local businesses going to be able to afford those fees or will only the larger establishments with high volume and margins be able to survive?
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.
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.
AI counseling is the wave of the future. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy administered by a smart chatbot, via an app relying on SMS, has become highly popular and well reviewed. Woebot isn’t just the face of a trend, it’s a notable player in technology transforming healthcare.
Why It’s Hot
It’s not new. It’s better. The first counseling software was called Eliza. It was ~1966. Part of the difficulty was it required human intervention. Ironically, in 2019 when many believe a lack of human contact to be part of the problem, that void actually addresses a barrier in therapy. Perceived lack of anonymity and privacy. Sure therapist visits are confidential blah blah but people naturally have difficulty opening up in person. Plus there’s the waiting room anxiety. With an app, studies have shown that people get to the heart of their problem quicker.
Why it Matters
There’s a ton of demand for “talk therapy” and others. Human counselors can’t keep up. People wait weeks and months for appointments. That’s in the U.S. where they’re compensated well. In this On Demand age, that’s seen as unacceptable. Woebot, and others, address the market need for immediate gratification care. Another issue is cost. Therapy is expensive. Apps are obviously a solve here. No co-pay.
All the apps remind users they’re no substitute for human counselors but they are helpful in reflecting behavior patterns and emotional red flags back to their users. At the very least, it’ll help you make the most of your next therapy visit.
Heard about the trend “Hit or Miss”? That’s from TikTok. There are similar platforms. “Depending on who you ask, it’s either an entertaining gathering place for younger and older generations or, well … incredibly cringey… For every spontaneous clip filmed by two college kids, there’s a jarringly artificial video of someone dressed superficially and seeking nothing but attention.”
Why does this matter? Generation Z is all over it.They seem to inherently know how to capture a digital slice of life, edit it, add filters, special effects, a soundtrack, craft a promotion plan complete with catchy hook and hashtag. Brands attempting to reach them need to learn to think like them.One big setback is how brands think long-term. Their audience is thinking about right now. That has its pitfalls. Reference any number of fallen YouTube influencers. The pay off, if done well, can be huge. Tread carefully.
Burger King got national attention this week for offering 1-cent Whoppers to those who drove up to a McDonald’s location (and then, presumably, drove away to redeem their BK coupons). Key to the stunt was the brand’s smartphone app, which unlocked the offer when it detected users approaching within 600 feet of a McDonald’s.
The “Whopper Detour” sent customers to a rival’s doorstep, and it worked, in terms of both publicity and app downloads.
Burger King today said its app was downloaded more than 1 million times since Whopper Detour launched on Tuesday, and the app is currently No. 1 among free software in the Apple App Store. That puts Burger King’s app, for now at least, above app giants like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Amazon.
(The McDonald’s app, in case you’re curious, is currently at No. 42.)
Why It’s Hot:
Brands trolling other brands has become a sure fire way to go viral, this uses brand trolling in conjunction with location based apps to drive people to a competitor and it worked to drive sales and app downloads.
It seems solving the pain points of delayed air travelers has become one of 2018’s hottest challenges. The latest brand to take it on is insurance brand AXA, via “fizzy”, it’s smart travel insurance.
Here’s how it works – “AXA’s blockchain-powered insurance plan, called Fizzy, covers travelers for delays of up to two hours or more. When customers purchase insurance using Fizzy, all details and contract agreements are recorded publicly, on the Ethereum blockchain. The contracts, which are connected to global air traffic monitoring databases, automatically trigger compensation payouts when a delay of more than two hours is recorded.”
In otherwords, you get paid (automatically) when you get delayed.
Why it’s hot:
First, it’s one of the most simple and practical, yet smart uses of blockchain and smart contracts we’ve seen yet. There’s plenty of chatter about the potential of blockchain, but considerably fewer actual things consumers can currently do that are blockchain enabled.
One of the biggest headaches with insurance can be having to make claims and waiting to be compensated. fizzy automatically knows when you should be compensated and does so “by the time your flight lands”. So, a matter of hours instead of days.
Xfinity (to promote its mobile carrier service) recently unleashed a suite of 6-second pre-roll ads to show customers of their competitors exactly how much money a YouTube video they watch costs them in data.
The company says it’s tailoring the ads based on users’ carrier (AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon), and the type of video they’ve chosen to watch, making it hyper-relevant to each viewer.
