Caroline McDowell

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On November 20, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on Hungry? Try 3D printing your food :

Fascinating! My company was beginning to use 3-D printing technology, but I had no idea this extended to the food industry. I think the use case for senior citizens is a great one, and I could also see some tremendous benefits for the baby/toddler set, who are notoriously fickle in their preferences and appetites. Parents could experiment with their children’s preferences with relatively lower variable costs (as presumably the different capsules could be combined in a variety of different ways). While I agree with the concern about customer adoption for full meals (I certainly would not want to eat a 3-D printed steak, as you mention!), I think there’s tremendous potential to leverage this technology for entertainment purposes. Customers planning a cocktail or dinner party could bring a caterer’s job in-house and have the machine create incredible, artistic appetizers or fancy, petite desserts for guests.

Great post Emma! As an avid MiniLuxe customer, I think it’s worth noting that analytics (the focus of this blog post, of course!) is only one of the value props that MiniLuxe offers customers, and only one of the drivers of the company’s slightly enlarged prices. The other critical element in their strategy is their focus on operating at the highest level of hygiene standards. Many of the comments above have questioned the validity of MiniLuxe’s business model, and I’d push back, citing these significantly higher cleanliness and health standards as a highly important complementary feature that benefit the company alongside its tech savvy management. I agree that technological innovation alone will not differentiate MiniLuxe from competitors, but paired with their stringent customer-facing hygiene standards, I actually think they business model is fairly special.

Agree that having a MiniLuxe app would be great, and I’d suggest one additional feature. As someone with super pale skin, I sometimes struggle to tell how a nail polish color will look on my nails (particularly nude shades or less traditional colors like blues or teals) – often a great nude shade that one of my friends with darker skin wears ends up looking awful on me, but it’s too late to request a color change. If MiniLuxe offered a feature like Sephora’s lipstick color tester, where customers uploaded a photo of their hand and tested various shades atop their skin tone, I think this could further enhance client satisfaction after manicures.

On November 20, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on Sephora: Who wants a virtual makeover? :

This is great – such awesome innovations. I agree with all the comments above – particularly Brittany’s and YM’s! As someone whose skin is extremely pale, I would also love an application that scans my skin color and matches it across all the possible foundation options within Sephora’s product assortment. To the point on perfume, it would be incredibly helpful to receive a small sample of a couple of foundation options, after the matching technology was applied, to try first before making an expensive purchase. One additional suggestion for innovation is a batching system that allows Sephora’s personalization logic to dynamically select products that fit a customer’s purchasing history, and temporarily batch them together into a discounted set based on margin considerations or current manufacturer discounts, etc.

Sephora is definitely an innovator in the makeup space, and I look forward to continuing to watch their evolution.

On November 20, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on Stitch Fix – Transforming Retail Through Personalization :

Thanks for a great article. My manager used Stitch Fix for her entire wardrobe – as a busy VP and a young mother, she had no time to shop for stylish new clothing, so this business model was a perfect fit for her lifestyle. I didn’t realize that the company included zip code, occupation, commute type, etc. in their data collection. Knowing that now, I can of course understand why these logistical factors are incredibly important in determining the practical feasibility of the clothing each stylist selects. I’m wonder if Stitch Fix will ever consider expansion into an a-la-carte menu, where a customer can request a specific item (i.e. a new business suit or a full length formal gown), and a stylist can send a selection of items matching this request vs. the standard box of mixed items. Additionally, tying in our sustainability challenge, I’m wondering if Stitch Fix will roll out any programs where customers can return a batch of used seasonal items, to be donated by the company or recycled, and receive a discount on subsequent shipments.

On November 20, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on Tracing a web of destruction: Can big data fight human trafficking? :

Thank you for this post – such an eye-opening article on an incredibly important subject. I had never seriously considered the impact of data analytics on human trafficking, but after reading your post it’s incredibly evident how impactful it is to collect, record and analyze this information to create a comprehensive and proactive response. Like the above comments, I too am curious how this information operates across borders and agencies to create a unified and continuous response from law enforcement. The statistic you mention above, that a two minute difference can impact the outcome of an intervention, is staggering – how does this manifest more specifically? Is this in reference to scenarios where the traffickers and victims are actively moving and/or attempting to cross borders?

I wish the implications of this data collection and targeting were more broadly proliferated. In the age of the smartphone, it seems that average citizens could play a more active role in reporting [and being trained to recognize] suspicious scenarios (rather than relying on those close to the trafficking industry like truck drivers). I’ve seen educational advertisements once or twice, but I wish these organizations would leverage social media more aggressively to spread the word.

