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E-Tail Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

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June 01, 2018, to June 15, 2018

Meitu Working On Selfie App That Addresses Skin Concerns

After going viral, an app developed by Chinese software firm Meitu that altered the user’s selfie image hit up against privacy concerns. The company is now trying to commercialize its software by employing its various selfie apps and virtual reality to offer real-world benefits.  Meitu is partnering with a hospital to develop MeituBeauty, an app that assesses skin condition through a selfie to recommend products. It also allows users to try virtual makeup and then buy it.

Macy's Beauty Launches New Services To Improve The Shopper Experience

Macy's Beauty is aiming to provide customers with an enhanced shopping experience online and in physical stores. For example, customers in some stores can use the YouCam Makeup magic mirror kiosks to try on makeup virtually, using selfies. Other aspects of the retailer’s drive include Beauty Playground, a program to keep its beauty advisors up to date on tips and products, and Macy’s Beauty Box, a $15 per month subscription service that provides samples and freebies. This is complemented by Macy’s Beauty’s new online campaign, the “Deeper Beauty”, aimed at helping women feel empowered and more confident. 

Cosmania Turns To AI, Machine Learning In Personalized Beauty Shopping Initiative

Dutch beauty online retailer Cosmania now offers customers a more personalized shopping experience through a new digital consultant. It has partnered with Finnish startup Revieve and its Digital Beauty Advisor platform to provide users with personalized skincare advice, skin analysis and product recommendations, using a selfie. Cosmania said the partnership is a response to growing consumer demand for a more interactive, personalized shopping experience. Revieve's technology is just one of many applications trying to replicate the work of in-store consultants by machine-learning and AI. 

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February 15, 2018, to June 01, 2018

Coty Magic Mirror Is World's First Blended Reality Makeup Try-On Service

Coty seeks to provide the "next generation" of personal consumer experience with its new Magic Mirror, which combines virtual reality and physical products in a blended reality makeup try-on service. The new technology was unveiled during the relaunch of Coty's Borjois Paris boutique. Shoppers can pick a makeup product and watch the Magic Mirror "apply" it to their reflection. Visitors can use the Magic Mirror with lipsticks, eye makeup, and brushes that the Mirror "matches" with their skin tones thanks to computer vision and augmented reality technology. Magic Mirror can also take selfies of customers with the virtual makeup, which it can then e-mail to its users or print in-store.

Clairol, Snapchat Makes Hair Color Try-On Tech For Shoppers

Clairol is using Snapchat’s shoppable augmented reality platform, Lens, to allow users to “try-on” the brand’s Color Crave hair color products. The lenses will run through June 30, and users can also share and buy the products from the app. Clairol, a Coty brand, said the initiative is part of its effort to merge beauty and technology by creating a seamless shopping experience that bridges the gap between content and commerce.

Toothpaste Inventor Comes Back After 100 Years In AR App

The Dr. Sheffield’s Naturals brand its launching its first direct-to-consumer brand in modern times. The launch of Dr. Sheffield's Naturals Toothpaste, from Sheffield Pharmaceuticals, includes the Sheffield AR app, which allows users to see company founder, Dr. Washington W. Sheffield, via augmented reality when they are stood next to the packaging on store shelves in chains including CVS and Bed Bath & Beyond. The range is free of sweeteners, flavors, artificial colors, foaming agents and flouride. The brand claims that Sheffield was the first to sell a crème dentifrice instead of tooth powder.

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January 15, 2018, to February 15, 2018

Walmart Makes Operational Changes To Speed Stock Replenishment, Delivery

Walmart has decided it can compete more effectively with Amazon.com if it shares more investory data with suppliers so out-of-stock items can be replenished more quickly. Formerly available only internally, the company’s On Shelf Customer Availability (OSCA) data information will be shared at the Supplier Growth Forum, a two-day event at Walmart headquarters. The retailer also said it will tighten deadlines for delivery. It is now requiring large suppliers to deliver full orders within a specified delivery window 85 percent of the time or face a fine of three percent of the cost of goods. Previously, large suppliers had to hit a 75 percent threshold to avoid fines. The delivery threshold for smaller suppliers will move to 50 percent, up from 33 percent, effective in April.   

