We did not set Vesta up with the idea of generating game-changing data sets to help our customers innovate – it just turned out that way (if that’s not the best Startup humblebrag of 2021, I really do want to see it). Our ultimate objective was to provide enough data about the supply chain to improve efficiency and eliminate the need for plastic. Absurd humblebragging aside, we really didn’t think what could happen if companies knew who had their products, how they used them and how much they had left.
We outlined the core elements of data-enabled services in the last blog, but will discuss these in a bit more detail here:
Personalisation at scale. FMCG/CPG have been talking personalisation for as long as I’ve worked in this space and like 99% of innovation in this space it was really talking about digital marketing. Or in other how to serve ads targeted to demographically defined groups of people. What we’re talking about here is an evolution beyond that. Offering services defined by a deep and behavioural understanding of interaction with your products. Do they use a lot of chili when they cook? Are they heavy-handed with the fabric softener? Have they been using a lot more moisturiser when the weather has been cold? The objective in a Vesta-enabled world is no longer to simply stay front of mind when someone is walking around the supermarket. It becomes about helping people to get the best of your products for them.
Adherence and support. We had a relatively recent brief from a group talking about immune-suppressant drugs prior to transplant. Putting Vesta into this supply chain helps remind people to take the right amount, and provides the medical professionals with data to assure themselves that the chance of rejection is minimised. It provides insurance companies with confidence to underwrite the process. When we think about other treatments, especially for chronic conditions, the potential is seemingly limitless.
Efficiency. We talk about efficiency in supply chains, but what about with products themselves? What do you do with the last bit in the bottle? When will my product be out of date? Do I even want more of this? Vesta targeted removing waste in the supply chain, but we’ve already seen we can go further. We helped a trialist understand they could save electricity costs AND CO2 emissions by using their dishwasher later in the day.
I hope this series has been interesting and that it might spark some more ideas. If any of those ideas would benefit from a conversation with Vesta, please get in touch through our contact page or direct through LinkedIn.
Vesta Smart Packaging will tell you who your customers are, how they use your product and how you can build a relationship with them. This is part 1 of a 3 part blog explaining how we can help the environment while also improving your business performance.
In case people have missed it, there was a high-profile election last week. Many things have come up in the fallout of that election, not least that yet again the polls were a long way off.
Biden was projected to win by 8-9%, yet it appears that the actual lead will be around half that. US polling agencies spend a FORTUNE getting people to say who they’ll vote for and once again, as happened in 2016, we see that simply asking people what they’re going to do is not the most effective way of predicting what they will do.
A little context before I go further: I have spent a significant proportion of my professional life involved in research. Primary, secondary and digital research have been major parts of my consulting career. I’ve got a lot of love for research and think that when done properly it can be a superb tool, but times are changing. Over the last decade the disappearance of the phone as a primary communications channel has complicated research design. If you look at the activities of some of the more technologically savvy politicians (see AOC’s appearance on Twitch), it should be obvious that a research approach needs to evolve to meet the reality of voters.
Manufacturers also spend heavily on research, and with good reason. What smell, texture or flavour do customers like? What kind of design do they favour? What price will they pay?
These are all good questions, and deserving of investment, but is this falling into the same trap as the election polling questions? Is simply asking people the best we can do? Back when I was working as a consultant and researcher, my team developed an NLP approach to segment conversations on review sites to try and get feedback for our brands very cheaply. We were able to take thousands of review scores and programmatically translate them into themes to communicate back to the brands. That was an improvement certainly, but Vesta takes this one further. We measure what amount of a product people have and use in order to make sure they don’t run out. But this data provides much, much more than just when to send a refill. What time of day is the product used? Is it used more when it rains? After an advert on TV? Does an uptick in usage tell us something? Does a cessation of usage tell us something?
The bad news for brands is that a more complex communications environment is going to make understanding people more difficult. One data source will not answer every question and we must evolve research strategies to match. The good news is that for product manufacturers who have never had an easy path to understanding their customers, Vesta Smart Packaging provides a brand new data source to help them deliver an experience their end users will truly value.
Get in touch to find out more – you might find that trialling with us is a more productive use of a research budget than putting another poll in the field.
For the first time, The Coca-Cola Company disclosed its total plastic footprint. It revealed that in 2018 it used three million tonnes globally.
This included data on both virgin and recycled plastics use in a single year. A further 35 corporations, including Colgate Palmolive, SC Johnson and Unilever, published similar information in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report on New Plastics Economy Global Commitment (spring 2019).
Although the report only provides a snapshot into our use of plastics, from a limited number of companies, it does highlight the sheer volume that is used annually on global scale: and emphasises our need to cut back, recycle or reuse more of the product. Indeed, the impact of disclosing this information has resulted in many companies committing to increase the recycled content in their packaging, to end single-use plastic straws and carrier bags, and to increase their reuse and refill schemes.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a strong advocate for the circular economy (whereby materials can be reused and recycled, powered by renewable energy), has welcomed these efforts but calls for more action to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging. As the first target within the vision statement states, companies should commit to the “elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority”. Thus, to reduce their plastic footprint, companies need to move towards reuse delivery models that reduce the need for single-use packaging.
At Vesta, we agree that more needs to be done: and we believe that we can provide the necessary, radical overhaul required to address the logistical side of reusable plastic. We believe that with stronger and lasting incentives, that don’t just rely on consumers’ willingness to lower their environmental impact, is the way forward. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, and the commitment made by the signatories herein, is a positive step in the right direction: and we can help companies act on those commitments.
How value exchange is key when designing a disruptive service
We at Vesta were never much fans of the Dash button, and we weren’t alone. When you have to assure the world that your product isn’t an April Fool’s joke, it must be a rough day to work in marketing. Now the dash buttons are being withdrawn, there is value in assessing why this ambitious and bold, but flawed product missed out on mainstream adoption.
Dash was never claiming environmental credentials to be fair to it, but the rather glib one-button re-ordering of all that packaging was one of the things that inspired Vesta’s creation. However, the main reason behind its demise is about the experience and value it offered. A consideration of value exchange offers a useful way to understand service adoption, and we’ve voiced our concerns about Terracycle’s Loop in a similar way.
What did Dash offer? Simple ordering and a potential time saver. Sounds good, but what did it ask for?
- Own a button per product
- Don’t lose or break any of the buttons
- (at some point) recharge the buttons (we never quite understood how that would work)
- Restrict button access to responsible individuals
- Buy the buttons in the first place
Listed like that, the convenience Dash was trying to deliver was clearly more than offset by the demands the service made on its users. A really disruptive service must offer more than it takes to be successful. The iPod is a wonderful example of this. It asked us to effectively burn most of our invested capital in music collections and go digital. For those of us with a giant pile of CDs (we might be showing our age here!), there was a process of copying them all to MP3. One by one. Which took hours.
But we did it, because it offered more. All of everything we wanted to listen to. Anywhere. It outweighed the inconvenience of the change.
At Vesta, our packages offer fully automated re-ordering that is completely integrated. A single scan of our packages through Vesta’s store room application is the only step end-users need to take, and everything else is taken care of. It remains to be seen if our value exchange is the right one for mass adoption, but we believe that combining real convenience with the chance to eliminate single-use plastic is one that will work.