LA star chefs re-imagine the drive-thru for the fine-dining set

Ten of L.A.’s most beloved restaurants will come together to serve diners—in a way that you’ve never experienced them before, designed with COVID precautions in mind.

In partnership with American Express® Gold Card, Resy is transforming the exterior of the Hollywood Palladium into a whimsical labyrinth, which you’ll drive through to visit each restaurant pop-up. Don’t worry about leaving your car; each dish will be handed to you at each local restaurant’s pit stop. -Resy

Restaurants have had to reinvent themselves during Covid, with fine dining hit particularly hard since its value prop comes largely from the atmosphere and experience it creates, which is very difficult to replicate under covid restrictions.

From Fast Company:

The restaurant industry has been pummeled by the pandemic, prompting a wave of creative new dining ideas across the country, from bars offering carry-0ut cocktail mixes to pizzerias transforming into produce stands. Now, 10 well-known Los Angeles chefs are joining forces in an ambitious new experiment.

On October 15 and 16, restaurant tech platform Resy is hosting a 10-course drive-through dinner at the Hollywood Palladium catered by these chefs that could be a model for bringing high-end restaurants back to life. “This could be done in any city,” says Mei Lin, chef and owner of Nightshade. “It would require organization and logistics, but it’s possible.”

The event, called the Resy Drive Thru, is sponsored by American Express. Diners will stay in their cars and move through a track made up of 10 stations, where they’ll be served one course prepared by each of the 10 restaurants.

Guests will be served food in single-use containers and given a tray to eat on, which is theirs to keep. Each car will have its own designated waiter who will guide them through the process. (All event personnel will wear gloves, masks, and face shields; they’ll also be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive at the event, and will have their temperature taken at the door.) The entire experience costs $95 per person, and can be purchased in groups of up to four in a single vehicle. There is room for 600 guests over two nights.

It was obvious from the start that it wasn’t possible to mimic the charm or elegance of a dining room, but this project prompts chefs to think outside the box.ng

The dining industry is currently being devastated by COVID-19, particularly restaurants that don’t have pandemic-friendly options, like outdoor seating or take-out and delivery. The sector has already lost $120 billion and is expected to reach $240 billion by the end of the year. More than six million jobs have been permanently cut.

Why it’s hot: Fine dining is all about having a special experience that rises above the typical and the common. It’s interesting to see how these fine dining restaurants are trying to achieve that proposition during covid, and how they make — and sell — a unique experience to potential guests.

Source: Fast Company

Live-streaming event helps Chinese cosmetics chain achieve 200% growth

Lin Qingxuan is a Chinese cosmetics company with more 300 retail stores and over 2,000 employees. When forced to close 40% of its stores during the coronavirus crisis, the company acted quickly to leverage WeChat and TaoBao (owned by Alibaba, it’s the world’s biggest e-commerce site) to engage with its customers virtually.

The store sent coupons to their customers and redeployed their 100+ beauty advisors from the closed stores into online influencers. On February 14th, the store launched a large-scale live stream shopping event and were able to engage with 60,000 customers live (they currently have 6 million followers). The sales from one shopping advisor in two hours equaled that of four retail stores.

From “online clubbing sessions” to streamed music festivals, many Chinese brands turned to live streaming during this crisis. It’ll be interesting to see how this industry will grow in the US.

 

 

INSIGHTS | Brands turn to livestreaming as China stays home

Interesting to note that despite having a pretty big following and social presence online, Sephora has canceled all its North American in-store classes and services as of 3/12.

Why it’s hot: This crisis will likely force brands to be braver and creative and, ultimately, expedite their digital transformation.

Panera coffee subscription is the new free-wifi, but it costs $9+/month

Panera has launched a coffee subscription as a part of its loyalty program. For $8.99/month, you get unlimited drip coffee — 1 cup every two hours for as long as you can handle it. They may be burning through beans, but what this really means is they’ll be selling a lot more sandwiches.

From Fast Company: “Though Panera is pitching the subscription as a way for you to save money on coffee, Panera’s 150 test locations over the last three months saw subscribers visit three times more frequently and purchase 70% more in add-on items than the average customer. In other words, watch your wallet. These metrics, in addition to a surge of new customers, are inspiring Panera’s quick nationwide rollout.”

Because most Panera locations are suburban, customers tend to drive to the location. When they’ve made the commitment to drive, people are more likely to “bundle” their shopping by also eating at Panera once they’ve picked up their subscriber coffee.

Bonus points: being mostly suburban, Panera also avoids the on-foot, in-and-out commuter coffee buyers who are not likely to purchase any additional goods.

For consumers, it’s a novel way to think about coffee purchase.

For Panera, it seems like a smart way to lure people into their stores, in order to sell them higher-margin products like sandwiches and soups.

