Walmart – one of blockchain’s early adopters

The problem

When it comes to food traceability, it is vital to show where the food was sourced from and where it has been. This is because when an outbreak of a food-borne disease happens, it can take days, if not weeks, to find its source.

In 2022, in the US alone, there were 13 multistage foodborne outbreaks (CDC website). This does not take into account recalls due to other contaminants. For a global view, Food Safety News published outbreaks and recalls on a regular basis.

Better traceability could help save lives by allowing companies to act faster and protect the livelihoods of farmers by only discarding produce from the affected farms.

In 2016, when Walmart’s Vice President of Food Safety asked his team to trace a pack of sliced mangoes to its respective suppliers, his team took 6 days, 18 hours, and 26 minutes (Source: Walmart’s website).

Solution

This started Walmart on its journey to implement a food traceability system using blockchain. They partnered with IBM to create a traceability system based on Hyperledger fabric. Walmart ran two proof of concept initiatives to test this system.

The first proof of concept was for pork in China to install trust in a system where there was none.

The second proof of concept was for mangoes in the US. The purpose was to trace their provenance so that product recalls are faster and more effective.

The results

Pork in China: The new system connected and verified various pork suppliers, packaging companpanies, shippers, and buyers with those who were involved in moving the product around China. It allowed uploading of certificates of authenticity to the blockchain, instilling trust where it used to be a serious issue.

Mangoes in the US: The time needed to trace mangoes to their suppliers went from 7 days to 2.2 seconds!

By 2020, Walmart could track more than 500 food products using blockchain and could provide the FDA with detailed information on the original source of a potential contamination within an hour.

Source: Walmart Website, Hyperledger Foundation website and Foley.com

Learn more about this new technology :
Our blog : “Blockchain in FMCG supply chains”

Blockchain in FMCG supply chains

Blockchain is a technology that can publicly validate, record, and distribute transactions in encrypted ledgers that cannot be altered or changed. In this blog, we look at how Blockchain can be applied to FMCG supply chains to improve efficiency & traceability, and increase compliance

Here is a great illustration of how a transaction is created by McKinsey:

Not only is this technology great for applications where increased security is a must, but it also has the potential to increase transparency and end to end visibility of the supply chain.

What are the applications of Blockchain in FMCG supply chains?

There are 2 key aspects to supply chain transparency:

  • Visibility: Accurately identifying, collecting and classifying data from all parties/links in the supply chain
  • Disclosure: Ensuring only relevant information is disclosed to the viewer, depending on their approval access internally and to external stakeholders

Implementing blockchain technology for supply chain contexts solves for both aspects providing:

Improved communication and collaboration

Due to its nature, blockchain technology improves communication and facilitates collaboration among all parties in the supply chain. Greater traceability and transparency eliminate waste, duplicate orders, invoice fraud, payment issues and unapproved spend/orders too.

Transparency in sourcing

The nature of this technology makes it easier to verify where materials and goods come from and how they pass through the supply chain. This also reduces counterfeiting of products including premium/super premium alcohol, prescription drugs and luxury goods.

Sustainability & efficiency

Using Blockchain in FMCG supply chains also results in efficient gains. Using blockchain in conjunction with other technologies results in more efficient stock holdings, reducing waste. Also, blockchain enables companies to go paperless as it relates to their supply chain and the immutable nature of the technology enables data to be stored efficiently for future teams to refer to.

Effective product recalls

Blockchain technology enables a more transparent and traceable supply chain, enabling manufacturers to locate affected products quickly and efficiently, thereby, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of recalls. Contamination & quality issues can be traced to specific lots of batches and also the relevant suppliers identified by using this technology.

Compliance

Increased transparency in supply chain due to blockchain adoption also results in a more sustainable and compliant supply chain, by enabling sustainability & ESG tracking. Not only this, combining this with QR codes has the potential to increase visibility of sustainability credentials for consumers, directly impacting sales.

Many companies are already exploring the benefits of leveraging blockchain technology in supply chains, such as smart contracts, purchase order payments and supply chain tracking.

