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04/11/2022

Unilever and Ahold Partner on Consumer Behavior With Visual Learning End Caps

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
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Dove products

A few Washington, D.C.-region Giant Food supermarkets are getting an interactive, visual lift in the form of end caps that can track product engagement using computer vision and AI. Unilever is working with retail marketing platform Perch to launch the tech at five stores, with plans to expand should the effort prove fruitful. 

Christina DiPietro, Unilever's team lead for Ahold, parent company of Giant Food, tells CGT that the three companies came together in 2020 to formulate a plan that would bring to life a shared vision for elevating the in-store experience to really drive product conversions in the personal care segment. 

Using Perch’s “lift-and-learn” technology, consumers can obtain information about Unilever products by touching or lifting them off the end cap — without having to scan a QR code, touch a screen, or download an app.

Diving Into Consumer Insights

While the eye-catching end cap with glowing logo and lit shelves should boost consumer engagement — providing product videos, ratings, and reviews for items on the shelf — the real potential is in the data the platform collects in real-time. 

Using sensory technology, the end cap can showcase engagement time, number of shoppers who interact with the unit, total interactions, the most popular products by either touch or pickup, average pickup to screen time, and conversion rate. 

Once the company begins tracking sales, it can make specific promotions that are tailored to those specific stores and consumers, says DiPietro. “The end goal is to have an increase in units and dollar sales and then also just an overall more pleasant shopping experience that’s bringing this awareness to shoppers that historically go to other channels or other outlets for their personal care business.”

Launching With Dove

DiPietro says Unilever decided to launch with Dove as it made “the most sense given it’s our largest brand in personal care,” taking into account the brand’s power, awareness, recognition, and proposition. Additionally, the product aligned across all company core values: “their brand proposition is all about inclusivity and building self esteem,” says DiPietro. 

[Read more: How Unilever’s Blockchain Pilot Will Scale Palm Oil Traceability]

Because the Dove brand spans multiple categories, DiPietro adds, “we were able to have an end cap that is all about the entire holistic body, from hair, deodorant, body wash — it kind of hit all of our personal care categories into one end cap.” This also gives them the opportunity to expand into smaller categories in the next several months depending on the success of the initiative. 

“I think once you start to see the data and the analytics behind this unit, you can then look to  potentially make tweaks based on product assortment while still staying within the Dove brand,” says DiPietro, adding that they wanted to launch this with their powerhouse SKUs before making any swaps down the road. 

In the next few months, DiPietro says Unilever will be looking at the data closely — tracking units, dollars, and sales — to determine ROI and if it makes financial sense to scale out the initiative. But this latest foray with computer vision only scratches the surface, she says, as it's an area that is filled with potential.

“Historically, this hasn't been done a whole lot in the grocery channel so hopefully this is a great case study to then scale this to other customers and bring awareness of what’s capable in the grocery channel, enabling the shopper to do a kind of a one-stop shop vs going to the different channels,” says DiPietro. 

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