Why it’s hot:

1. Data: Registered subscribers will give Panera a huge amount of consumer data that they could use to understand menu preferences by a variety of demographics, as well as better identify core customers and understand their habits.

2. Earn brand loyalty by exploiting commitment bias: If you get someone to buy into the subscription, they are far more likely to continue to go to you for their coffee fix even if they ultimately cancel their subscription as brains subconsciously associate their body’s physiological coffee high with your store, and those neural pathways are difficult (and cognitively costly) to change.

3. It’s a smart lure: A big challenge for suburban food and beverage shops is getting people in the door. This encourages that, and a lot of people who go into a shop to buy coffee end up buying a muffin, or a sandwich, which is where these companies really make their money. If you stay (or return) to Panera to take advantage of the every-two-hour refill, you’re likely to buy even more.

Source: Fast Company

ThredUp launches Fashion Footprint Calculator

Behavior change is very hard and the second-hand ecommerce fashion retailer ThredUp relies on it as a key component of their business model. To aid their efforts to convert new-clothing buyers into used-clothing buyers, they just launched their fashion footprint calculator.

We’ve all heard about the carbon footprint of our cars and our eating habits, but we mostly ignore our closets’ role in ruining the planet. However, the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, thanks in large part to the the fast-fashion trend.

Fun Fact: “Fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste per year globally, representing 4% of the 2.12 billion tons of waste we dump globally each year. That is more than toxic e-waste, and more than twice as much as supermarkets toss in food waste.” –EcoCult. This is bad because clothing is organic material, meaning it releases methane in landfills, a greenhouse gas that is dramatically more potent than carbon dioxide.

ThredUp is framing itself as the solution to this sustainability problem at the heart of fashion, by scaling second-hand clothing to the level of its new clothing counterparts. And it turns out that buying used clothing can have a pretty big impact.

“Lifecycle analyses of garments have found that buying used garments instead of new reduces your carbon footprint by between 60% and 70%.” -Fast Company

Why it’s hot:

1. Much like the global average temperature, awareness of our impact on the environment is ramping up exponentially. It’s interesting where different brands fall on the sustainability spectrum and how they use that position to promote themselves.

2. Our impact on the climate threat is a vague concept removed from our direct experience of short-sighted pleasure seeking and impulsive desire fulfillment. Personalizing the impact of one’s habits makes clear the need for personal change, and importantly, offers a simple way to make a difference, without sacrificing one of life’s chief pleasures.

3. ThredUp’s business model is based on the second-hand clothing market. Beyond the price savings, ThredUp needs to develop RTBs that will inspire loyal customers. If people are more aware of the impact their fashion-purchase habits have, they may be willing to consider the second-hand clothing platform, giving ThredUp a chance to turn them into loyal customers and advocates of reuse to their friends.

Source: Fast Company

Click-to-Buy Experiences take on a new (analog) life

‘Contextual shopping’: Publishers are using model homes for retail experiences

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.

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

IKEA and National Geographic take on “Bedroom Habits”

National Geographic and IKEA® come together to capture and document the human species in one of the most challenging habitats the world has ever seen — the bedroom. 
Ikea isn’t just about meatballs and couches. With its latest campaign, the Swedish retailer wants to be known as sleep experts, so it partnered with National Geographic on a series of films called ‘Bedroom Habitats.’

The faux-nature series looks to capture and document the human species in one of the most challenging habitats — the bedroom. The films cover everything from a comically small mattress to the unrelenting threat of clutter.

 Created by National Geographic with Wavemaker, the four videos in the series will highlight different consumers with varying sleep challenges. The first, ‘Small Bed Battle,’ shows a couple fighting for space in their tiny bed as a narrator gives a documentary style blow-by-blow of the epic struggle. A positive outcome surfaces after the couple goes to Ikea and gets a reasonably-sized bed.

The series will be hosted on a dedicated National Geographic Bedroom Habitats microsite, along with sleep challenges and shoppable solutions, and on National Geographic Instagram stories and its Facebook page. The series will also be supported with paid social and display units.

A complimentary campaign titled ‘Save Our Sleep,’ features the same nature documentary style, highlighting the issue that one-in-three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep, with Ikea offered up as the sleep hero.

Produced by Ogilvy, the ‘Planet Sleep’ television spot showcases how a comfortable bedroom sanctuary can help save endangered sleep through the implementation of simple and affordable sleep solutions, like new lower priced mattresses and ergonomic pillows. It starts by showing tired people in stressed out urban lifestyles. They only become happy as they realize that Ikea is the solution to their sleep problems.