Why It’s Hot:
It’s not just advertising, but utility. If anyone you know can tell you how much it costs them to use data for different applications or purposes, they’re much more clued in than the rest of us. But more importantly, it’s intended to be personalized to each user, further signaling that the future of advertising (and products) are truly individualized.
To promote its live stream of the recent NBA Finals, ESPN pulled an interesting stunt in Manhattan – Airdropping images with text connecting what people were doing with watching the finals.
Why It’s Hot
I’m not sure it is either real, or hot, but what’s seemingly interesting and clever is the fact that they utilized an overlooked iOS feature and used it to personalized their message on a one-to-one basis.
Target announced that it will introduce drive-up service to hundreds of its stores in an attempt to make brick-and-mortar experience as convenient as online shopping. Customers place their order using the Target app and wait in a designated parking space outside of the store. Employees will then hand-deliver the purchases, which are available about two hours after the order is placed.
Stores near the company’s headquarters of Minneapolis adopted the service this past fall. They are not the only brick-and-mortar to try this — about a year ago, Amazon opened two grocery stores with ‘curbside pickup’ in Seattle, and Walmart began testing an automated kiosk that allowed customers to place their order pull up to retrieve it. Even Walmart implementing their system for employees to drive you your groceries, or Amazon implementing their store with no check out line can fall under this category. By the end of the year, Target “hopes to implement the service in a thousand more stores across the country.”
Why it’s hot: While this isn’t necessarily new and hot, it is yet another example of brick and mortar trying to offer their customers seamless experiences.
Everyone reading this is playing HQ, right? It’s pretty amazing. A live trivia game is hardly anything new – dating back to not only television but radio! – but it’s very well done. And it feels like one of those things that is right place/right time.
HQ is a new live mobile trivia game for iOS from the creators of the late short-form video app Vine. Each day, at 3PM and 9PM ET, the app comes to life for around 13 minutes. A well-dressed host — either New York-based comedian Scott Rogowsky or British on-air personality Sharon Carpenter — then rattles off 12 multiple choice questions live on camera, while a busy live text chat flows at the bottom of the screen. Answer every question correctly and you’ll be one of a small handful of people that splits a $250 prize pool.
Why It’s Hot:
So much of technology in recent years has been about allowing us to connect on our own time, remotely. Perhaps counterintuitively, HQ works because it forces everyone to be playing the game at the exact same time. It’s thrilling in a way that no other social service has been able to provide. It challenges the “on demand” trend and focuses on getting everyone participating to the same thing, at the same time.
A few weeks ago I posted an article that spoke to the value connected medicine dispensing could bring to healthcare.
What I neglected to mention is the plethora of HIPAA hurdles that the healthcare industry faces when it begins collecting patient-specific healthcare data on mobile devices such as phones, tablets or wearables.
Thankfully there may be a solution on the horizon that significantly circumvents this challenge.
In the past, if a client were to build an app that collected patient-specific medical data, the entire phone would then be considered a “medical device.” The challenge with this lies in the relative inability of a healthcare company to effectively to manage HIPAA compliance on a device they rarely have contact with.
However, the FDA’s new Digital Health Innovation Action Plan is looking at ways to view the software as the components of a tech solution that needs to be regulated. This effectively paves the way for healthcare companies and the companies to more deeply integrate mobile technology with healthcare.
As part of the plan, the FDA is seeking 9 that meet the following criteria for its pilot initiative;
Business is developing or planning to develop tools that meet the FDA’s definition of a device — one intended to be used to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease;
Company has an existing track record in developing, testing, and maintaining software products use key performance indicators for quality control;
Must agree to provide access to performance measures during the pilot
Collect real-world post-market performance data and provide it to the FDA;
Availability for consultations and site visits from FDA officials
Verily (the health unit of Google parent Alphabet)
Johnson & Johnson
“We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate, and helps foster beneficial technology while ensuring that consumers have access to high-quality, safe and effective digital health devices,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “These pilot participants will help the agency shape a better and agiler approach toward digital health technology that focuses on the software developer rather than an individual product.”
The end goal of the program is to develop a regulatory framework for software as a medical device so that companies with established, tried and tested quality assurance protocols would be able to update their products faster.
Why It’s Hot:
in the past, mobile devices such as wearables, phone or tablets that collected patient data weren’t HIPAA compliant. This new FDA initiative opens up the potential to build technology that makes these devices HIPAA compliant opening up vast new opportunities for the healthcare industry.
