"I Said, Buy the Salsa!!!"

The age of personalized grocery recommendations have come to physical shopping carts

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In Today's Issue

Instacart Pilots Smarter Ads on Its Shopping Carts

Your grocery cart might soon start recommending products personally selected for you — buy some chips, and a small screen in the push bar might suggest a salsa.

Ad screens in shopping carts aren’t widely used, but they have existed for a while. Until now, they’ve been sort of dumb. Everyone in the store gets the same ads — which is good for large-scale brand awareness campaigns (the kind Coca-Cola might run, or a big CPG company like Proctor and Gamble) but not great for goals closer to the bottom of the funnel.

Instacart’s Caper Carts, which it markets to grocery stores, will soon have smarter ads. This is because the cart can detect what’s placed in it.

One example offered by the company: If a consumer puts ice cream cones in their cart, and Dreyer’s Ice Cream brand has bought this new dynamic ad, they can pop up a promotional message suggesting the shopper picks up their vanilla ice cream.

You might wonder what’s in it for the supermarket? After all, it’s not likely to increase sales per se — someone who buys cones is probably going to buy ice cream, even without a fancy touch-screen.

The answer: Rev share. Retailers who use the carts and opt-in to this new ad format will get a share of that ad revenue.

These new ads will start piloting in some Bristol Farms stores in southern California. Instacart says by the end of the year, it hopes to have thousands of their upgraded carts in stores.

Would you use a "smart cart" when shopping, knowing it's sharing your purchase data?

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TikTok Restricts Marketing Tool Amid Scrutiny

TikTok has limited a key trend-monitoring tool using by many marketers.

Until this week, the Creative Center allowed brand managers and advertisers to track hashtag use. Now, TikTok has restricted that data to top industry hashtags, such as in travel and pets.

The move is a response to criticism of TikTok's content moderation and perceived influence from Beijing. The platform faced scrutiny, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war began. Critics utilized the tool to dispute TikTok's neutrality claims and point out biases.

Recently, the search function was disabled, and links to certain political hashtags stopped working. TikTok said these changes are intended to prevent misuse and “incorrect conclusions” about its content.

This change coincides with concerns over TikTok's impact on young Americans and the potential influence of the Chinese government. It has drawn legislative attention, with some in Washington suggesting a ban or a forced sale to a U.S. company.

Did you use, and will you miss, TikTok hashtag analytics?

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Amazon’s New Tech Aims to Cut Clothing Returns

Marketers who sell clothing don’t need to be reminded of this, but the average return rate for clothing ordered online is nearly 25%. That’s about eight points higher than the overall return rate. And it’s growing, thanks to an increasing number of buyers who buy multiple colours and sizes, just return the ones that don’t work out.

To that end, Amazon has rolled out a new project aimed at reducing those high return rates of clothing. 

The new system uses AI to combine a bunch of data points, to try to simplify the process of finding well-fitting clothes.

Amazon's approach includes personalized size recommendations, a "Fit Insights" tool for sellers, AI-curated fit review highlights, and revamped size charts.

The key tech, which they call "Fit Review Highlights," extracts information about clothing fit from customer reviews. So for instance, reviews that note the shirt feels smaller than its stated “L” size might influence whether a customer who buys “L” shirts sees it in search.

But more than just stated sizes — it will pluck out recurring themes about size accuracy and fabric stretch, making it easier for shoppers to gauge an item's suitability without reading numerous reviews.

It’s also going to try to standardize sizes across products, using a kind of sliding scale of sizing.

And the company says it will have a new data dashboard for sellers to see sizing decisions made by the AI.

Threads’ Struggle with Controversial Content

If you’ve been spending any time recently on Meta’s Threads app, you may have noticed some questionable content. Not porn or anything, but thirst traps, increasingly sensationalistic stuff, and the likes.

The head of Threads, Adam Mosseri, says his team has noticed it too, and they’re starting to work on fixing it.

It’s probably to be expected for the platform, which is only six months old. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg five years ago explained how controversial content always seems to grow on social platforms:

When left unchecked, people will engage disproportionately with more sensationalist and provocative content.

This is not a new phenomenon. It is widespread on cable news today and has been a staple of tabloids for more than a century.

At scale it can undermine the quality of public discourse and lead to polarization.

In our case, it can also degrade the quality of our services.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta CEO

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X Introduces Targeted Ads for Premium Subscribers

X, the former Twitter, has added a new advertising option — targeting only those who pay for its Premium services.

It’s not clear how this would benefit advertisers, though. Fewer than 1% of X’s users pay for its Premium service. And given the relatively small price, it’d be hard to argue that this cohort has significantly increased spending power.

If anything, it might help your brand align with people for whom free speech as a political statement is important.

X’s own numbers show that the user base is shrinking, as is the time spent in the app.

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