“Trends show that a good night’s sleep might very well be going extinct. Globally, the average number of hours slept has fallen significantly in the past 50 years from eight hours to just a little over six,” said Joy Kelly, US media manager at Ikea. “Having conducted years of extensive research into how people live (and sleep) at home – and implementing those learnings to create a better everyday life – we know Ikea has the complete quality bedroom solutions that can help everyone achieve a good night’s sleep, so we wanted to be sure to showcase that.”

These quirky films mark the start of a larger, year-long campaign by Ikea to combat decreasing sleep levels in today’s society, positioning the retailer as one that is creating hope for the future of sleep.

“With the year-long ‘Save Our Sleep’ campaign, we hope to inspire consumers with simple, affordable bedroom solutions that will go a long way towards a better night sleep,” added Kelly. “Sleep-deprived consumers can be rest assured that Ikea is committed to saving our sleep in 2019 and beyond.”

Tip your (non)local coffee-bean picker

We’re spoiled in the US. We get to drink premium coffee from the best farms in the world, and at a reasonable price. But many of the farm-workers involved in actually making that cortado a reality generally aren’t compensated equitably.

Some people would be willing to pay more for coffee if they knew that increase was going to support the workers who need and deserve it, but making that change through the traditional economy of producers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers is extremely difficult. Even direct-trade coffee partnerships are subject to the demands of the global coffee industry, which must feed a voracious worldwide caffeine habit.

Propina is trying to side-step the traditional model of farm-worker compensation by allowing people to support farm-workers by making a direct contribution to a farm-worker’s pension fund when they’re at the till of their favorite coffee shop. In-shop videos like the one above drive awareness while patrons wait in line to make their order. Additionally, similar to the Patreon model, patrons can become recurring contributors and get updates from the farm.

Why it’s hot

1. Using technology to bridge the gap from producer to consumer empowers money-havers to give to a cause they believe in.

2. Technology shrinking the world, making something global feel like more of a local connection.

3. We may see more of these “capitalism hacks” that attempt to use technology to circumvent systemic inequalities that otherwise seem insurmountable.

Why it’s not hot

1. Like the US server-tipping model, this idea could potentially drive down guaranteed wages for farm workers if employers see them gaining any amount of significant external compensation. In a sense, this idea only works well if it remains an insignificant portion of a farm workers livelihood.

2. This model relies on the generosity of the globally wealthy to “support” poor farm workers, instead of creating systems of equitable exchange that account for the needs of all stakeholders. Admittedly, the latter is a much more difficult challenge.

Source: Contagious

Weed Gets A Museum

Weed, ganja, grass, herb, whatever you call it, has had a multi-century smear campaign leveled against it, but its time in the golden spotlight of acceptability is nigh.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in key states across the country, cannabis is poised for its big-business debut. And those investing in weed today hope it will become as big as Budweiser. A new kind of bud! (I couldn’t help myself.)

But getting to those household-name numbers requires normalizing a substance that’s historically been presented as a tool of the devil to lure hapless souls into eternal hellfire – or at least make them lazy and braindead – or worse, jam-band groupies!

Devil's Harvest marijuana propoganda

What better way to normalize and educate than by pairing weed with one of our most distinguished institutions of learning and culture: the museum? It’s propaganda for the good guys!

Weedmaps, the Seamless/Yelp/Google Maps of cannabis, has employed the Museum Of (Interesting Thing That Doesn’t Belong In A Regular Museum trend to help establish itself as the thought leader in the cannabis space and break down misconceptions about weed in the process.

Why it’s hot

1. Weedmaps is mainstreaming marijuana by putting its product in the same arena as other very legit things found in museums, such as history, science and art. Duchamp would be proud.

2. Never are you more primed to learn than when you’re immersed in an experience.

3. Most people attending the museum are probably already advocates for weed legalization. This will give them fuel and facts to spread the word more.

Source: Fast Company

Birchbox and Walgreens Partner to Transform 11 Retail Locations

Today, the two companies announce that they’re joining forces. Birchbox will be taking over a big chunk of the floor space at 11 Walgreens locations over the next few months. In December, the first six stores will open in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis, and then in early 2019, five more stores will open in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami.

These new retail spaces–which range from 400 to 1,000 square feet–will look like mini Birchbox stores. Birchbox will curate full-sized skincare, makeup, and hair products from more than 40 brands. These are brands that Birchbox has incorporated into its subscription boxes in the past and has identified as customer favorites. The Birchbox-branded parts of the store will be beautifully designed with warm lighting, pops of color thanks to interesting wall paper, framed Birchboxes as artwork, and powder-room-inspired makeup stations.

Since 2016, the drugstore company has been investing more heavily in beauty, by bringing in new brands like NYX and No7, introducing a beauty loyalty program, and introducing 3500 beauty consultants into select stores. “We’ve been working on elevating and differentiating our beauty experience,” Lauren Brindley, group vice president of beauty and personal care at Walgreens. “We’re trying to give our customers a reason to shop beauty more often.”

