Interview by Symphony RetailAI’s Paul Hoffman. Kenny Endermuhle presented on Nestle Purina Petcare’s virtual reality journey at Xcelerate Retail Forum 2017.
In your bio you say, “When the physical world isn’t big enough, we bring these and other ideas to life through virtual reality, allowing for an infinite number of creative possibilities.” Can you explain?
Yes, so there are two ways to look at it. There’s a completely literal translation for that quote around physical build-outs (e.g. planograms, shelf ideas, category concepts etc.). They can be big and expensive and difficult to execute. They require a ton of space, they are extremely time-consuming. Virtual gives us the “out,” where we don’t need a lot of space. You just need the computer program. They’re usually a lot faster, more iterative for sure. Most of the time, they’re going to require less money and you can always go back and adjust in the virtual world, enabled through virtual reality, much easier than you can in the physical world.
There’s something to be said when you build it out physically. It’s more tangible and it’s almost more finalized. But when you build something out virtually, there are more options there.
There’s also a figurative translation to the quote that, sometimes, the idea that you have as a group is too big to build out physically. Maybe it’s too far out there. Maybe it’s something that is a crazy concept that you’re not ready to physically build out because you’re not sure what it is yet. Virtual allows you to take those creative leaps and take something that is an idea and turn that into a virtual reality.
It also allows for many scenarios, so there’s not always a one-size-fits-all solution to a lot of our retailer engagements. There’s not one idea that necessarily is the champion. Virtual enables multiple scenarios in one scene and reveals them in a timely manner. You might want to start with something that is now, and then another, and then into the future. You can do all of that continuously through virtual technology, where if you try to build-out a non-existing future scenario in the physical world, you need a warehouse to do it. Virtual obviously is a little bit more timely and a little bit less money. Again, in my role, we’re looking at retail innovation, so “innovation” is the key word there. Innovation can be messy, but it’s iterative for sure. There are lots of changes and there are lots of things that go into it that makes it messy, for lack of a better term. We have to make sure that we can flesh out ideas, and virtual enables this a little bit better.
What’s your view of the near future on technology, say, over the next three to five years in your industry?
I think the industry is going to continue to evolve towards digital and digital technology for sure. We need to make sure that we’re keeping up with that. I think smart data, stuff that helps you localize content, localize distribution, give the customer what they want because of who they are. In other words, it’s tailored marketing. Making sure that they are receiving something they feel is special to them.
I think in the next three to five years you’re going to see an explosion of targeted marketing towards people, whether it’s on their smartphones, at the store, through digital signage, or via compelling social media targets. This is where we’re headed. It’s going to be about experiences. Brick and mortar is losing countless dollars to e-commerce, so what’s the way that they can bring those shoppers back? It’s going to be through experiences. It’s probably a blending of omnichannel solutions at the store along with really shoppable and easy-to-use e-commerce experiences, and merging those two together is how we’re going to win.
The next big thing is going to be the storytellers and the content creators. Experience is key. You must have people that can tell the story and create compelling experiences to draw shoppers in. If you’re doing something just to do it, it doesn’t work, so I think the next big thing is going to involve content creators and the storytellers.
Why did you agree to speak at the Xcelerate Retail Forum?
Personally, I think it’s a great opportunity to connect with some of the industry’s best. I try to take out of it as much of the technology side as I can, obviously, because that’s my role, and I do believe that Symphony GOLD, the Retail Solutions Division of Symphony RetailAI, is one of the industry leaders from the technology side. I have an extremely strong relationship with the company that they purchased last year, Fifth Dimension, and so that’s how I got hooked up in the first place. When I presented at Xcelerate in Paris last year, it was fascinating to see all the innovative use of technology. So, if I can come back and talk to my boss and talk to my boss’s boss about how other industry-best leaders are using technology and how it might help us, that’s a huge win for me.
It’s also a fantastic opportunity to get our message across and provide the industry that I work in with that knowledge as well as an understanding that Purina and Nestlé Purina is also an industry best. From a category perspective, from a technology perspective and a CPG perspective, Nestlé Purina is doing things that are world class. So, it’s a two-fold answer where we’re taking a lot out of it and hopefully, we’re giving a lot back.
For those who didn’t attend Xcelerate, please mention a few key points from your presentation on virtual reality.
It was almost two presentations in one. The first half covered virtual technology and the relationships that we have with our retailers and how virtual technology has helped us collaborate. How it’s helped with our retail partners in showcasing future shopper marketing or future shelf ideas, planograms, completely new concepts in aisle, retail experience in general and how virtual technology has assisted us in that journey along the way.
The second part is what I get really excited about – the question around the future of virtual reality. How will it evolve over the next three- to five-year period? And not just virtual technology but augmented reality, mixed reality. The combination. There are pros and cons for each of them. As part of this, I covered where I see the industry as a whole going in the next three to five years and how that’s going to help us with our business partners and our consumers. It will have big impact on our lives.
Watch the video interview with Kenny Endermuhle on Nestle Purina’s Virtual Reality journey and then read the full Nestle Purina Petcare case study
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