In Colombia, young lovers often resort to stealing moments of intimacy in places where they risk being interrupted (such as a parent’s house, or in a parked car).
To help them get their hot-n-heavy, Condom brand Duo released an app to alert young lovers in Colombia when they risk being caught having sex.
To work, the app requires two mobile phones with cameras. One phone is placed in the area where the interruption is likely to come from and acts like a motion sensor. When someone (or something) disturbs the scene, the first phone sends a message (and an image of the intruder) to the second phone, alerting the lovers and giving them time to compose themselves.
According to Geometry Global, the app attracted 62,262downloads, more than 23,000 monthly active users, and the brand achieved a 23% increase in sales in the fourth quarter of 2016, and a 20% lift in the first quarter of 2017.
Why It’s Hot
We’ll its sex related
Brand solved a very real pain point for their core audience; young consumers who are likely to live at home and crave privacy
As reported by The Verge, yesterday Google rolled out a new mobile feature to help people who might think they’re depressed sort it out. Now, when someone searches “depression” on Google from a mobile device (as in the screenshot above), it suggests “check if you’re clinically depressed” – connecting users to a 9 question quiz to help them find out if they need professional help.
Why It’s Hot:
As usual, Google shows that utility is based on intent – instead of just connecting people to information, they’re connecting information to people. In this case, it could be particularly impactful since “People who have symptoms of depression — such as anxiety, insomnia, or fatigue — wait an average of six to eight years before getting treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”
Every year, there are 44,000 accidents causing injuries and in only 10% of cases do the emergency services reach the scene in time. This lateness or non-arrival of first aid leads to 14,000 deaths annually.
So life insurance brand AIA decided to harness the country’s 35 million smartphone devices to enable people to get help faster. Open Aiya, created my Happiness FCB Saigon, is a mobile app that allows people to alert their contacts about an accident even if they can’t reach their phone.
When a user says, ‘Hey Siri, Open AIYA’ the voice activated panic system automatically sends an SMS to family, friends and the emergency services. The message contains the person’s precise GPS location so they are easier to assist.
Why It’s Hot:
-Yet another example of brands finding a pain point that aligns with their business model, and solving it through innovative tech….and develop a first of it’s kind, at that (the first voice-activated panic system)
When it comes to digital adoption, it seems a no-brainer; isn’t everyone engaged? No. A notable exception are medical professionals. Doctors and nurses (NP/PA’s) tend to lean towards the conservative — not only politically, but in terms of their digital adoption. A recent study by HealthLink Dimensions, an email list and Big Data firm, produced a study on their information-gathering preferences among 700 medical professionals.
Email may seems so…yesterday. Yet, 75% of NPs and PAs and 66% of MDs prefer email for communication regarding the following:
• Industry news
• Product updates
• Research opportunities
What device is favored for reading email? Specifically, almost 52% of NPs/PAs and 46% of MDs utilize mobile devices; while almost 53% of NPs/PAs and 51% of MDs use desktop computers to comb through their emails.
Social Media? They love their closed, private peer-to-peer communities, such as SERMO (600K doctors)
Per the survey, 66% of NPs/PAs and 63% of MDs don’t use social media to communicate with patients. Instead, only one-third of these medical professionals are active on social media – mainly Twitter, LinkedIn, SERMO and Doximity – primarily for networking with their colleagues and peers
Last is print: 50% of NPs/PAs and 46% of MDs frequently use printed materials provided to their practices
Why is this hot?As with all customers we strategically serve, their content consumption habits have a major impact upon our planning. Knowing this, we must always realize to be customer-centric is to not fall in love with a shiny media object or a cool platform…
Time is a critical factor for HCP’s which drive what they consume and how; with an average of less than 15 minutes per patient, you know when it is a mobile device, they are on the move, doing rounds, trying to solve problems in real-time; your content and experience should embrace that. So, snippets of content are smart when you want them to be consumed at POC (Point-of-Care); conversely, HCP’s often have to consume intense medical journals, clinical studies and dense scientific content, which requires a desktop or laptop
Using Performance/Analytics to see how your clients’ content is consumed by time and device provides an invaluable insight into content strategy; if you want it to be useful in the NOW, then snippets, mobile-first; if you want to provide deeper content, then plan for desktop, but always offer email/download functions to account for mobile
After seven years, the digital band, Gorillaz, are releasing a new album, and as part of their promotion, a new app is encouraging people to find the color magenta to unlock unique content.
