Marci Weisler (no relation), chief commercial officer, Vengo Labs, has a challenging role to play during the pandemic. Her company positions itself in the out-of-home space with a network of over 1,400 mini interactive digital vending machines at gyms, hotels, colleges and corporate locations in major DMAs.
How is she able to maneuver when many of the venues are still closed or functioning at lower capacity? Where has Vengo been able to expand its base?
Charlene Weisler: What is Vengo's current distribution?
Marci Weisler: Over recent weeks, Vengo expanded its footprint as the New York City MTA installed Vengos at multiple subway stations (in Manhattan and the Bronx) offering PPE, including KN95 masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
Those are in addition to the over 1,400 Vengo interactive digital kiosks that connect brands with consumers in the places they go: gyms, colleges, hotels, offices and retail, providing samples and other goods. We continue to expand as more locations want to offer PPE and find value in transitioning to touchless solutions in the coming months.
Charlene: Tell me about the pre-COVID state of the company's offerings.
Marci: The Vengo network grew significantly in 2019, offering data-driven product sampling, interactive DOOH media and unattended retail. Typical campaigns running on Vengo's network see over 70 seconds of consumer engagement time, up to 16% conversion and up to 33% lift in sales at retail from a sampling program.
Charlene: What has happened during the pandemic?
Marci: Given that many of our retail locations closed temporarily in the first half of 2020 due to the pandemic, we used this time to adapt our strategy and expand our offerings.
Rather than panic, Vengo recognized that consumer behavior in the post-COVID world will be very different, so we used this period to drive product development and new partnerships.
First and foremost, we extended what we do on the kiosk to mobile -- creating the first end-to-end touchless sampling program. Now the consumer interacting with Vengo can use her own mobile phone to experience the content found on the Vengo screen, and then trigger the dispensing of the product from the machine.
Brands, retailers and agencies are all very excited about this new enhancement. We also now support PPE products with both dedicated kiosks like those in the NYC subway and through product additions at existing locations.
Charlene: How is the company pivoting, and is this a short term or long-term pivot?
Marci: Adding touchless is a long term extension of our business —gives the consumer flexibility to interact with Vengo in the way that works best for them-- on the Vengo screen or their own screen, and gives the brands and retailers we work with additional touchpoints to connect with the consumer.
Charlene: Is your business varying by state and if so, what is the impact of reopening, consumer confidence, fulfillment etc.?
Marci: We are closely monitoring state's re opening plans, and have seen locations begin to come back online over the last couple weeks. We are monitoring activity at the kiosks and will have better insight into consumer behavior in another few weeks.
Charlene: What data do you collect, and how is it being interpreted during the pandemic?
Marci: We are a data-driven marketing platform, so typically we collect lots of information, from engagement to lead generation to sales lift on differing campaigns. As locations open again, we will be able to track how attendance at locations and consumer engagement with campaigns look relative to pre-pandemic numbers.
Charlene: Where do you see Vengo a year from today?
Marci: In addition to creating a "new normal" in the interactive kiosk space during recent weeks, we see the pandemic driving more long-term change in consumer behavior, and forcing an acceleration in retail and marketing innovation.
As a result, Vengo will be a key player in the next wave of data-driven marketing. By next year at this time, we will have greatly expanded our footprint and will be playing an even bigger role in the sampling and DOOH media space-- both in-store and in other locations where people go every day.
Sampling, a key channel for so many marketers, can no longer be reliant on street teams and in-store reps giving away product to random passers-by. Our touchless, data-driven solution will enable meaningful data capture for lead generation, CRM and consumer survey information.