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On May 5, 2017, Julia commented on Snapchat and AR :

Interesting post, Meghana, thanks for sharing! I am curious what capabilities both SnapChat and retail advertisers/brands would need in order to scale the lens phenomenon. What types of talent does SnapChat need to hire, and how big is that investment? And on the flip side, how do brands measure the ROI of the investment? I think this is a fascinating way to engage with younger Gen Z consumers who may be more immune to advertising, but there is also a fine line between creating a fun feature and annoying your customer base with too many promotional features.

On May 4, 2017, Julia commented on Lowe’s: VR, the Future of Retail :

Thanks for the post, Megan! It seems like many retailers are doing similar things – Ikea, for example, launched a VR experience for customers to visualize kitchen furniture/installations. Right now, these VR experiences seem more like a novelty feature or attraction, often just to drive foot traffic to the stores or as a PR tool. I suspect that until VR is commonplace – used with owned hardware, in our homes – it will be difficult for retailers to integrate into shopping experiences and see a real ROI.

Thanks, Adam – super interesting post! To Ravneet’s point, I wonder how you measure the effectiveness of this type of training, and more broadly (for education) the impact of interacting with others through VR vs. in person. While this is a great idea, I also think it’s a tough sell – to make an impact requires a massive investment in hardware and programs, in environments where sometimes even basic needs are not being met. Curious to see how this company does!

On April 14, 2017, Julia commented on VIBE – Analyzing Morale in the Modern Age :

Thanks, Andrew – this is fascinating. I have similar concerns as those mentioned above, and I agree with Kyla that this is an interesting supplementary tool. It also brings up the issue of privacy and how far companies can/should go in collecting data – as an employee, I wouldn’t be thrilled to learn that all my Slack messages were analyzed and then categorized, even anonymously. And it’s dangerous if a CEO starts to rely on this exclusively; in-person conversations, structured feedback, etc. are important ways for a CEO to be connected to his or her organization.

On April 14, 2017, Julia commented on Next Big Sound – moneyball for music? :

Thanks for the interesting post, Daniella! I wonder what will happen over time if using Next Big Sound or a similar analytics solution becomes standard practice for all artists, record labels, and advertisers. Will this stifle creativity, and lead to a sort of convergence of styles as everyone tries to tailor their music to be the next big hit?

On April 4, 2017, Julia commented on Big Data and Retail :

Thanks for sharing, Megan! Very interesting post. Predictive analytics are a powerful tool for improving ROI and conversions. However, I wonder the extent to which a company can become TOO data-driven. If all marketing decisions are made based on a model, what happens to creativity and risk-taking? Do companies become too short-term focused as they look for only those results that are highly measurable? How do you find the right balance?

On March 24, 2017, Julia commented on The Travel Industry Should Be More “Crowded” :

Thanks for sharing, Tyler – interesting idea! There are a number of new apps that are trying to be “virtual travel agents” that may solve part of the problem you are describing – check out Lola, started by one of Kayak’s founders. I am curious to see how large booking platforms – e.g., TripAdvisor, booking.com, etc – will integrate technology like AI to make the booking and planning process easier, as well as to process the massive amounts of crowdsourced data they already have.

On March 24, 2017, Julia commented on Julep: Going After Big Beauty With Crowdsourced Products :

Thanks for sharing! I am curious if you think that crowdsourcing gives Julep a real competitive edge beyond the ultra-engaged makeup enthusiasts. Are these people the only ones who care/buy the product? How can Julep compete with Sephora, which already has a massive selection, top trusted brands, and a very sticky rewards program? Crowdsourcing is an interesting idea for this space, but I just wonder if it truly leads to different and/or sustainable value capture.

James, thanks for your post! I didn’t know this feature existed, and like others I am wondering how (and if) it should be better utilized. More transparency into the ranking is a good start – but it seems like TripAdvisor needs to figure out exactly why this is a useful tool. For hotels, it’s obvious; factors like location, price, amenities, etc. are illuminated in reviews and help users to make a purchase decision. But for flights, I agree with the comment above that for most, the price is the deciding factor. I wonder if it would be better to integrate user reviews into SeatGurus (also owned by TripAdvisor) to build out a more comprehensive, all-in-one airline review platform that leverages TripAdvisor’s enormous power of the crowd. (p.s. I’m going to work at TripAdvisor next year, so I’ll bring this one up 🙂

On February 27, 2017, Julia commented on Glamsquad: Making Over the Beauty Services Industry :

Thanks for sharing, Afaf! I really enjoyed reading this post. I’m curious about what you think of the demand side of the platform. Is the value proposition compelling enough to address a large enough market? I think that a lot of women use DryBar or other salons not just because of the convenience, but because of the experience – it can be luxurious, or at the very least comfortable and familiar. I wonder if hiring someone to come to your home is still an experience that is uncomfortable for many, and may be a barrier to adoption – especially when the price points are relatively high.