Kroger’s Scan, Bag, Go Digital Shopping Service To Expand Nationwide This Year

Kroger said it will introduce its Scan, Bag, Go shopping technology this year in 18 operating divisions and 400 stores. The company said it tested the service in several locations and decided to expand its availability across the U.S. through Restock Kroger. Scan, Bag, Go allows customers to use a wireless handheld scanner or the smartphone app to scan and bag products as they shop. Shoppers can view and download digital coupons, keep a running total of their order, and view the current week's sales ad. They can then provide payment directly through the app so they can exit the store quickly. 

Walmart’s Wrestling Match With Amazon.com Now Moves To India

Walmart’s strategy in its game of catch-up versus Amazon.com is to acquire companies with the talent and technological expertise it needs to become an e-commerce behemoth. The company recently closed a $3 billion acquisition of Jet.com, after a five-year shopping spree in the world of young e-commerce companies, filling its shopping cart with 15 startups. It is now eyeing an investment in another, this time India’s Flipkart. Industry observers speculate that Walmart is looking to buy a 20 percent stake in the company, which sells a variety of consumer goods online, including electronics and appliances. Flipkart is looking to move into the food and grocery business, and an investment by Walmart could make that happen. Amazon.com, meanwhile, has pledged to invest $5 billion in India.

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December 15, 2017, to January 15, 2018

How Online Grocery Shopping Could Worsen Food Waste Problem

The increase in the number of online food grocery options may exacerbate America’s food waste problem: 130 billion pounds of food are wasted a year. Online grocery sales are growing at an incredible pace. Amazon’s U.S. grocery sales, for example, surged 93 percent year-on-year to $575 million in the third quarter of 2017. But a new scientific paper by a Hofstra University professor says that trend could make the food waste problem even worse. Consumers shopping in a store invest energy and time buying food, and feel responsible for its use and disposal. But with online food purchases, that energy is transferred to the store’s employees. This impacts the “psychological ownership” of the food, reducing responsibility. And that leads to food waste.

Data Chief At L’Oréal Complains Of Poor Data Quality For Analytics

L’Oréal’s data acquisition head told a recent IAB conference that her company is struggling to find useable consumer profile data for measurement and attribution analytics. Data for media activities is much easier to locate and obtain. But brands need to test new data sources – like the direct data available to e-commerce and retail sites – that can be used in analytics. Aruna Paramasivam [left] said activation in programmatic requires at least one million consumers per segment on the open market, and that’s not easy to come by. “It’s frustrating for us because the attribution and measurement decisions right now don’t have the granularity and data quality we’d like.” 

L'Oréal To Tap Into Strong Chinese Demand For Premium Cosmetics

Acknowledging a rise in demand for high-end cosmetics in China, L'Oréal’s luxury beauty and skincare brand Giorgio Armani Beauty plans to open an online store on the Alibaba Group’s Tmall platform this month, along with a separate store on Tmall's invite-only "Luxury Pavilion." The online stores will offer product browsing as well as interactive digital experiences such as scheduled in-person makeup sessions with beauty advisers.

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November 15, 2017, to December 15, 2017

U.K. Trademark Filing Signals Imminent Launch Of Amazon Meal Kits

Amazon has filed for a trademark for a meal kit slogan at the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office. The slogan – “We Prep. You Cook” – echoes a similar slogan used in the U.S. Amazon’s meal kits were launched in the U.S. and retail at $15.99 to $19.99. The U.K. trademark filing signals an imminent launch of the product, according to industry watchers.

Smartphones Have Had A Profound Effect On The Restaurant Industry

Thanks to smartphones, which have penetrated to half of the global population, consumers have a broad array of options for “eating out,” a trend that continues to have a major impact on restaurants themselves. Restaurant meals are diversifying, and becoming available outside restaurants, in the age of mobile shopping and food ordering. Eateries have figured out that they need to provide “compelling” dining experiences to grab attention. In addition, many new players are taking advantage of advanced technology to reach consumers through delivery-only “virtual” restaurants, fully-automated production, etc. 

