Unilever’s Persil is trialling a three-month partnership with mobile dry cleaning and laundry startup ZipJet as it looks to gather data on changing consumer behaviour and market trends.
The partnership, which runs until October, offers consumers a new ‘Persil Wash & Fold’ service that will see clothes washed with Persil washing powder. Customers can book through a Persil branded website, as well as the ZipJet app.
Speaking to Marketing Week, ZipJet’s co-founder and managing director Lorenzo Franzi said his company was approached by the FMCG giant as it is looking to explore “the next business models of the future”. Through the partnership, Unilever is hoping to gain access to consumer trends.
“We are extremely close to customers and data driven. This is a key opportunity for Unilever to better understand how customers are changing.”
Lorenzo Franzi, co-founder, ZipJet
“Current consumption behaviours give a lot of insight into what might come to the rest of the market in time, so for them it’s a great opportunity to get information on consumer trends,” he said.
Although FMCG companies such as Unilever obtain data from the grocers and loyalty programmes on existing customers, Franzi argues startups such as ZipJet are able to provide more “in depth” data on potential new customer bases.
“In the ecommerce space, there is another layer of information. We know much more what customers are browsing for and do when they’re shopping compared to the physical retailers. We know exactly what type of demographics use us and therefore own a lot of valuable data,” he explained.
Building direct relationships with consumers
Unilever has been exploring different ways of building direct relationships with consumers. Late last month, it acquired subscription shaving service Dollar Shave Club, which delivers razors direct to customers for a fixed monthly price.
At the time, Jeremy Bassett, head of Unilever’s startup platform Unilever Foundry tweeted it was a push to “embrace disruption”. According to the president of Unilever North America, Kees Kruythoff, Dollar Shave Club’s direct-to-consumer business model gives Unilever “unique consumer and data insights”.
The company has also launched other ecommerce offerings in a bid to build direct customers relationships. In December 2014, Unilever launched its first ecommerce website for its Maille mustard brand, offering customers the opportunity to purchase premium mustards not available in shops. Last year, Unilever’s Marmite gave consumers the chance to personalise a Marmite jar with their or someone else’s name.
Ultimately, it seems Unilever is keen to become more of a customer services brand, instead of a consumer product brand.
“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,” says Nick Liddell, director of consulting at branding agency The Clearing.
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