To learn more about the applications of Blockchain in supply chains and listen to how a start-up in this space is changing FMCG supply chains, tune in to the Salesbeat podcast next week on Tuesday, 20 December 2022.

You can also listen to salesbeat podcast to learn more. Stream now!

Innovation & timing – Tesco’s virtual stores

South Koreans are known to have the longest working hours in the world, with executives often too busy to go shopping for grocery at a traditional store.

Tesco, the UK giant, introduced “virtual stores” in response to this. These ‘stores’ are essentially a display of products on the walls of metro stations and bus stops. Commuters, especially those who are tech-savvy and time poor could scan the QR codes of products on display with their smartphones, and place orders while waiting for their trains or buses.

This initiative was so successful, they decided to launch this in the UK too.

Shopper in Korea buying groceries at Tesco’s virtual store

The UK launch

They decided to trial the first store at Gatwick. 

On 6 Aug, they launched UK first virtual store for passengers who were leaving on holidays holidays. This gave holiday makers leaving from Gatwick North terminal the opportunity to order milk, groceries and other essentials that they needed when they got back from holiday. No one likes coming back home to an empty fridge!

Shopper buying groceries at Gatwick North Terminal, departures

Passengers/shoppers were able to browse basic necessities ranging from milk and bread to toilet paper displayed on vending machine sized screens. Through the app, they could scan bar codes/QR codes underneath those products, buy the products and arrange for these to be delivered on their day of return. 

According to The Drum, Tesco’s internet retailing director Ken Towle, said that the virtual store “blends clicks and bricks” as it brings together the “love of browsing with the convenience of shopping online.”

Right product, Wrong time

While this was a great initiative that should have succeeded, Tesco were ahead of times with this launch. Especially for the UK market. While shoppers in Korea were all tech savvy and used to e-commerce, shoppers in the UK were more inclined to want to go to stores and shop in person. 

So the roll out of any further virtual stores were shelved, unfortunately! 

2020 lockdowns accelerated the adoption of e-commerce and technology (scan & go) in retail in the UK. Had Tesco launched their virtual stores now, they may have seen very different results. 

Commerce media – What is it & how is it different from retail media?

According to McKinsey, commerce media is using transaction data to gain audience insights to make advertising more effective by improving targeting, deliver relevant shopper/consumer experiences and connect impressions to sale, both online and in ‘physical’ stores.

It is about leveraging large-scale purchase and intent data to draw insights that add value to consumer experiences

Sounds vague and confusing? Read on.

Commerce media covers all possible uses of retail data

Commerce media includes the use of insights generated by (online & otherwise) retail data in the online & on-site retail universe. This covers not only the retailer or the brands sold by the retailer, but also third party service providers who want to increase their ROI on marketing spend. They do this by targeting shoppers in a way that they previously could not do before.

Amazon was an early pioneer in this space and now other retailers are catching up fast.

However, supermarkets and other retailers are fast developing retail media networks of their own (Source: McKinsey).

Commerce media also gives retailers in low margin industries (like grocery & FMCG retail) the opportunity to increase margins by selling these insights along with online/on-site advertising space. We all know that consumers already want personalized experiences and only relevant ads. By leveraging retail media, companies will soon be able to deliver targeted ads and experiences through which shoppers can buy within the context of a TV show or the Metaverse.

Insights generated by retail media networks can help companies deliver the targeted experience that consumers want. This in turn will result in higher ROIs that companies currently generate on their ad spend. Why?

Linking ad-impressions with customers and their purchases at a SKU level

According to McKinsey, it is the the ability to match unique customer IDs and ad impressions to stock-keeping-unit (SKU) sales which is disrupting the entire advertising ecosystem. 

This is evidenced by data on effectiveness as collected by McKinsey below.

Salesbeat has also released a recent podcast on this topic and an interview of the Commercial director of a retail media start-up, here


Other commerce media

While McKinsey, BCG, Accenture and Bain have all written extensively about how retail data can be leveraged for advertisements and marketing, a relatively less explored territory is using this data to optimise promotions and availability in stores.