Interactive Bottle Connects With Smartphone Tequila Shoppers

Astral Tequila is introducing in seven U.S. states this month interactive spirits bottles that allow smartphone shoppers to touch a bottle of its award-winning spirit to access exclusive content. The bottles use a “near field communications” (NFC) collar that shoppers use to tap into content that includes a video from Jonathan Goldsmith, the actor best known for his former role as "The Most Interesting Man in The World" in Dos Equis beer ads. 

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October 15, 2017, to November 15, 2017

Upcoming GDPR Legislation Set To Have Global Impact

New General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are due to arrive in May 2018. GDPR will create a standardized data privacy law for EU members. It will also affect companies and individuals selling goods or services to EU citizens. The legislation will give individuals more rights to their data, including the “right to be forgotten” and asking consent for data processing. Potential fines for not adhering to the regulations can be up to $24m, or 4% of a company’s annual turnover. A recent PwC survey revealed that GDPR is a top data priority for more than 50 percent of US multinationals. 

'Supermarket' Startup Seeks To Go Storeless

Farmstead believes it can reinvent the supermarket model by eliminating its physical structure altogether. The San Francisco based startup has a series of micro-warehouses stocked with a range of local farm produce and grocery products and uses AI to predict a customer’s future needs based on their initial order. The selection is then delivered to the customer. Farmstead claims to have made over 15,000 deliveries in the Bay Area and has raised $2.8 million from venture funds.  

Data Analytics Platform Helps Tesco India Detect, Prevent Shopping Fraud

The Indian technology center for supermarket chain Tesco has created a platform and team that detects online and offline fraud involving its massive amounts of collected customer data. The 18-member staff is focused on combating fraud for online businesses (food and non-food), buyer-supplier collusion fraud, and employee fraud at checkout counters. The platform is programmed to detect anomalies in purchasing patterns that might indicate fraud, such as bulk purchases of products like alcohol and cigarettes. 

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September 01, 2017, to October 15, 2017

CeraVe Achieves Cult Status On Social Media

L’Oréal’s CeraVe is the drugstore skincare brand that is followed closely on Reddit’s huge Skincare Addiction thread patronized by dermatologists, experts, and full-blown skin care lovers. It has turned CeraVe into a “legit cult-favorite and desert-island necessity.” Launched in 2005 with a cleanser, moisturizing lotion, and moisturizing cream, the brand has expanded to include a full line of moisturizers, cleansers, body washes, and SPFs. Visitors to the Skincare Addiction thread on Reddit focus on CeraVe’s ability to get rid of stubborn breakouts and moisturize oily skin without aggravation. A key to the success is CeraVe’s low-cost, easy-to-find products that work with all skin types.

Wal-Mart Aims For High-End Market With Jet.com

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is repositioning its Jet ecommerce unit toward the high-end market, as part of the retailer's efforts to compete with online rival Amazon. Acquired by Wal-Mart for $3.3 billion in 2016, Jet plans to sell apparel from online retailers bought by the retail giant in the previous year. Also, Jet plans to introduce a new line of private-label food and grocery items.

Whole Foods Says Customer Card Payment Information Hacked By Cyberthieves

Retailer Whole Foods has warned customers that hackers gained access to payment card information at several stores. Acquired by online retailer Amazon for $13.7 billion in June 2017, Whole Foods said the cyberattack affected the company's taprooms and restaurants and not the main checkout lines of its stores. Whole Foods operates 449 stores in the US, with more than 40 branches selling beer on tap.

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August 15, 2017, to September 01, 2017

With Little Caesars Pizza Pick-up Machine, Shy Customers Can Avoid Humans

The Little Caesars pizza chain has made it much easier for recluses, hermits, and other introverts – in Tucson, Ariz., for now – to buy pizza without seeing or talking to a store employee. The company’s Pizza Portal machine lets pick-up customers avoid lines, snatch their pizzas, and escape without human interaction. To make use of the machine, customers need to download an app to order and pay for the pizza. CEO David Scrivano says, "It's all about convenience, in and out in seconds, no line, no wait." The company plans to add about one hundred of the machines in the U.S. in 2018.