While Birchbox is continuing to focus on its subscription box business, it will also be translating its core premise–making beauty discovery fun–into a physical store experience with this Walgreens partnership. There will be Birchbox-trained beauty consultants on hand to help guide the customer through the space and introduce them to new products. And there will even be a Birchbox-specific cash register, so the entire experience will feel separate from just going for a drugstore run.

“I think a big part of our realization at Birchbox–and this really resonated with the Walgreens team–was that there is a huge opportunity to serve the masses by allowing them to stay passive, but give them the same kind of pleasurable experience of someone who is beauty-obsessed,” Beauchamp says.

In keeping with Birchbox’s expertise in sampling, customers will also be able to build their own Birchboxes by selecting from jars of product samples. There will be feature tables where customers can check out new brands and products.”We continue to find over and over again that the little beauty sample is just really delightful,” she says. “The price point is so acceptable to everybody, and the samples kind of look like candy when they’re all sitting next to each other.”

Why it’s hot: This is a great example of a strategic partnership that benefits both brands — expanding Birchbox into new clientele and retail locations, and elevating Walgreens beauty offerings.

Source: FastCo

A new purpose for brick and mortar

Startup company B8ta is taking the retail store experience concept one step further. B8ta sells no merchandise itself, instead charging “subscriptions” that brands pay to use their spaces and their Built by b8ta platform, for short or longer terms.

Built by b8ta, a store-as-a-service platform, includes checkout, inventory, point of sale, inventory management, staff scheduling services and other capabilities.

Lowe’s partnered with b8ta in 2016 to roll out a series of SmartSpot shops inside the home improvement retailer’s stores and earlier this month, Macy’s announced a plan to scale its new pop-up concept, The Market @ Macy’s, testing format spaces powered by b8ta’s technology.

Read more at Retail Dive.

Why It’s Hot
As ecommerce continues to rapidly grow and brands try to figure out the interplay of on and offline, we have a front-row seat to retail evolution.

You can’t buy me love…but you can buy loyalty

Spending on loyalty programs is through the roof – experiencing an annual compounded growth rate of nearly 21 percent. And no wonder – returning customers spend up to 67 percent more than first-time customers.

But most loyalty programs don’t generate loyalty. One recent study found that customers of retailers that offer a loyalty program were not more loyal than customers of those that don’t. Another recent study found that only 42 percent of loyalty program members are active or engaged. While it pays to have loyal customers, you can’t simply pay customers to be loyal.

Loyalty

What if instead of paying customers to be loyal, those same customers actually paid the companies they want to be loyal to?

It’s a concept Amazon understands well. In the latest quarter, Prime membership grew by 47 percent. Prime members spend 250 percent more a year than non-members. And while standard loyalty programs tend to bleed engagement over time, Prime members actually become more engaged.

What companies like Amazon, GameStop, Sephora and Restoration Hardware understand is that there’s a difference between loyalty and love. Loyalty simply means you’ve managed to put a card in the customer’s wallet. Paid membership means you’ve secured a place in the customer’s heart. At the same time, charging a membership fee creates an onus on the part of the company to deliver value against the heightened expectations the fee creates.

Read more: Business of Fashion

Why It’s Hot
Expanded notions of loyalty in CRM can benefit both the company and consumer – a mutual value exchange that can breed longer-lasting brand love.

Google’s Express Service Lets Shoppers Place Orders From Costco Without Membership

Stealing your family and friend’s membership cards is now no longer the only way to shop at Costco without a membership. The members-only wholesale retailer has recently partnered with Google’s shopping service, Google Express, to make some of its products available online in select locations where the Express service operates.

While there will be none of the delicious free samples Costco is known for, online shoppers can still purchase many of the retailer’s most popular items, including in-house brands like Kirkland. The service also features items from other major retailers, including Walmart and Target. Shoppers simply place their orders through the Google Express website, app, or Google Assistant-enabled devices like Google Home. Orders are then shipped directly to the customer’s home, and if they spend over a certain minimum, Google will waive the shipping fee entirely.

The only catch is that non-Costco members who make orders through Google Express must pay a $10 “access fee” to purchase Costco products, though this doesn’t apply for Costco members. The service is also only available in select locations, as shoppers in 10 states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming cannot order without a Costco membership at all.

Source: PSFK

Retail brands are scrambling to provide better experiences for customers — via tech, via access, via personalization and more.

By partnering with major retail players like Costco, Walmart and Target, it places Google in a better position to challenge Amazon, which is currently in the process of expanding its footprint into physical retail spaces, namely through its acquisition of Whole Foods earlier this year.