On November 7, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on Show Me the Honey: Plight of the Humble Bee :

Such an interesting and scary post – had me thinking deeply about the irreversible effects of climate change. While I think the options you propose, i.e. genetic modification, are strong solutions given the reality of the situation, it makes me sad to think that bees in their natural form will no longer be a viable species if trends continue as they have been. While bees have gotten a lot of publicity in recent years, they’re certainly not the only animal species suffering due to global warming. Polar bears, for example, rely on Arctic sea ice, which is rapidly melting due to global warming. The detrimental impact of climate change on all these incredible species is devastating, and the potential downstream impacts of their endangerment, extinction and/or permanent genetic modification involve many other interrelated plants and animals; a potentially crippling chain reaction.

On November 7, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on “Club Med”: from (non)economical tourism to eco(logical)-tourism :

Interesting post – very informative! I’ve been to a couple of tropical islands that are still getting back on their feet after devastating hurricanes that hit the islands years earlier. I wonder what the average recovery period is for such a physical and economic blow – I’m sure it’s intensified by the lack of available capital to rebuild, which is likely compounded by the decline in tourism following such storms. Such a difficult and unpredictable cycle to operate within. It’s commendable that these resorts are trying to push for more sustainable, long-term changes to combat climate change, but they must have to balance these initiatives with strategies to maintain business short-term if they hope to survive.

Adding insult to injury, Zika virus, yet another issue related to climate change, has become a new hurdle creating friction as families and couples decide where to vacation. Club Med has dedicated an entire page on their website to addressing Zika:; a sign which suggests the virus is a frequent consideration for customers visiting the brand’s various locations online.

On November 7, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on Nike – Innovating with Sustainability :

I really enjoyed reading this post, Peter – well written and informative. Companies like Nike, with tremendous brand equity and reach, have so much potential not only to physically impact climate change via the sustainability initiatives you detail above, but also to play an active role as educators and galvanizers of the public. Nike is a trendsetting, high-awareness company, so when it espouses the virtues of recycling and sustainability, it imprints a powerful message and an awareness on its consumers. It’s exciting to see what the company has done thus far: I’m personally an avid Flyknit Racer fan, but I didn’t realize how much more efficient the sneakers were from the perspective of raw material usage – this newfound knowledge makes me like them even more!

Adidas is gearing up to release a limited number of sneakers manufactured from waste products commonly found in oceans (Parley collection: The shoes are visually disruptive, in the sense that they look quite different from anything Adidas has produced historically, and they very obviously channel the sea from an aesthetic perspective, furthering their message and symbolism. I’ll be interested to see how much buzz this campaign generates, and whether it invigorates some healthy rivalry between the two brands. I have no doubt that Nike will rise to the occasion with something equally innovative and eye-catching.

On November 7, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on Sustaining My Buzz – Readying a California Vineyard for Climate Change :

Such an interesting read! I wonder, as climate change inevitably persists, if we’ll see a move towards more widespread use of green housing facilities in areas where soil and/or climate conditions are no longer conducive to producing “good” grapes, as we’ve seen happen for other plants like the tomato. With a quick google search I found one or two vineyards that already leverage such technology (i.e., but I certainly don’t think this approach is preferable, particularly given that it effectively inhibits scaling volume up, or at least makes doing so incredibly expensive from a fixed costs perspective. I’m also not certain growers would be able to perfectly manufacture the right mix of soil, precipitation and temperature within green houses, because as you allude to in your post, it seems a bit serendipitous when these factors converge to produce a particularly good vintage of wine.

Thanks for the thoughtful post – as I wine lover I certainly hope that we don’t start tasting the effects of global warming!

On November 7, 2016, Caroline McDowell commented on The Ecological Impact of Feminine Hygiene Products :

This is such an interesting and tremendously relevant topic. Feminine hygiene products are one of the few products that can count around 50% of the world’s population as a potential [current or future] market – with that in mind, this feels like such a huge win from a sustainability perspective, assuming someone can figure out how to make it work! While I think companies like Honest Co. or Natracare are incredibly noble and undoubtedly poised for success (relatively speaking) in this day and age, where consumers are becoming more and more conscious, I worry that we’ll never see meaningful, widespread change in this arena unless some of the feminine care giants buy into the movement and transition towards more sustainable inputs for their products. From a pricing perspective, my intuition says that the sustainable products are likely more difficult to produce at a competitive price-point (though it would be interesting to research this further), and as such, are less likely to be adopted by more price conscious consumers. I’m also concerned about reach for companies like Natracare. While certain products (i.e. makeup or fashion) lend themselves to online or speciality store purchases, given the flexibility in their use, products like Tampons have a very specific and time sensitive use case, which makes it less conducive from a product adoption/customer acquisition standpoint, for brands like Natracare to have limited distribution.

Thanks for the insightful post – I learned a lot and I’m incredibly interested to see the continued evolution in this specific product segment over the next few years.