March

 

 

Safety Net

Controversy this month when it was revealed that some ads on YouTube were being placed alongside extremist video content. A number of brands pulled inventory straight away amid image concerns and the fear that a cut of their spend was being channelled to the creators. Next, prominent vloggers alleged that LGBTQ content was being ‘hidden’ when users were watching in ‘Restricted mode‘. YouTube responded explaining that it applied to perceived ‘mature content’ only. Some analysts have suggested that parent company Alphabet might lose up to $750m of revenue; all-in-all it must have felt like March madness for the tech giant…

Equally startling, the US House of Representatives revealed that they will repeal Obama-era laws requiring internet service providers to ask for a user’s permission before sharing data with third-parties – i.e. browsing history, Social Security Number, etc. There is reason for concern: 1) What will happen to personal records? 2) Whilst it is relatively easy to opt-out of apps that do not deliver on a privacy promise if Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast do decide to pass-on information (as this act will allow them to) what is the redress of grievance, opting-out of internet usage altogether?

 

Tech Talk

Snap shares went live on the NYSE exchange, closing at $24.53*, valuing the company at $28bn. NBCUniversal is now one of the biggest investors with a $500m stake! (*$20.70 at time of writing.)

A(nother) big month for Amazon! 1) Their newest hybrid service: a customer orders groceries via the app and then schedules a time to pick them up. This removes expensive logistics – drivers, fuel, no shows – offering Amazon huge savings. Open to Prime customers only, it will likely have a highly targeted roll-out into areas with a high density of members. 2) They are introducing Spanish-language onto the US site. 3) Next, plans for furniture stores that use augmented reality to help you ‘visualise’ what items will look like in your home. 4) There is a new bookstore in Chicago. 5) Back to app, they have released a stylist service – whereby a user submits two photos of themselves to receive trend-led feedback and advice. (They are rumoured to be moving into plus size too.)

Yoox Net a Porter is developing ‘buy via WhatsApp‘, the reason being that the chat function provides a two-way advisory conversation with their mobile customer, who are frequent and high value. Good news for brick and mortar retailers, customer service Twitter handles can request access to location data in messages, so customers can be directed to local stores if they ‘need a dress for tonight!’. Spotify plans to make certain songs available only to paying customers. Waze has integrated Spotify allowing drivers to skip tracks in their app rather than jumping between the two – hopefully keeping eyes on the road. Google’s vision tech can scan videos and recognise searched-for items, even if they aren’t tagged – great for broadcasters. Meet Samsung’s Siri, Bixby! Facebook has thrown another punch at Snapchat with ‘Days‘, a ‘Stories’-style 24 hour recap. It feels like they are releasing as many options as possible with the acceptance that, whilst some will eventually wither the winner will be dominant. (Even LinkedIn isn’t safe.) Finally, Facebook Live will stream 22 MLS soccer games. It will be interesting to see if in-game illegal gambling occurs via their Messenger payment engine – Venmo had issues this month.

Small But Important

  • Here is a good round-up of the hot topics from SXSW. AI and Health Tech dominated. Another piece suggests that consumer trust will become increasingly important too.
  • Levi’s debuted their Commuter Jacket, a collaboration with Google that allows the wearer to skip tracks and get weather reports – amongst others – when they swipe the right sleeve. It requires an accompanying app and will cost $350!
  • Arguably ‘wearables’ are yet to inspire customers, as this research shows. (Batteries, vanity, and the fact that smart phones do so much have contributed.) Although the women’s health market remains optimistic about the future.
  • Victoria Beckham revealed her Target range – including a foray into kid’s clothing – judge for yourself here! The retailer is planning to open a store on 34th Street, opposite Macy’s. Finally, they have been commended for releasing swim shoot imagery that has been left un-retouched.
  • Customers can now withdraw cash from Wells Fargo ATMs using just the app.
  • Here’s a list of where millennials are buying their apparel. (ASOS features.) These companies should turn their attention to Gen Z, a much trickier group with one thing in common – they have never known the world without the internet. eCommerce could be less exciting, which might offer an opportunity for physical retailers.
  • Perceptions of the ‘Influencer’ are changing: data reveals that those with < 1,000 followers have higher engagement amongst a more targeted community. Moreover, with the news that pods of influencers have agreed to boost each other’s visibility it feels like ‘post truth’ has crept in. Prepare for the credible ‘Micro-influencer’.
  • The US has seen a huge rise in customer-focused retailers who launch with small ranges and excellent customer service. This great article features some of the best! They are cranking-up the pressure on ‘traditional’ players, who are already being undercut by Amazon. (Glasses is a good example – see this BoF article)
  • Although Macy’s CFO – Karen Hoguet – believes that off-price stores are more of a threat to US retailers than eCommerce. On a related note, the resell market is set to grow to $25m by 2025; something Patagonia have tapped-into via their ‘Worn Wear’ program.
  • Walmart has bought the popular, vintage-inspired ‘indie’ ModCloth: it is suspected that this is, in part, to support Jet.com. It follows news that they have invested in a tech incubator ‘Store No. 8‘ aimed at predicting future trends in retail and how they can compete.
  • Puma has overtaken Under Armour to become the 3rd biggest US sportswear brand! This is largely credited to smart celebrity partnerships – Rhianna, Cara Delevingne, The Weekend – along with excellent product, especially the Fenty.
  • More? Madewell introduced Intimates. H&M have sponsored Coachella again. Interestingly, that festival is taking legal action against Urban Outfitters for using the brand name without paying for it. J. Crew invented #NationalStripeDay (in the same month as Nike Air Max Day); prepare for a swathe of company birthdays, etc. American Eagle were offering customers 25% off their order if they tried-on a pair of shorts in-store. Uniqlo released their ‘Beauty & The Beast‘ range, as did New Balance. Then there were these Disney Princess bikinis.
  • IMDB has created a new ‘F’ rating designed to highlight movies with significant female influence, be it directing or starring.
  • Equally, Brawny Towels replaced their male logo with a female character for their ‘#StrenghtHasNoGender’ campaign.
  • Skol – maker of beer and lazy risque ads – have commissioned female illustrators to repurpose their historical campaign assets.
  • Kim K has launched her own Facebook Messenger Bot. Yup.
  • Coca-Cola released an advert with a modern twist on the pool boy. Also, 50 years after Don Draper pitched ‘Pass The Ketchup’ to Heinz on AMC’s show ‘Mad Men‘, the company have green lit the campaign. In a nice touch, they have credited their existing agency, David, as well Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, for whom Don worked.
  • And finally! Pizza Hut have designed sneakers that let you order take-out. The ‘Pie Tops’ are bluetooth synced to the app and a simple squeeze of the tongue (imagine Reebok Pumps) will order a pizza.
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