Amazon Is Using AR To Help People See Before They Buy

Amazon joins the augmented reality scene with a feature on their application called AR view. This allows customers to virtually view how an item would look in their home prior to their purchase.

When a customer gets on the Amazon application they access the feature through the small camera icon located at the top right of the screen, and then choose the AR view option. From there, they can locate thousands of products to virtually place into their home to see how they would look. The customer viewing the item can rotate it around in a 360 degree fashion to see how it would look from multiple different angles in their home. This feature was announced alongside Amazon opening their Black Friday Deals Store.

The feature comes exclusively to Amazon application users who have an iPhone with the iOS 11 update. Amazon plans to make the feature available for Android phones sometime in the future.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Expanded application to something IKEA offered years ago!

One Brand’s Trash is Another’s Treasure

To align with Columbus Day, Astral Tequila presented “Columbus Day: A Reenactment,” an ad starring Jonathan Goldsmith, the Artist Formerly Known as the Most Interesting Man in the World.

 

At the end of the video, Goldsmith breaks the fourth wall to address us, the viewing audience, directly: “That is pretty much how it happened.” Cue a close-up of a bottle of Astral Tequila and, on-screen, “Happy Columbus Day.”

To say that Columbus’ legacy is complicated is a vast understatement.

When you touch upon this realm, there’s sure to be backlash, but they’re not taking sides, they’re making light of what we know as the facts: An explorer set out for India and landed in a new world, one already inhabited albeit, although he claimed to have found it.

“Our spot is simply lampooning Christopher Columbus’ journey,” says Astral VP-Marketing Joen Choe in a statement provided by Erich and Kallman, the agency of record for the Davos Brands tequila. Choe added that Columbus “set out for India, but bumped into America instead. We are certainly not making light of any historical events.”

Why Its Hot:

I’m steering clear of the controversial nature of “Columbus Day” theme and going for what I like most about this spot: re-purposing of a commercial celebrity. It reminds me of the ‘can you hear me now’ guy’s resurrection by Sprint. One brand’s trash is another’s treasure!

Walmart Puts Its Eggs in a Time-Saving Basket: Grocery Pickup

In today’s installment of the the ongoing food/convenience/price/partnership saga…

Seeking an edge against Amazon, Walmart is pushing a service that delivers your order to your car. Customers never have to step inside the store.

A personal shopper is something you might expect at Bergdorf Goodman or a boutique on Madison Avenue.

Not at the Walmart on Route 42 in Turnersville, N.J.

But that’s where you will find Joann Joseph and a team of Walmart workers each day, filling up shopping carts with boxes of Honeycomb cereal, Cheez-Its and salted peanuts.

The customers select their groceries online, and then the shoppers pick the items off the store shelves and deliver them to people when they arrive in the parking lot. Customers never have to step inside the store.

“It’s about saving people time,” Ms. Joseph said as she helped load groceries into the back of a minivan one morning.

Walmart, which is one of the largest food retailers in the United States, sees grocery pickup as a way to marry its e-commerce business with its gigantic network of stores — a goal that has eluded many other retailers. The company started ramping up the service two years ago, and it is now available in about 1,000 of Walmart’s 4,699 stores across the country.

The initiative is the latest salvo in Walmart’s retail battle with Amazon, and the centerpiece of its strategy to gain the upper hand in the pursuit of consumers looking to streamline their food shopping.

Many retailers are focused on new ways to deliver groceries to people’s homes — particularly in big cities. Walmart is betting big on the millions of Americans in suburban and rural areas who drive everywhere. The company is trying to make ordering groceries online and then picking them up in your car as seamless as a fast-food drive-through.

Amid this heated competition, Walmart has been experimenting with different ways to get an edge. In a few cities, it works with Uber to deliver groceries to homes.

And last month, Walmart said it would begin testing a home-delivery service in which a worker loads the food into the refrigerator, even when no one is home. The customer can watch the process remotely from a home security camera and track when the delivery worker enters and leaves the house.

While these initiatives are limited to only a few states, the company’s grocery pickup is widespread. Walmart is betting that a big part of the country (“from Scranton to Sacramento,” one Walmart executive said) is more of a drive-through than delivery culture.

Source (and interesting longer article): NY Times

Why It’s Hot

This is business-model interesting! There is a lot going on in the grocery industry to deliver on customer demand for convenience. Walmart, as king of retail, needs to innovate while ensuring that they can maintain their fundamental model and prices. Fresh Direct, then UberEATs then Amazon + Whole Foods — create interesting pressures. Will Walmart stay ahead?

Have Amazon and Walmart met their match?

German discounter Aldi is betting billions it can win over American shoppers. How? By offering them way fewer choices than rival retailers.

Aldi

The unlikely proposition has worked nearly everywhere Aldi has set foot. The company is now one of the biggest retail groups in the world with more than 10,000 locations, businesses in 18 countries and annual revenues approaching €70/$83 billion.

