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    Published on: December 6, 2022

    Business Insider reports that Amazon has an invitation-only Ad Verification program that pays users $2 a month to share their mobile phones' traffic data.

    According to the story, "Amazon is tracking what ads participants saw, where they saw them, and the time of day they were viewed. This includes Amazon's own ads and third-party ads on the platform.

    "Through the program, Amazon hopes to offer more personalized-ad experiences to customers that reflect what they have previously purchased, according to Amazon … The deal is part of the Amazon Shopper Panel, an invite-only program where select Amazon customers can earn $10 per month if they upload 10 eligible receipts from purchases made outside of Amazon. Panelists can receive additional monthly rewards for completing short surveys."

    KC's View:

    I'm not sure that $2 is an appropriate monthly fee for the level of information that Amazon may be able to glean from an average person's mobile phone traffic, but on the other hand, there are a lot of companies getting a lot of information for free, and a lot of people who would be happy to hand over their personal information for free in exchange for more targeted promotions.

    I'm at the point lately where I'm so boring in terms of mobile phone traffic that if I were part of the program, Amazon might feel it would be overpaying me at two bucks a month.  (I don't even have Facebook or Twitter on my iPhone … because I don't need or want that kind of immediate access.  On my MacBook Air, yes … it is just a way of self-regulating.). But that's just me.

    Published on: December 6, 2022

    Walmart and NBCUniversal will collaborate for livestream shopping offerings on E!, beginning with "LivE! Deals for the Holiday Season," which will be seen on E! Online this Thursday.  During the program, viewers will be able to shop online.

    Brand Innovators writes that "the E! shopping event will feature guests including a celebrity chef, a mother and self-care enthusiast. Together with the hosts, the guests will share affordable shopping tips. Viewers will be able to interact with the panel and ask questions about the products in real time. If they want to shop, viewers can purchase the gifts by clicking on the livestream, which will direct them to a checkout page on Walmart’s website. Products include: cookware, toys and self-care products.

    "Walmart launched its first shoppable livestream in December 2020 working with TikTok for a Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular. Since then, the retailer has supported 350 shoppable livestreams including programs featuring Rachael Ray, Drew Barrymore, Ree Drummond and IGN to sell its products within a livestream environment.

    "After the E! livestream event airs, it will be available on-demand to stream through Peacock’s Holiday Hub beginning on December 10th. Subscribers will have access to the show and its shopping functionality through December 22nd."

    “The future of livestream shopping is bright, and we are continuously innovating to meet the evolving needs of our customers in new dynamic and immersive environments,” Sarah Henry, Walmart's Head of Content, Influencer and Commerce, said in a statement. “This season, we know our customers are seeking holiday inspiration at affordable prices, which is why we’re thrilled to partner with NBCUniversal to create an engaging and seamless shopping experience featuring some of our most popular products at prices that are sure to put viewers in the holiday spirit.” 

    KC's View:

    To be honest, I don't have a real sense about the sustainability of livestream shopping, but in this case that doesn't really mean anything.  Walmart clearly feels that there is a lot of potential there, and that some percentage of shoppers will respond to an experience that they perceive to be more robust.  In an era where differentiation is at a premium, it is hard to argue.  (Plus, teaming with NBCUniversal, which has access to an enormous amount of content, seems like a savvy move.)

    Published on: December 6, 2022

    BJ's Wholesale Club announced that it is launching a proprietary retail media network, BJ's Media Edge, which it says is designed to offer brands "a comprehensive advertising solution to connect with BJ’s members."

    BJ's says that it "recognizes that retail media is increasingly critical within the modern marketing mix and is committed to a future where advertising and e-commerce thrive together to create the best shopping experience for its members. Early adopters to BJ’s Media Edge who have activated a campaign on the Microsoft PromoteIQ platform have seen a significant return on media investments."

    The announcement says that the benefits to brands include the ability to "buy onsite and offsite media with one platform" … "reach members across highly trafficked touchpoints on BJ’s owned properties" … "connect with in-market members across the open web" "target audience segments to influence purchase behavior" … "reach members seeking inspiration through digital and social media extensions."  BJ's also says that "closed loop measurement reporting capabilities is currently in development to help brands understand business outcomes by matching ad exposure to purchases online and in club."

    KC's View:

    Pretty soon, the number of retailers without access to a media network will be a lot smaller than the number with access.

    Published on: December 6, 2022

    From the BBC, a story about how scientists have discovered that in some cases, traces of the Covid-19 virus can reside on some food product packaging for as long as a week.

    According to the story, "For most food products tested there was a 'significant drop' in the levels of virus over the first 24 hours.

    "But in some cases traces survived for about a week, the University of Southampton team found … They picked foods often sold loose at grocery, deli or bakery counters, such as apples, peppers, cheese, ham, olives, crusty bread and croissants.

    "The packaging tested included drink bottles, cartons and cans.

    "The amount of virus they applied was designed to simulate how much might land on food if someone who was infected coughed or sneezed near it, for example, because Covid is spread by respiratory droplets.

    "Breathing in infected droplets, rather than touching infected surfaces, is still the main way people catch Covid."

    The scientists says that "there is no need for shoppers to take extra precautions when handling food - other than washing your hands before preparing and eating it, and rinsing fresh produce to help to remove any contamination on the surface."

    KC's View:

    Washing one's hands frequently, and washing fresh produce before eating it, would seem to be a good idea whether you are worried about Covid or not.

    Published on: December 6, 2022

    •  Kansas City-based Community Grocers is reopening a store next week in the Crossroads neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, that now will be equipped with the Just Walk Out technology pioneered in Amazon Go stores, allowing shoppers to exit the store without having to go through a traditional checkout.