Separately, I am curious about the company’s quality control procedures – do they use a ratings system? How do they vet and onboard new stylists onto the platform?

On February 27, 2017, Julia commented on Honor: the next “Uber for elderly care” :

I really enjoyed reading this post – thanks for sharing! Home care is a fascinating high-growth market – and a lot of room for innovation. I think it’s smart of Honor to retain their caregivers as (full-time?) employees. From what I understand, caregiver quality and retention is one of the biggest challenges for home care agencies. While I believe demand will be high for platforms like this (especially as, to Lauren’s point above, the aging population becomes more tech savvy), I wonder if the company will be able to scale the supply side at the same rate. What are the qualifications for caregivers? Does Honor conduct all of the training themselves, or do caregivers need higher-level (ie nursing) certifications?

Meghana, thanks for your post! I really enjoyed reading about eBay from an insider’s perspective. You’re painting a picture of an early market leader who, along the way, lost traction with customers for a variety of reasons – perhaps due to lack of understanding/engagement with both supply and demand, unwillingness to change, and lack of focus. Fierce competition, I think, has a lot to do with this – 1stdibs for antiques :), Artsy for art, Etsy for homemade items, liveauctioneers, etc. How has eBay responded to changes in the marketplace landscape? Do you think they have any chance of making a recovery?

On February 2, 2017, Julia commented on Sephora: Staying Relevant in Brick and Mortar :

Thank you for sharing, Ravneet – this post was really interesting! Like Sonali, I am a Sephora loyalist but had no idea about any of these services. For me, the value proposition is about consistency (I know that I can find the brands I like), shopping history (I can easily re-order), customer service (easy returns), trialability, and perhaps most importantly, the rewards program (I hit my 500 point gift more frequently than I would like to admit…). This leads me to wonder how important these digital innovations are for the vast majority of consumers – are they nice-to-haves used by a select few, or truly the future of makeup consumption? What can Sephora do to generate awareness about their new technologies and test their true value for the business?

On February 2, 2017, Julia commented on Wayfair: Are Customers Really Ready to Buy Furniture Online? :

Thanks for your post! The hurdle of getting customers to purchase big ticket items online is a big one – I agree that Wayfair will need to stay at the forefront of innovation (they are investing in VR technology) and convenience (easy shipping/returns) to make this work.

I am curious about how their investments in people and marketing will pan out. They are hiring high numbers of smart people to fill their middle management and senior executive ranks, building out a hierarchy in what has been, to date, a relatively young and flat organization. Will this rapid growth enable them to grow their business faster, or will the company get bogged down in complications from growing too quickly? Second, part of the reason the company is not yet profitable is because of its huge investment in marketing. Using their impressive data collection, the company is investing in expensive marketing campaigns from online to television. I wonder if these campaigns are effective, or are these “traditional” (and sometimes hard to quantify) marketing channels simply a drain on resources?

On February 2, 2017, Julia commented on Instacart – Leading the way for grocery deliveries :

Thanks for your post, Rahul! Like dk_22, I am not convinced that Instacart is a winner for the long haul. First, I wonder how transferrable the Instacart format is to smaller cities and suburban areas. Right now, I believe that the company operates only in major U.S. cities; in places where a greater percentage of the population owns a car, does the Instacart value proposition still hold? Second, I question whether or not Instacart will be able to convert a high enough percentage of “traditional” grocery shoppers to the online delivery format. As you point out, preferences are so specific when shopping for food that ordering over an app may be hard. It would be interesting if Instacart can employ technology that makes the act of shopping online almost as good as – if not better than – the in-store experience. For example, imagine a virtual reality-like experience where you can “walk” down the store aisles via your smartphone. And finally, I have personally found the user experience to be inconsistent and frustrating. Product information is often missing or I found out later that my item is stocked out. Instacart still needs to find a way to better connect to stores’ inventory.