The American grocery market, one of the largest and most competitive in the world, is on the cusp of dramatic change since Amazon.com Inc. acquired Whole Foods Market Inc. this summer and Google struck a partnership with Wal-Mart.

But the Germans have a plan, forged in the rubble of World War II. Aldi offers a deliberately pared-down selection – most stores stock between 1,300 and 1,600 items. By comparison, Wal-Mart’s Supercenters have in recent years carried around 120,000 items. On a basket of 30 typical household items, Aldi’s prices are on average almost 17% lower than Wal-Mart’s.

Aldi is gambling it is more in tune with the American tastes, rolling out small, nimble stores instead of sprawling warehouses and supermarkets that take longer to navigate.

Why It’s Hot
It’s another example of how major players are betting on simplicity, standardization and speed. And a reason to pause and consider the trade off between choice and control versus convenience and ease.

Smartphones make you spend more frivolously

https://management.ok.ubc.ca/faculty/yingzhu.html

An assistant professor at the University of British Columbia with a specialty in consumer behavior found that people shop differently on touchscreen devices than they do on their desktop PCs.

On phones, people are more likely to spend money on indulgent, hedonistic things, like movie tickets and dining out. And on PCs, people prioritize more practical, utilitarian things, like furniture and haircuts.

“The touchscreen has an easy-to-use interface that puts you into an experiential thinking style. When you’re in an experiential thinking mode, you crave excitement, a different experience,” says the professor. “When you’re on the desktop, with all the work emails, that interface puts you into a rational thinking style. While you’re in a rational thinking style, when you assess a product, you’ll look for something with functionality and specific uses.”

Why it’s hot: Should brands or retailers place products differently according to the screen?

the ultimate convenience of the ultimate convenience store…

A company called Wheely’s has created Moby Mart, a 24/7, on demand, self-driving, drone and digital assistant serviced, all electric, environmentally friendly, grab and go, digital payment only convenience store, currently autonomously piloting the streets of Shanghai. Or, as they put it on their website – “It is the store that comes to you, instead of you coming to the store.”

Bonus non-product marketing demo video:

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting to think about what the world could look like when a number of often separate technologies come together. This may just be a primitive attempt at imagining it, but imagine the ultimate convenience provided by combining a number of technologies individually aimed at creating convenience for people. Anything could be delivered to you wherever you are, without direct human assistance.

Opportunistic Content 101: Toys R Us Giraffe Cam

“April the Giraffe” – a wildlife park’s pregnant giraffe, April, is set to give birth any day now, and the internet is watching. Toys R Us has capitalized on all the eyeballs by sponsoring the zoo’s live feed of April. The buzz has come in the form of genuine excitement and anticipation as well as conspiracy theories.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClnQCgFa9lCBL-KXZMOoO9Q/live

Why it’s hot: Toys R Us saw the simplest of opportunities – a basic sponsorship getting their brand name and logo in front of hundreds of thousands of people who likely fit within their target demo – and seized on it quickly, having to do little more than pony up the cash to support the zoo. It remains to be seen if the whole thing is truly organic, or if it’s a PR stunt orchestrated by Toys R Us, the zoo, and/or Doubletree Hotels whose local franchise has also placed advertising on the giraffe’s dedicated landing page.

Frazzled? Struggling with mental illness? Have a cup of tea and talk.

In the U.K., the famous venerable retailer, Marks & Spencer, has teamed up with a comedian, Ruby Wax to convert their cafes on Fridays to places where people are encouraged to discuss their mental illness…talk and tea therapy..

It is called “Frazzled Café”. Minus stigma nor judgment, come and talk.

Why is this hot? Because it comes at a tough juncture for the issues around mental illness. Among many advocates for mental illness, the rising awareness and funding to treat it also occurs is at a tipping point. Mental illness is all over the news. The VA of all places lead the way in innovation due to PTSD. But by 2020, there will be 50,000 less psychiatrists. Multiply that by the number of patients a psychiatrist might see over just a decade and you see the collision — awareness rises, help diminishes.Not a successful formula. So people are looking for different ways to support the cause. From a marketing perspective, it is a forward-looking example of a major brand taking a stand on an issue and putting money behind it

.Of course humans are very resourceful.Telehealth is playing a role by creating remote workers who have an M.S. in psychology or social work — but by law they cannot prescribe. Minus psychiatrists, this is a good substitute since talk therapy is an effective way to manage mental illness. But it is only half the answer.