To learn more about how this can be done, email me on veena@salesbeat.co.

An Innocent mistake

In 2019, Innocent Drinks, known for their tongue in cheek ads, made a mistake with one of their campaigns.

Thanks to a team that thinks quickly on their feet, they were able to turn this around to their advantage. In fact, they make deprecating references to this ad once in a while, which reminds people that the team is human too and make mistakes.

So what happened?

The brand doesn’t play by the regular rulebook with their quirky, often irreverent & original tone of voice.

In October 2019, to launch their dairy free nut drinks range, the team released a tweet which included a ‘seasonal’ addition – Conker milk. For those who are wondering what conkers are, they are fruits of the horse chestnut tree – not edible and poisonous.

Innocent drinks posted the below tweet, without realising that people may actually try eating/’milking’ conkers.

The backlash was swift, as many people assumed this was a real product.

The reaction

In fact there were announcements and posts about how conkers are poisonous and harmful if eaten.

The team quickly released an apology, deleted the tweet and proceeded to release a series of tweets about their gaffe.

While apologetic, the brand was self deprecating and chose to make fun of themselves instead.

They used this opportunity to reply to twitter users who posted about the ad.

They even referenced other (edible) brands in their tweets, which interestingly resulted in a spike in demand for those brands.

The results

While the campaign started off on an ominous note, the team’s swift and humorous reaction meant that awareness of the increased and brand loyalty was sealed.

The brand also came across as more ‘human’ to everyone. In fact, this ‘human’ element was so good for brand perception and awareness that they still about this gaffe once in a while as you can see below.

See consumers in their full life*

*Paraphrased from a recent report by Accenture, we look at the ways shoppers and consumers have changed in just a few years and how companies and retailers can remain relevant for them.

Consumer and shopper habits remained the same or similar for decades previously. They changed only when there was a major disruption in the market that warranted it or when consumption power moved from one generation to another. This was usually a once in a lifetime occurrence.

A few lifetimes in one

These days, we pack the experiences of a few different lifetimes into one. We wrote about this previously.

According to the article by Accenture, ‘The world today is radically different from the world of two years ago … or even two months ago. A non-stop barrage of external life forces—health, economic, social, environmental, political and beyond—is affecting day-to-day decisions in unavoidable ways.’

We, at salesBeat, argue, this has been the case for a few years now. Ever since social media came into being. Social media has proved to be the both the delight and bane of a brand’s existence. In the initial days of social media, brands were excited by the potential for them to target consumer and shopper groups.

Social media influencing sales & consumer behaviour

While the articles by Accenture, Forbes and by McKinsey, don’t specifically call this out, social media has been influencing what consumers buy and when for sometime now. This has been making it difficult for both brands and retailers to anticipate demand and stocking requirements.

Another layer of complexity that brands did not take into account with social media is what happens when consumers post their negative experiences with the brand on social media. Or when certain (in)actions cast the brand in a poor light in the court of public sentiment. ‘Cancel culture’ has taken over the world of FMCG & retail too as we saw during the early days of the Ukraine/Russia conflict.

In a time and age when everything makes its way online sometime or another, companies need to anticipate not just how their ads perform, but how the brand itself is perceived by consumers.

Changing priorities for consumers

While sustainability was top of mind for most Gen Z & Millennial consumers & shoppers previously, today, with rising inflation sustainability has taken a back seat. Where personalisation and authenticity were important factors in shopper decisions, again, these are playing second fiddle(s) to value for money today.

According to the Accenture report referenced, ‘People are giving themselves permission to be inconsistent. As they evaluate a growing list of things that matter to them, consumers realize they can’t expect perfect choices in every circumstance. As they make decisions, paradoxes become inevitable. And those inconsistencies are being seen as strengths, not weaknesses.’

Market & geopolitical realities

In the last 3 years, not only has social media been a constant in how it has influenced behaviour, but so have covid, unseasonal weather (climate change) and conflicts, in the form or ‘war’ or trade conflicts.

