Interview: How The Company Behind Malibu & Kahlua’s New Retail Technology Plans To Make Shopping More Entertaining

Interview: How The Company Behind Malibu & Kahlua’s New Retail Technology Plans To Make Shopping More Entertaining
Brand Activation & Immersion

Malibu and Kahlua are building a technology called the "Living Lab" that demonstrates their innovations in augmented reality, near-field communication and connected packaging technologies as they apply to enhancing how consumers experience their brands

PSFK
  • 30 october 2018

 At an event in Stockholm last month, retail technology firm SharpEnd demonstrated several prototypes developed for Malibu and Kahlúa‘s product packaging, in-store displays and advertising. The event was a part of the liquor brands’ Living Lab, a prototyping space that  showcases technology including AR labeling and point of sale display, beacon technology, responsive signage, voice assisted apps and more.

PSFK spoke to Cameron Worth, the founder of SharpEnd, as well as Johan Radojewski, Global Brand Director, Malibu, for an inside look at how this retail technology is being developed and what impact it might have on the future customer experience.

What does this retail technology add to the experience of purchasing Malibu or Kahlúa products? Does it make life easier? More entertaining?

Johan Radojewski: When we’re developing prototypes, they are always aimed at either solving a business challenge or meeting a consumer need. Given this, Malibu/Kahlúa prototypes should add value in terms of either making life easier or actually provide people some sort of entertainment. We normally talk about utility value and entertainment value. The beacon-powered prototype for Kahlúa “come on in” is a good example of utility value as it promotes daily offers and urges you to step into the bar where the consumer could potentially also be offered a voucher. And the Malibu in-store “AR game” where consumers can “play” using the bottle to unlock recipes/offers is a good example of incorporating both utility and entertainment value into the same idea.

Cameron Worth: Service design has been a key area throughout the journey of developing these prototypes, looking at solving pain points in some stages of the customer journey and delivering ‘wow’ moments at other stages. Overall, we see that technology innovation can play a key role at each stage of the customer/consumer/user journey (including consideration/purchase) so it’s a case of making sure there’s a credible application ahead of then determining the enabling tech.

Who is the most important adopter of this technology—is it more important for consumers or for retail partners to participate?

JR : Both. We see that we can add value to consumers as well as bar owners where we, via initiatives like the “come on in” prototype, can drive actual footfall into bars. We of course have a commercial aspect to innovation and if we can, through innovation, help our retail partner succeed, then we become good business partners.

Who is your target consumer? How do you keep tech like this from being novelty, when you’re not aiming to reach younger consumers?

JR: We target the “regular” Malibu and Kahlúa consumer groups based on segmentation. We are very strict with our age-gating and in terms of age span: Malibu targets LDA-35-year old’s and Kahlúa a bit higher with 25-40. Technology adoption is not only a thing we see with younger consumers, but something that gets into all consumer groups regardless of age.

If location-based tech only works when consumers opt in, what is your plan for outreach to encourage customers to install and authorize the correct features on their smartphones?

JR: Instead of pushing people to install special feature apps from Malibu & Kahlúa, we believe it is much smarter to partner, where possible, with bar chains (as one example) which already have a user base for their apps.

CW: One of the starting points—in general when working with service design—is to think about how we can make our customers’ lives better. With that said, a key area for the Malibu & Kahlúa Living Lab has been to provide a toolkit of services that bar/club/festivals could adopt as part of the experience, as this will change the way both their and our customers interact with the brands.

Who are your retail partners so far? Do you have dreams for every shopping experience to be this tech-enabled?

JR: When we first launched connected bottle in the U.K., we partnered with TESCO as they were really keen to execute the pilot and learn from it as well. This year, one of our partnerships have for example been with the Secret Cinema in London, trialing our K-board prototype in a real set environment.

In terms of the future, I don’t think it is a dream anymore, but it is actually becoming a reality. Of course, we see payments undergoing the big shift right now but I’m confident that we will see the same rapid shifts in the packaged goods industry during the next few years.

CW: A key principle for the Malibu & Kahlúa Living Lab has always been to work close with the local markets on innovation and piloting, so the spectrum for retail partners is very broad as each market has its own relationships that we look to leverage for trials. For example, the next pilot will be in Denmark across 5 different retailers based on us leveraging the local customer marketing team to ‘sell in’ the project. This has proven a very critical and efficient way to make sure we get things to market as we leverage both global partnerships and local relationships.

In your opinion, what is the future of IoT? Will every item have AR capabilities or have the ability to send push notifications?

JR: I believe that our bottles definitely have a bigger role to play. Beyond our marketing campaigns and in-store activations, that only reaches a small part of all buyers—the bottle is the only item that ends up either in the hands of the consumer or the bartender. We could utilize that more and really treat the bottle as our “flagship store” where we can initiate a direct, two-way link with our consumers.

CW: It’s quite lofty but I think the IoT has the potential, if approached correctly, to fundamentally reshape the way brands are built—not through advertising/messaging, but instead through service/utility/behavior. A lot of the projects and prototypes M&K have delivered through the Living Lab are not advertising-friendly necessarily, but they do get people to think about the brands in a different way.

SharpEnd

Malibu

Kahlúa

SharpEnd’s technology for the Malibu and Kahlua Living Lab represents just some of the innovative work going on in retail’s brand new world. For more ideas from similar inspiring brands, see PSFK’s reports or newsletters.

 At an event in Stockholm last month, retail technology firm SharpEnd demonstrated several prototypes developed for Malibu and Kahlúa‘s product packaging, in-store displays and advertising. The event was a part of the liquor brands’ Living Lab, a prototyping space that  showcases technology including AR labeling and point of sale display, beacon technology, responsive signage, voice assisted apps and more.

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+store experience & design
+Transactions & Payments

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