Visit the site. The crowdsourcing element and Ruby’s words are good reading.

https://www.frazzledcafe.org/

 

Making Plastic Priceless

Supreme has always excelled at being a coveted clothing brand for the cool kids, but this week they proved they had the cache to make even a piece of plastic an exclusive collectors item by placing their logo on a limited number of New York City Metro Cards to be distributed at random. No stranger to creating long lines (as can often be seen outside their Soho location) waves of expensive hoodie wearers are flooding Subway stations at Broadway-Lafayette Street, 125th Street, Queens Plaza, Marcy Ave, Atlantic Ave, Prince Street, Spring Street, and Union Square in hopes of getting their hands on this golden ticket. While the $5.50 two-way ride card retailing at the store’s flagship (good luck getting in) are already sold out those lucky enough to get their hands on the elusive collectors item quickly began reselling them on site’s like eBay for upwards of $1000. If paying $1000 for a piece of plastic isn’t a study in brand loyalty, I don’t know what is.

https://twitter.com/ComplexStyle/status/833834131079446529

Why It’s Hot

  • Creating this kind of newsworthy mayhem should be cause to take notice. What has the brand done that is has become so powerful as to make anything with their logo on it so valuable?
  •  Knowing your audience is key to any successful campaign. As a NYC based brand, this collaboration re-enforces the brand roots and enhances authenticity
  • Though profiting little from this endeavor, these types of marketing exercises serve to continue to build brand worth and recognition among their already loyal fan base and perhaps bring new audiences into the fray

Read more: The MTA’s Supreme-branded MetroCard is a hot commodity, The Supreme-Branded Metrocard Is HereSupreme Starts Frenzy at New York Subway StationsSupreme Is Coming Out With A Customized MetroCard, etc.

Amazon GO Shopping

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. Amazon has created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so shoppers never have to wait in line. With Amazon’s Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout.

Why It’s Hot:

By eliminating much of the staff needed to operate a store, Amazon keeps costs lower than traditional competitors. It’s also in a strong position to bring together data on its customer’s shopping habits online and offline to make better suggestions in all situations.

The experiment could also be seen as a new technology platform that Amazon could offer retail businesses after working out all of the kinks.  Similar to the way Amazon Web Service provides hosting for sites like Netflix and Adobe, Amazon Go will provide patent-protected technology infrastructure for “self-shopping” brick and mortar stores.

Amazon Launches Next-Gen QVC

stylecode2We knew it wouldn’t take Amazon too long to connect its streaming service with its shopping genius. So here it is, Style Code Live, a daily 30-minute streaming entertainment and shopping show that claims to be this generation’s answer to TV shopping. Goodbye, QVC.  Hello, content shopping.

We’ve seen social titans Pinterest and Instagram successfully play with social shopping. This evolution signifies where it’s headed. Content will no longer just be layered with connection to product and services, but will envelop simple product selling into narratives and ongoing storylines.

Walmart Disrupts Healthcare?

8009-2-HW-Shoot-Walmart-Dallas-10.10-Store-5823-106-Accessibility is a key issue in healthcare. No surprise the titan of retail access, Walmart, is tackling the issue and looking to define its place. Walmart is quietly testing and extending wellness programming in-store and online, looking to become the chief destination of retail health and wellness, service and lower cost primary care options. Business insiders are predicting Walmart’s presence here as a major disruption in the U.S. healthcare system.

CMI wrote of the news:  In addition to making healthcare and healthier food more affordable and accessible, the retailer is focusing on preventive care and supporting overall well-being through in-store events, online education and an expanding array of healthy products and services. Walmart offers over 1,700 organic products, with nearly 10% in the produce aisle, and has been quietly opening its Care Clinic model across several markets, including Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. The Walmart Care Clinic aims to be a primary medical provider offering diagnosis and treatment of chronic and acute illnesses, as well as preventative services, such as immunizations, physicals and other health screenings.

Placemeter Launches New Sensor to Detect Traffic

Placemeter is a TechStars alum that helps institutions measure exact foot traffic in or near their buildings by sensing movement. Paired with a sensor, live IP camera, or recorded video, Placemeter can track data in real-time and store to its cloud for immediate access in dashboard or downloadable files.

 

Placemeter Sensor Side and Back

Placemeter can measure volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, walking directions and store visits, and lists its primary usage for retail and municipal entities.

Why It’s Hot: There are so many interesting applications to this device for brands as it instantly connects physical movement to digital. With Placemeter, you can detect potential effectiveness of drive-to-retail campaigns more immediately, evaluate real estate potential, gauge the success of store displays, and generally have more tangible data that demonstrates results of marketing efforts.

Forever 21 Turns Your Instagram Photos Into Real-time, Real-Life Portraits, In Thread

Forever 21’s latest marketing stunt brings new meaning to the phrase, “nice threads.”