These have completely changed (and continue to change) the way we live, work and shop. However, companies, both retail and brand are still playing catch up driving uncertainties from a supply perspective.

See consumers as a whole

Accenture suggests 3 ways a company can catch up and keep pace:

  • See customers in their full life
  • Solve for shifting scenarios
  • Simplify for relevance

The paper by Accenture resonated with us as we developed salesBeat keeping in mind the consumer and their life. salesBeat isn’t only about how consumers shop or how shoppers behave, but also about how they react to the changes in their life and how this in turn impacts their choices. Also, as Salesbeat tracks the drivers of consumer behaviour and does not assume that the environment remains static, shifting scenarios are accounted for through them.

More companies need to start seeing their consumers as people whose decisions change with the circumstances around them. Currently their personas are developed based on socio economic and demographic factors that can change with changes in the economic environment around them. After all, shoppers who previously used to frequent ‘premium’ supermarket chains are now trading down to cheaper alternatives, including frequenting discounters more often.

For more detail or to read the Accenture paper in full, follow this link. If you’d like to learn more about salesBeat, visit our website or mail me on veena@salesbeat.co

Personalisation at scale – L’Oreal

When a billion people use your skin care & hair care products and your cosmetics range, you need to consider innumerable textures & colours. All these consumers want products that are tailored to their needs. For L’Oreal, delivering personalisation at this level of scale meant thinking about innovation in a different way.

It would no longer mean a one solution to one problem approach. It meant tailoring the solution for individual consumers who experienced the same problem in different ways.

Leveraging industry 4.0 to achieve personalisation at scale

Industry 4.0 includes robotics, IoT, data, blockchain, VR, AR & AI. All these technologies have a place in the modern industrial framework. They can be combined and can be deployed to make manufacturing more productive and efficient.

L’Oréal not only leveraged e-commerce and recommendation engines during the pandemic, but the company also tested and implemented technologies to deliver personalisation at scale.

Initiatives and solutions

We’ve already covered L’Oreal’s Modiface in a previous blog. Some of L’Oreal’s other various initiatives are:

  • Le Teint Particulier, under the brand Lancome – a product which allows consumers to have their skin tone ‘measured’ at point of sale. A personalised concealer is then manufactured for them right there in the store. The concealer is a combination of one of each of 8,000 shades, 3 coverage levels, and 3 hydration levels. Even the packaging is personalised with information including the customer’s name. It also includes a reference ID for quick and easy reordering.
  • Custom D.O.S.E by Skinceuticals, a L’Oreal UK brand. According to L’Oreal’s tech incubator, “Custom D.O.S.E by SkinCeuticals is the first ever automated system that delivers highly concentrated combinations of SkinCeuticals’ most potent ingredients on-the-spot. Addressing the concerns of over 250 skin types, the D.O.S.E technology is first-of-its-kind because it’s able to mix active ingredients into a single serum at the point of service specifically to target the appearance of skin aging issues, like wrinkles, fine lines, and discoloration.”
  • Agile production lines – by leveraging several industry 4.0 technologies, L’Oreal has been able to manage final product differentiation later in the value chain. Stéphane Lannuzel says, “We can produce the base and then choose the colour for a lipstick right at the very last moment”.
  • Perso, this gadget personalises and customises make up for your every need. Perso relies on an AI derived diagnosis of a photo (corresponding phone app by BreezoMeter) of a user’s face to highlight imperfections ranging from fine lines to dryness. Perso then creates a final product formulated for the user’s skin, pulling from a library of ingredients.

The results speak for themselves

For the year ended 31 December 2021, L’Oreal’s brands grew by 16.1%, nearly twice that of the global beauty market. Sales was up 15.3% vs prior year, with profits up 29% vs prior year.

The group reported double digit sales growth in H1 2022 at 20.9% increase YoY.

The state of flux in FMCG

FMCG brand managers are facing an unprecedented and almost overwhelming combination of challenges, which are coming at them faster than ever. We have labelled this phenomenon the age of progressive FMCG – political and social tensions, culture wars, gender wars, warnings of impending environmental disasters, the obesity crisis and the collapse of trust in traditional media and other forms of authority. It makes for a darkly dystopian mix.‘ according to a report by FINN, a communications agency.