Deutsche Telekom has created the Lenz app that will unlock new content for users whenever they hover it over something magenta — the brand’s corporate color.
The brand has teamed up with the virtual band, Gorillaz, to launch the Lenz app, which was created by Saatchi & Saatchi for the Deutsche Telekom music and lifestyle platform, Electronic Beats. With the new app, when a user finds something magenta (it could be a t-shirt, a flower or anyting that matches the Pantone range), they can hold their phone over it, to reveal new content from Gorillaz, including the first ever “live” interview with the band using motion capture and composition technology, and exclusive clips from the band’s new album “Humanz,” dropping on April 28. The app uses Chroma Keying technology to use the color to unlock the content.
This is a really cool activation. It is great positioning for Deutsche Telekom because it’s not overly intrusive or brand-heavy. And Gorillaz of course gain additional buzz around their upcoming album. I think this is a great example of a brand involving itself in a moment without trying to take it over.
When’s the last time you opened up a bank account? Whether it was applying online or in-person at a bank retail, the process involved ton of paperwork and ID authentications via your driver license, passport, social security card, etc. Most often, we had to visit our nearest bank to get faster services – instead of waiting on the phone with a customer service representative, speaking to my bank rep always expedited my checks and debit cards. But nowthat most service features are automated by our apps, will we still need brick and mortar banks?
Banking startups don’t think so. The new era of banking is mobile-first/mobile-only – Starling Bank UK launched without a single brick and mortar location. You still have to apply online but upon approval of your account, which involves things like photographing your passport or driving license via the app, you are issued a Starling Bank MasterCard debit card that can be used in the U.K. and abroad.
Why it’s hot:
The banks allows you to :
view your current account activity in real time, something most legacy banks fail or fall over trying to do. This takes the form of push notifications and the “Starling Pulse,” a real-time feed that displays all your account activity.
secure the app using biometric identification. In addition to being asked to provide a 6-10 digit passcode, you are asked to record a short video message of you reading out a specific phrase. If you find your fat thumb making passcode mistakes and locking you out, you can voice open the bank app.
Originally a niche brand for smartphone fingerprint recognition, Nurugo is branching out with a new product in the beauty market. They developed an app called SmartUV to help users be more aware of their skin type. To use the app a special UV camera sold by Nurugo has to be attached to the bottom of the smartphone.
By emitting UV light the camera is able to show skin problems that normally people don’t notice, or let users know of developing issues like sun spots or melanoma so they can treat them before it becomes life-threatening. It also allows users to see how effective their sunscreen is.
The Mobile World Congress, running from February 27th until March 2nd is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. And this year, we’re seeing some Technology Nostalgia popping up. Take the Nokia 3310, a staple of the early naughts.
The brick, known for its durability and incredibly long battery life has made a comeback. The Nokia 3310, which will be available for €49 ($52) in the second quarter of the year, is not meant to compete with modern smartphones. The handset is designed to appeal to people who can’t afford smartphones. It could also be an attractive first phone for kids, a second phone to use while traveling, or a temporary “burner” phone.
For those of you willing to go back in time, fret not, the new version comes with Snake!
Why it’s hot:
Not everyone has a smartphone, not everyone wants a smartphone this low-cost option is good for them. Nokia is banking on the model’s reputation for a comeback.
Nokia’s timing for release is great, smartphones have not innovated as much in the last three years (the Galaxy S8 would have stolen it’s thunder) so this debut gained traction.
Many refugees consider smartphones instrumental in their journey to safety. Google Maps helps them navigate across the sea. Translation apps provide a rudimentary understanding of the language in new lands. WhatsApp and Viber allow them to chat with loved ones back home.
And almost everyone carries photos of the family and friends left behind.
Photojournalist Grey Hutton photographed dozens of refugees and their phones at a refugee center in Berlin for VICE Germany. The idea for the project came to him after reading complaints about refugees carrying smartphones.
Why It’s Hot
In our current political and cultural environment where debate about refugees and illegal immigrants rages, it’s great to see technology used as both a tool to help people in need and one that humanize those in need to create greater empathy.
As customer experience (CX) continues to drive business transformation, we are met with a general lack of understanding around what and how to move forward. Forrester research revealed more than 60% of decision makers are still holding on innovation related to the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is CX. People expect connectivity; people expect effortless data integration that improves the way they move through the world. This is nothing to delay and “assess.” The CX winners lean in hard early. They experiment. They fail. They pick themselves back up and try again. People more than welcome that now, they expect it.