Where It All Began
Popspots was born in a small Bakersfield apartment during the summer of 2015 over a phone call between Don Oelke, co-founder and COO, and his dad and uncle, Crest and Lance Oelke.
Crest and Lance had spent over 40 years in the grocery industry, and own a company that manufactures the gum and candy fixtures located at the checkout. With the continuing decline in magazine sales, they saw an opportunity for new technology to step in and recapture customers’ attention, but they weren’t sure how to get started. Don, a mechanical engineer with a lifelong passion for invention, got to work right away.
Within a few months of that initial discussion, he hacked together our first prototype. It was hardly more than a crude tablet, but this proof-of-concept laid the foundation for what would later become our flagship product.
With the prototype in hand, Crest and Lance began testing the concept with their retail customers. It quickly became apparent that the product had potential far beyond advertising. Retailers loved the idea of increasing product sales, but they were even more interested in using the display to solve a long standing industry issue -- out-of-stock products.
They weren’t sure how to solve this issue at the time, but the opportunity was clear--offer retailers and brands a platform that improves mental and physical availability of products at the checkout, and eventually the entire store.
The early team knew that making their vision a reality would require leadership with technical sales and software expertise, so Don re-connected with a friend from college, Marlow Nickell, and his business partner, Edward Cates. At the time, they were running a boutique software engineering firm in Austin and looking for new projects.
Marlow and Edward quickly fell in love with the Popspots vision and saw an opportunity to make a big impact on an aging industry. Within a week, they began working on Popspots in their spare time.
Marlow Nickell (CEO), a self-taught software developer and former McKinsey consultant, designed the software product and pitched it to grocers. Edward Cates (CTO), a technical savant with a background in electrical engineering, built the software and hardware architectures to support the display network. After a few months, Don moved to Austin and the founding team got to work in earnest.
4 years later, the team has grown steadily to meet the needs of the business, and now operates over 3,000 displays in 600 stores across the U.S.
Since the beginning, our vision has been to modernize retail, an industry that still uses spreadsheets and pdfs to manage product placements and store layouts. Grocery, in particular, faces challenges as the percentage of in-store shoppers remains fairly steady, but consumer demands are shifting too quickly for anyone to keep up.
With modern technology and automation, we’re trying to make it easier to manage and promote products in grocery stores. We are building the next-generation of retail.
The company name, Popspots, comes from the combination of a common retail word, "Point-of-purchase", and our advertising unit, a "spot" at the checkout aisle. Last month, we hit an important milestone - we placed our 3,000th display in the market. Our team wanted to recognize this achievement with a new name for our advertising network. We wanted something bold, yet friendly--a name that clearly communicates the “where” and “what” of our product.
Enter Grocery TV (or GTV).
We're excited to announce a new brand complete with a bold set of colors that matches the vibrant nature of both the advertising and grocery industries. Brands and grocers work with us because they want to stand out and stay relevant with modern consumers.
Our new brand celebrates both the boldness of the advertising industry and the vivid colors of all the products in the grocery store. We imagine the Grocery TV brand fitting in with the eye-catching product launches, seasonal campaigns, and brand awareness ads that play on our displays.
We’ve learned a few things in the last four years building Popspots (and launching Grocery TV):
- Brands are innovating to grow market share: Consumers today are inundated with messaging, and brands are aware that they need to stand out to make an impression. Brands are also re-focusing efforts on merchandising--making sure their products are available when consumers are ready to purchase.
- Digital out-of-home advertising is on the rise: The global digital out of home market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.3% in the period from 2019 to 2027. A lot of this is driven by programmatic exchanges that make it easy for brands and agencies to purchase Grocery TV with a few clicks.
- Grocers care about creating an experience for modern shoppers: From independent retailers to 100-store chains, grocers are adapting to meet the changing demands of consumers and stay competitive. They’re investing in technology that helps them deliver the right products and services to their customers.
We continue to learn a lot every day from our partners. While our advertising (Grocery TV) and merchandising products were built to solve immediate needs we saw in the market, they’re just the beginning.