Some Restaurants Spurn Food Delivery

A major trend in the foodservice world is home delivery of meals to people who don’t want to dine out, but also don’t want to cook. It represents a total of 1.7 billion restaurant transactions a year. Some restaurants, however, have said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” A main reason is fear that the meals won’t arrive in time to eat warm. Casual dining chain Texas Roadhouse doesn't do delivery, and even encourages competitors “to do as much delivery as they can so they can deliver lukewarm food to their people." Besides quality and temperature concerns, though, the company worries about staff preparing delivery orders at peak dinner times, when dining rooms are packed.

Smart Labeling Technology Could Revolutionize Retail Food Industry

Advocates of smart packaging and labeling that use short-range wireless technology – aka, near field communication – say that interactive labels can provide product information while reducing cost and waste, and boosting store profits. The technology doesn’t require a separate app like QR codes. Consumers need only tap the phone and receive info, without any additional steps. To advance the use of the technology, the NFC Forum has partnered with the Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association to create the smart labels. It will be a while before the technology hits grocery stores, but NFC is compatible now with millions of contactless cards and readers worldwide.

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August 01, 2017, to August 15, 2017

L’Oréal Takes An Expensive Flier On Virtual Reality Technology

L’Oréal’s Beauty Lab (left), located at the company’s year-old west-side Manhattan headquarters, serves as an experimental virtual reality center to explore a technology some industry observers call “the next frontier of fashion and beauty.” Though virtual reality has taken baby steps in fashion and cosmetics, it has yet to make significant inroads, and has had almost no impact on sales. Skeptics note that researchers aren’t even sure what to do with test data that are collected. L’Oréal, however, has invested a lot of money in its VR glasses, floor-to-ceiling VR screen, and additional 3-D modeling screens. Not so much to wow consumers, but to advance and enhance internal research.

Amazon-Whole Foods Deal Portends An Accelerated, Automated Grocerants Trend

“Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert says the $13.7 billion Amazon-Whole Foods deal is likely to speed up development of ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat grocery store items known as “grocerants.” Techno-centered Amazon will bring new intelligence from computer wizards, molecular biologists, and sustainability experts into retail grocery. Lempert says the Amazon-Whole Foods store will apply technology to improve efficiencies and reduce in-store labor costs. That means more robotics in the back room and interactive robots all around the store.

Direct-To-Consumer Distribution Of Vitamins: The Future Is Now

National Business Journal (NBJ) says vitamin supplement producers have embraced the trend toward direct-to-consumer distribution, now the largest sales channel for multivitamins. Use of vending machines and other novel modes of multivitamin delivery – could drone delivery be far off? – are gaining legitimacy. According to NBJ, new delivery technologies and formats could finally convince the federal government to allow multivitamins as a permitted purchase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). At any rate, NBJ expects vitamin sales to surpass $15 billion by 2021, led by multivitamins.

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July 01, 2017, to August 01, 2017

Hangzhou Wahaha Group Buys Smart Beverage Vending Machines From DeepBlue

China’s largest beverage vendor is taking a step beyond FMCG toward automated retail with the signing of a 10-year contract with DeepBlue Technology to buy a million TakeGo smart vending machines. The machines use DeepBlue’s quiXmart payment system, as well as machine vision, biometric identification, and deep learning. The machines automatically assign items picked up by customers to a digital shopping cart. Customers are charged using Alipay when they exit.

Companies Test New Ride-Share Marketing Program

Customers of ride-share companies like Uber will now be able to purchase, or sample for free, an array of products – snacks, electronics, health and beauty items, etc. – available through the Cargo Systems mobile website. Cargo provides a box to ride-share drivers that can be installed in their cars. Customers order products on Cargo’s website, the products are delivered to the driver, and the driver hands the products to the customers in transit. Brands like Mars, Kellogg's, Michel et Augustin, Emergency Stain Rescue and Leaders Cosmetics USA have products in the boxes. Cargo says drivers can earn an extra $1,500 a year in tips and review-based bonuses by selling products or distributing free items.

Pizza Hut’s Japanese Customers To Have A Quick, Secure Ordering Solution

MasterCard has partnered with Pizza Hut to integrate the Masterpass digital payments technology into the pizza chain’s mobile ordering application. The two companies are launching the initiative in Japan, where time-pressed customers will be able to order pizzas quickly, securely and easily by safely storing credit card information, as well as delivery addresses, in their Masterpass account. Ordering pizzas will require only three clicks on a smartphone, the companies said.
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