The fashion brand unveiled a massive screen designed to show off specially tagged Instagram shots. But it’s not a digital screen—in fact, the “pixels” on this screen are made entirely out of 1.5 inch-wide thread (ribbon is probably a more apt term) that rotate around to create a fabric tableau. F21 Thread Screen goes live July 22 and will run 24 hours a day for a week to support the brand’s back-to-school “Tried and True” campaign (which is all about cherishing your best friend). BFFs around the world are encouraged to tag Instagram photos with #F21ThreadScreen to have their images displayed. The entire thing is being live-streamed, and each image on the screen will be cut into a short video, sent back to the hashtager for them to share.

The mechanics alone are wildly inventive, if not borderline insane—6,400 wooden spools feature rainbow ribbons that spin to change among 36 colors, according to computerized directions, with each spool ultimately serving as a single pixel in an 80-by-80 “pixel” image. Ultimately, the renderings themselves are just shy of hypnotizing, with the shifting palettes creating an iridescent effect as the images morph. ”

We are gauging the initial reaction from our fans,” says Linda Change, VP of merchandising at Forever 21. “[The machine] being so complicated, and requiring a team of people to oversee if 24-hours a day, the current set up allows us to make sure it shines and performs at optimum capacity. After the first few days, we’ll see what kind of response we get and decide the best approach from there.”

Read more here

Why it’s hot:

“Our goal is to drive social reach [for] this campaign,” Chang adds. “The Thread Screen will naturally drive awareness, but it also shows Forever 21 as a leader in how social networks and technology can be used in completely new ways.”

Shopping Made Even Easier With New ‘Crave’ App

Have you ever seen someone walking down the street and really admired their clothes or shoes and thought, “I want that”? With the new app called Crave that went live to the public on Tuesday (it’s a free download on iTunes), you can now snap a photo of the clothes you see and crave in your everyday life, and it will pull up visually similar results in seconds, then you can purchase the item directly on the app itself.

There have been other applications on the market in which you need to scan a barcode to compare prices but this requires no barcode scanning– instead it just analyzes a photo in order to help consumers find things that look like the item in the picture. “These photos can be snapped right from the Craves app, or they can be uploaded from the phone’s Camera Roll,” says the article.

Craves features clothing from a variety of stores at the moment from department stores to boutiques (Nasty Gal, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, ASOS, Signer22, Coach, etc.). When a user makes a purchase through the app, Craves receives affiliate revenue but they hope to expand to other revenue systems in the future.

There is also a social component to this app, shoppers can follow friends and influencers and also browse through trending items and favorites and receive sale notifications.

 

 

Read more about Craves Here. 

Nordstrom’s Innovation Revamp Leads to E-commerce Texting App

nordstrom

With fashion and technology growing at a rapid pace many retailers understand the need for them to get smarter and learn new ways to use mobile phones to their advantage. Many retailers like Nordstrom’s are doing just that by rethinking the offline shopping experience to meet the needs of mobile shoppers. The giant retailer launched the very first texting app to let shoppers buy shoes, clothes and other products suggested via text messages from in-store sales associates. With the TextStyle messaging app a salesperson can chat and share images with customers who opt in to the service. Customers can buy a product immediately by texting a unique code to Nordstrom.

Why It’s Hot

Nordstrom has always prided itself on cultivating a close relationship with its sales associates and customers. This is the next step in creating great personal service and the opportunity to buy with the convenience and simplicity of a text message. Nordstrom’s is currently the only retailer in the U.S. that offers customers who opt in the ability to shop and buy with a text message.

Uber delivers

Two announcement this week about Uber expanding their territory:

1. UberEats has officially launched in four cities, including the Barcelona and Los Angeles trial areas as well as two new burgs, Chicago and New York City and that promises to deliver meals to customers in 10 minutes or less.

Uber drivers will go to certain approved restaurants, pick up several bags of a single kind of food — say a special sandwich, or a gourmet salad – and then deliver it to anyone who has requested it from an Uber app. Uber will offer a rotating menu of select items from a handful of restaurants in Chicago and New York and charges a flat delivery fee of $3 and $4, respectively, which goes directly to the drivers.

2.  TechCrunch has uncovered documents revealing that Uber is currently testing a system where high-end retailers can use Uber vehicles to make same-day deliveries to impatient customers. According to the site’s sources, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s are all in discussions to sign up when the program launches. It looks as if the eventual goal is that all Uber drivers will be able to take both human passengers and commercial cargo, with all of the information routed through the same mobile app.

TechCrunch goes on to speculate that Uber could be aiming to create a rival to Amazon and eBay that leverages the fact that local stores have stock available on shelves. That way, prospective buyers can spot an item, order it and know that it’ll be transported across town in an instant.

Sources: Mashable,  Engaget

Why It’s Hot: Uber has been a company to watch — what will they do next? These expansions make a lot of sense given their core capability, and show an interesting understanding of the urban market.