Despite all this change, FMCG companies continue to homogenise shopper characteristics by generational cohorts for different markets. While this worked well 30 years ago, when each generation had its own signature characteristics, today, this has changed.

Patterns across generations

These days, due to technological advances, there are similarities in shopper behaviour across generations that could be used to categorise shoppers rather than relying on generational similarities.

For example, each generation has people who adopt technology early. Not only that, but Baby boomers needed to undergo a ‘crash course’ in ecommerce and social media during the pandemic for everyday shopping and to keep in touch with their family.

As a result they found that e-commerce is a far more convenient channel for their shopping needs than travelling to stores. This is especially so for baby boomers who maybe mobility constrained & for those baby boomers living in emerging markets, where proximity to stores and traffic are deterrents to shopping at stores.

Another commonality across generations is the impact of price. While only 73% of Baby Boomers considered price a key factor influencing their purchasing decision vs 78% of Gen Z, the delta between the two is not significant.

Consumers across generations love a bargain, with 75% of both millennials and baby boomers agreeing that they’re more likely to purchase if they have a coupon or loyalty discount. For more information on multi generational retail strategies, read this report.

Pre pandemic studies on FMCG now out of touch with consumers

Most studies on shopping preferences and styles of the different generations were done pre-pandemic. These are now of out of sync with the consumers of today, and that includes baby boomers and Gen Xers.

A recent 2022 study by Hubspot on how each generation shops shows more similarities that differences between many of the generations. While 50% of Gen Z shoppers said that a brand’s ESG initiatives are important to them, 35% of Baby Boomers also said the same, with Millennials at 41%.

Millennials & ESG initiatives
Gen Z & ESG initiatives

While only 25% of Baby Boomers say that ESG initiatives by brands influence their choices, 71% of those who agree want companies to take action on Climate change.

The key takeaway is that consumers across generations are concerned about similar things. The only difference is the percentage of each generational cohort.

Leveraging similarities

Today, we live with spiralling inflation, geopolitical conflicts and the ever present threat of another pandemic. These uncertainties are impacting consumption choices yet again.

Perhaps it is time to regroup consumers by how they discover products & shop and what features/benefits influence their choices rather than relying on generational similarities to target consumers.

You’re not you when you’re hungry

The ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ marketing campaign, by the Snickers team at Mars, celebrates its 12th anniversary this year. Since its launch in 2010, the campaign has won several awards including Cannes Lions, The One Show, D&AD and the Emmys. And as the campaign premise is universal & timeless, it hasn’t needed much change(through time or for different markets) either. But what catalysed the Mars team to develop & launch the ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign?

The problem

Snickers as a brand had become overly targeted and focussed on a subsection of the male population – young men. The brand used ‘bloke humour’ to focus exclusively on this consumer segment. As a result, they were unable to grow beyond a certain point. However, contrary to their focus, the Mars team wanted Snickers to be a universally loved brand for men.

The process

The team decided to identify a universal human truth that worked across markers and time. This would help them build a global brand. Through customer interviews and research, they discovered that men seek acceptance and membership of the “male pack‟. They found out that when they’re hungry, they’re not themselves which threatens their place in the pack. This insight was consistent with the brand’s heritage, whilst also being relevant to a much broader audience.

The resulting brand idea was, “A proper, nut-filled Snickers sorts out hunger and restores your role in the pack”. 

The solution – You’re not you when you’re hungry campaign

And so, the ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign was born. The team decided to implement the campaign universally, tweaked for local culture.

