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Unilever eyes consumer services

News, 12 August 2016

LONDON: Unilever's readiness to explore new areas has taken another turn as its Persil laundry brand trials a partnership with a mobile dry cleaning and laundry start-up.

A three month-long tie-up with ZipJet – users can book laundry pick-up and delivery times and locations via an app – will see the latter offer a "Persil Wash & Fold" service using the eponymous detergent.

Lorenzo Franzi, co-founder and managing director of ZipJet – a product of Germany's Rocket Internet incubator – told Marketing Week that he had been approached by Unilever which wanted to discover "the next business models of the future".

"We are extremely close to customers and data driven," Franzi said. "We know exactly what type of demographics use us and therefore own a lot of valuable data.

"Current consumption behaviours give a lot of insight into what might come to the rest of the market in time, so for them [Unilever] it's a great opportunity to get information on consumer trends," he added.

Just as automotive companies are exploring how they might reposition themselves as mobility providers, so FMCG companies are starting to think in terms of customer services rather than consumer products.

But delivering appropriate services requires information and data that can be crunched to provide insights and FMCG companies tend not to have too much first-party data, being reliant on data from retailers, hence the moves towards direct consumer relationships.

Persil's limited ZipJet partnership will at least be cheap compared to the $1bn Unilever paid last month to acquire Dollar Shave Club, the subscription grooming service that claims 3.2m members.

At the time, Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America, noted Dollar Shave's "incredibly deep connections to its diverse and highly engaged consumers" and its "unique consumer data and insights".

As Nick Liddell, director of consulting at branding agency The Clearing, observed: "You're building more direct relationships, you don't have to go through those pesky retailers anymore and you can cross-sell loads of your products and bundle them. You're not just selling shaving, but personal care."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional data by War staff