For Popspots, 2019 was a year of traction.
Nearly four years ago, our team set out to build the operating system for the next generation of retail. While some companies are up and running within months, the foundations of this vision required a lot of time and effort (nearly 3 years worth!) to establish.
During the initial years of our company, we focused on building technology to solve the unique pain points of the grocery industry. We also solidified relationships with retail partners, who expanded our advertising network and provided invaluable feedback on our budding product. At the beginning of 2019, our network started to reach critical mass, opening the doors for both marketing and merchandising partnerships with major brands.
With traction comes waves of excitement and stress. In 2019, some months saw a surge of interest from brands, setting our business goals higher than ever. Other months, we learned that in order to keep up with this newfound traction, we had to build better work flows, grow our team, and improve our product.
2020 is a year of acceleration for our company.
With a Series A funding round under our belts, we’re ready to scale our team and advertising network. Along with this, our team will be putting a lot of effort into building and maintaining the systems necessary for our next phase of growth. Whether it’s rolling out more scalable display software or re-shaping the onboarding process for new employees, each team has some major milestones on their roadmap for 2020.
2019 Highlights & 2020 Vision
Expansion + Series A Funding
As our business started to gain traction in 2019, we expanded the team to meet its growing demands. We polished core company values and policies with the goal of being the best company to work for in Austin.
A major highlight of 2019 was raising a Series A round led by Silverton Partners, an exceptional (and the most active) VC firm based in Austin. This new funding will allow us to make a number of key hires and more aggressively grow our advertising network in 2020.
"We’re impressed by the growth Popspots has achieved both with brands and retailers so far. Our team is excited to be their partner, and support them as they continue to scale."
-Roger Chen, Principal at Silverton Partners
In 2019, we hired four full-time employees including our first People Ops (Caitlyn), Network Ops (Ruby), and Marketing (Ashley) hires. In early January, we also began growing our sales team with the addition of a Junior Account Executive (Ryan). In 2020, we plan to add close to 10 new people to our team, including:
Sales: Account Executive, Jr. Account Executives (2)
Marketing: Content Marketer
Account Management: Retail Account Manager
Hardware: IoT Engineer
Analytics: Data Engineer
Software: Software Developers (2)
75% of our hires in 2019 were female, marking a significant step in our diversity and inclusion initiative at Popspots. This year, we’re implementing diversity training for the company as part of this continued effort to build a team of differing backgrounds and perspectives.
Core Company Differentiators & Policies
We spent 2019 defining our key differentiators as a company and team, streamlining hiring, and standardizing team events like offsites. We developed our first parental leave policy to meet the needs of employees and encourage diversity and inclusion. We also started giving back to our local community as a company by participating in our first volunteer opportunity with Keep Austin Beautiful.
As a team, we discussed what made us different in 2019. We wanted to better understand what made Popspots not only a place where people want to work, but also where they feel accepted and supported in their career goals. We narrowed down our conversations to three values:
When we asked employees what drew them to Popspots, the answer was often transparency. In practice, this includes openly sharing employee salaries and company financials. It also means our leadership team is always happy to answer any probing questions about the business.
Commitment to people was crucial for us to establish early on because ultimately, it's the people who make the company. In 2020, we will continue striving to improve the employee experience and increase employee engagement. A few examples from 2019 include offering 100% coverage for high-quality health insurance and implementing a formal parental policy.
Diversity and inclusion is an attribute we strove for in 2019, but need to continue improving in 2020 through formalized policies, training, and additional hires.
In 2020, we'll be solidifying our company values (and potentially adding a few), while also clarifying what those mean in action for our team.
Hardware + Operations
We grew our network significantly in 2019 from 1,800 displays in 350 stores to 3,500 displays in 750 stores.
We entered new markets, partnering with grocers across the U.S. In 2020, we will be accelerating this growth from 750 stores to over 1,500 stores.
In 2019, we also made new store installations more efficient and added personnel to support the process. This year, our goal is to continue streamlining the installation workflow and improve both hardware and software to further meet the expectations of our customers and reduce their costs.
A primary focus for 2020 is making key display enhancements including bigger, brighter screens and greater on-display processing capacity.
Sales & Marketing
Grocery TV Brand
As our advertising network started getting the attention of major brands, it became apparent that it deserved its own brand. In 2019, our team designed a brand that cemented its position as the leading DOOH network in grocery stores.
Sales Lift Studies
New marketing partnerships with brands like Ferrara, Mars Wrigley, and Hershey opened up opportunities to conduct sales lift studies. On average, our analyses showed a repeatable 13% sales lift for front-end brands that advertise on Grocery TV.
Here are a few of the case studies we built out in 2019:
We were also able to conduct a study on a campaign we ran for Extra Gum, which is yet to be published.
Programmatic Network Growth
This past year we also launched programmatic integrations with Digital-out-of-Home SSPs including Vistar, Place Exchange, Hivestack, Rubicon, and Adomni to make it easier for brands and agencies to access our network.
Through programmatic network integrations, we also garnered interest from out-of-store brands like Spotify, Chase, Netflix, and Food Network.
We discovered the merchandising side of our business was a significant untapped opportunity in 2019. Originally, we thought merchandising services would need to be tied to our advertising network (where we have displays), but that changed this past year. We built a system to audit out-of-network stores by improving our software and working with teams in the field.
We leveraged this new system in merchandising partnerships with major brands like Time Inc. and People Magazine.
"Popspots is disrupting the way manufacturers and retailers manage their products in store. Their merchandising product has been a game-changer for Meredith by providing timely and actionable reporting on retail planogram, fixturing, and product placement issues. All of these metrics directly affect both our top and bottom lines."
-Cort LaMee, Divisional Vice President at the Meredith Corporation
In 2020, we’re excited to explore new ways to serve our customers both on the merchandising and marketing sides of the business. As we grow our sales organization, we look forward to dedicating more time to building partnerships that make it easier for brands to access our network.
Given the increasing interest from out-of-store brands, we’re also hoping to build out case studies that communicate the value proposition of our network for this type of customer.
Engineering & Product
In 2019, we rolled out a partnership with Atmosphere, which provides engaging, family-friendly content to entertain customers waiting in line. Grocers loved this new feature as it made their customers smile and reduced the perceived wait time in checkout lanes.
As our customer base grew, we created systems to automate communication for important workflows such as campaign creation. The goal of these touch points is to improve the user experience by making sure customers receive updates on the status of their campaigns.
We also built out dashboards to make it easy for customers to view their campaign metrics in real time.
Our focus for engineering and product is always changing to serve our business and customer needs. However, our 2020 roadmap includes launching the next generation of our display software, building more sophisticated architecture to support our growing network and user base, and continuously improving the user experience of our platform.
As a small company, things change overnight. One thing that's been consistent is our team's curiosity and drive to improve. We’re constantly trying to build a better product and enhance the way we work together as a team. As the business accelerates in 2020, we’ll be leaning into this drive to keep up with the pace of our growth.