  • The US was critical for success as the country was Snickers’ number-one market. The team launched the campaign during the 2010 Super Bowl Game , featuring US actress Betty White. The ad topped the Super Bowl favourite ad poll and generated 91 days of media coverage worth $28.6m. Betty White appeared on TV shows such as The Jay Leno Show and Oprah Winfrey Show and the ad was played during each appearance.
The US version of the ad
  • In Australia, “Hungerithm” monitored the mood of the internet and offered discounts from 7-Eleven stores when the internet is “hungry”
Hungerithm explained
  • In UK, the team leveraged timely tweets by celebrities that may be attributed to hunger. Once such example relates to Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson’s infamous dust-up with a BBC producer that generated 5,000 retweets and 390,000 media impressions
The Snickers team’s tweet to Jeremy Clarkson

The results

Prior to launch of this campaign the Snickers brand growth lagged behind its key competitor and also the category.

By leveraging their insights into their target consumer group and tapping into a universal ‘truth’ to create a compelling campaign, the Snickers team at Mars was able to grow the brand by 15.9%. As a result, Snickers is significantly ahead of its closest competitor and the category itself.

All the best Snickers commercials from this campaign

Heatwaves – Making the most of demand

We are only just past halfway through 2022. However, this year has already been extraordinary in many respects, one of which is the record breaking number of heatwaves we’ve seen so far across the world. For those interested, this Wikipedia page lists all the heatwaves in 2022 to date.

Impact on sales

A comparison of sales in the 12 weeks to 10 July 2022, to sales in the 12 weeks to 11 July 2021, shows mixed performance across grocery stores in the UK, with discounters gaining the most, due to consumers switching to them to minimise their grocery spend in light of soaring inflation.

However, despite current inflation rates, BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor for July 2022 showed that total sales increased by 2.3% during the month, bringing to an end three consecutive months of decline.

Ice cream, beer, water & barbecue ingredients sales benefitted the most from the heatwave, while sales of barbecue grills themselves rocketed during this time despite fire hazard warnings. Outdoor furniture sales also benefitted, as more people planned to spend time outdoors in August. Clothing retailers also benefitted during this time.

Gelato & ice cream brands and vendors benefitted all through Europe, as people consumed them in a bid to cool down.

US grocery sales, in the meantime, also benefitted from this, albeit in a different way. Online grocery sales saw the most increase at 17% vs prior year in July, as more consumers sought to avoid travelling outside during this time.

On the overall, US supermarkets benefitted from increased demand during this period, with Albertsons companies benefitting the least at 10% growth vs prior year.

However, some delayed impacts of these heatwaves are yet to come. Typically, for regions that have high humidity levels, heatwaves bring with them increased demand at a later date for anti mould and anti fungal products. Also, shampoo, conditioner, anti frizz hair products and shower gel sales increase following heatwaves as people use these more frequently during heatwaves than they usually do.

So how can you best prepare your store for these heatwaves?

Keep an eye on weather forecasts by reputable agencies. When a heatwave, storm, cold wave or any unusual weather event is expected, look at temperatures expected, humidity levels etc and consider how these, in combination, will impact human behaviour.

For instance, a heatwave is declared in the UK anytime the temperature rises above 25℃ or 26℃. When temperatures are between 26℃ & 32℃, people plan to and are likely to go out, and enjoy the warm weather outdoors. So sales of certain products like beer, wine, water, picnic essentials, barbecue ingredients etc are all likely to increase a few days ahead of these heatwaves. Sales of these products continue to stay elevated during the heatwave as some consumers maybe more impulse led than others. During this period, depending on humidity levels, sales of anti frizz hair products and brands may also increase.

However, when temperatures increase beyond 35℃, sales of these products may not increase as much, as some people may prefer staying indoors where it is cooler. Also, impulse sales will not be as high at stores, and may move to quick commerce channels, as more people want to avoid the heat outside.

When a heatwave is expected, looking at humidity and dust levels is important when considering what and how much to reorder as they impact demand for shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers, home cleaning products and laundry products.

Sound complex? That is because, it is

Impact of changes in weather can be difficult to predict when looking at things in isolation. So consider not just weather forecasts, but also the demographics of consumers around your store location. People from different countries behave differently when it comes to weather. So if your store is located in a cosmopolitan area, consider how people from different backgrounds may react differently to these changes.

If you’d like to learn more about how to prepare for unexpected weather events and maximise sales during these times, email me on veena@salesbeat.co