    The store also is equipped with Amazon One technology, which permits customers to link their palms to a payment system, and then enter the store just by holding their palms over a scanner.

    While Amazon has licensed the technology to a variety of third party businesses, ranging from airport newspaper stands to sports and entertainment facilities, this is said to be the first time Amazon is allowing the tech to be used in a grocery store other than one of its own.

    Published on: December 6, 2022

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that PepsiCo "is laying off workers at the headquarters of its North American snacks and beverages divisions, a signal that corporate belt-tightening is extending beyond tech and media … Hundreds of jobs will be eliminated, one of the people said. The cuts affect the company’s North America beverage business, which is based in Purchase, N.Y., and its North America snacks and packaged-foods business, which has headquarters in Chicago and Plano, Texas, the people said."

    PepsiCo told employees in an internal memo that the layoffs were intended “to simplify the organization so we can operate more efficiently.”

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Restaurant and trade groups said they have submitted enough voter signatures for a ballot measure to try to halt the implementation of a new California law that would set minimum hourly wages for fast-food workers in the state starting next year.

    "A coalition of restaurant owners and business groups called Save Local Restaurants said Monday it had filed more than 1 million petition signatures to put the law on hold and place an initiative before California voters on the 2024 ballot. They had until Dec. 5 to submit roughly 623,000 valid voter signatures to place a question on the 2024 ballot asking whether the law should take effect. If voters side against the law, it could be struck down.

    "The secretary of state must review the restaurant groups’ ballot signatures to determine whether the coalition has submitted enough valid ones for a statewide referendum.

    "The California law, known as the FAST Recovery Act, could set the minimum wage for the fast-food industry as high as $22 an hour next year and establish new workplace standards. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation last September, saying it would give fast-food workers a stronger voice in determining their wages and working environments."

    Published on: December 6, 2022

    Yesterday, after posting an email from MNB reader Lauren G. D. Redman, CEO of Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon, I wrote that she is "both an MNB fave and one of the best independents out there."

    One MNB reader responded:

    Shout out to Newport Avenue Market.  I took a few months between jobs during the end of 2020 and early 2021, took a little roadtrip West, and found myself in Bend. Oregon.  Saw the last Blockbuster store before the streaming platforms found it.

    But more importantly I found myself at Newport Avenue Market on multiple occasions.  What stood out the most, was the employee attitudes. THEY CARED.  The team in the wine department saw to it that I walked out with the type of Pinot I was looking for. The produce team went to the backroom and came out with a fresh box of the apples I was looking for.  The checkout team, where most stores make you feel like you're somehow ruining their day simply by choosing their line, CARED.  They were cheery, helpful, engaged in real conversation. That team was the final employee interaction I had before leaving the store and they nailed it.  Employees who are well compensated and have a stake in the game approach their job differently.  The customers see it, remember it, and spread the word.  By the looks of their parking lot, where it's a challenge getting a spot, most of Bend is in on the secret.

    Happy to support independents like this, and the slightly higher prices didn't bother me one bit as I returned multiple times on that trip. 

    All true.  

    On a different subject, I got the following email from MNB reader Scott Burrill:

    I just returned from a two-day junket to NYC where we visited a lot of retailers to review use of technology.  This gave me a chance to visit an Amazon-Go store for lunch, a first for this guy.  First, finding the in-store code on the Amazon app was clunky at best.  I would have expected the app to detect my presence and put it front and center. Instead, I had to go on a fishing expedition with my colleagues to locate it buried in the app.

    Otherwise, the experience was everything I expected from an ease and speed perspective.  Interestingly, the system missed charging me for the sandwich I purchased!  When I inquired with the one employee on hand, they said to wait, and it’d probably come through on the receipt…it never did. 

    This makes me wonder how much shrink these systems incur due to missed items.

    I agree with the notion that the old Amazon Go system - there was a dedicated app - was a little easier than the current system, which has it embedded in the regular Amazon app.  

    And I wonder if the shrink that occurs in this system is actually lower than the shrink that occurs with traditional systems.  (My experience is that the receipts for Amazon Go stores have been almost always accurate.)

    Regarding the resurgence of cassette tapes, one MNB reader wrote:

    What about 8 tracks, doesn’t anyone yearn for the days of 8 track players? I had one in my ’71 Ford Pinto, listening to Simon & Garfunkel and Three Dog Night and The Doors.

    They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. (for cars and audio equipment, that’s probably a good thing!)

    And, on still another subject, one MNB reader wrote:

    Kevin, I had to laugh while the reading the story about CVS Remote Pharmacists “while still meeting patient-privacy requirements”. The pharmacy techs at my local CVS continue to announce to me and the long line behind me the medications I am picking up. Geez…

    Agreed.  Worst nightmare:  I'm at CVS, and the pharmacist shouts out, "Coupe, double order of Viagra!"


    Published on: December 6, 2022

    Kirstie Alley, best known for roles in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (as the Vulcan Ensign Saavik) and as the replacement for Shelley Long in "Cheers," has passed away after a short battle with cancer.  She was 71.

    KC's View:

    People don't remember what a roll of the dice it was when Alley replaced Long in the sixth season of "Cheers."  Long was quitting the series, which was largely focused on the romance between her character and Ted Danson's Sam Malone, who owned the eponymous bar "where everybody knows your name."  In casting Alley as Rebecca Howe, who worked for the company to which Sam had sold Cheers and was attempting (with increasing futility) to run a tight ship, the producers actually repositioned the series with a greater emphasis on the terrific ensemble.  It ran for a total of 11 seasons and 275 episodes, and is generally considered to be one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.  And now, I'd bet, people remember Kirstie Alley more than Shelley Long.

    Published on: December 6, 2022

    In Monday Night Football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 17-16.