The coffee industry has had to grapple with the future of wholesale since the pandemic hit. However, it's also opened up new revenue streams. The combination of millions of customers working from home along with cafes operating at limited capacity forced roasters and distributors to quickly pivot to DTC.
United Sodas of America unveiled its line of 12 flavors of low-calorie soda last May, which came after two years of development. At the most recent Modern Retail+ Talk, co-founder and CEO Marisa Zupan said the compant surpassed forecast sales by 5x over the past month. “Learning about people’s behavior at their delivery preference was valuable during this period,” she said.
Startups catering to office-based employers are rethinking their services to fit the new workplace. Solutions for socially distant workplace designs is proving to be a major opportunity for some businesses. From health workstation partitions to individually packaged kitchen staples, here are some of the ways companies have changed their services to offer social distancing service.
Resale platform Mercari is letting sellers offer two-hour courier service via Postmates. Mercari Now, which it developed before the pandemic, allows users to accept local orders without packing and shipping them via parcel, said CEO John Lagerling. Mercari joins other companies investing in new same-day delivery services -- and Postmates has remained a popular business partner.
As one of the early DNVBs to incorporate physical retail, menswear brand Untuckit was hit hard by the pandemic. Many items saw demand slip and all of its stores had to close down. Despite the setbacks, founder Chris Riccobono told Modern Retail he doesn't have plans to permanently close any stores.
Starbucks' new store strategy aggressively favors digital orders and pickup, building on its experimental format from recent years. The post-pandemic look of its shops in the next 18 months will favor to-go over customers using its seating area for socializing.
Proof underwear's April launch could have gone many ways, but it happened to coincide with low CAC and an unexpected solution for quarantined women. "When people took their foot off the gas, we put ours on," said co-founder Lori Caden. She and her sister co-founder talked about launching their latest brands -- as well their earlier company that debuted in 2008.
Reopening stores, even just for curbside pickup, isn't as easy as it looks. Companies are performing cost-benefit analyses -- taking into account inventory reallocation, store staffing logistics, and whether try-ons are necessary enough to justify opening up. The reality is that for many smaller brands, “curbside alone can’t cover costs to warrant a reopen as the virus wave continues,” explained Lunya CEO Ashley Merrill.
Same-day delivery continues to see interest beyond food and alcohol, as services like Postmates and Ohi continue to see increased demand. “We’ll continue to offer Postmates going forward,” said Neighborhood Goods CEO Matt Alexander, including at the New York Chelsea Market location when it reopens.
Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson, who co-founded the coffee brand in 2018, spoke to Modern Retail about running a growing coffee brand. Their strategy helped Blk & Bold become the top selling coffee on Amazon during the pandemic, along with national distribution at Target and Whole Foods. While other coffee companies focus on placements in shops, Blk & Bold went a different route and went all in on retail.
Running a radical, mission-driven brand can be tricky. East Fork Pottery's Connie Matisse explained at this week's Modern Retail+ Talk the need to integrate values throughout business decision, and why "not everyone needs to be your customers." Consistently defining your company and what you stand for is integral in finding and retaining customers, she said.
Both businesses and consumers are seeking out more flexible payments options. E-commerce platforms like Shopify and Alibaba are building out their own features -- granting both consumers and merchants more flexible payments options. Shoppers utilize these services to finance purchases without the use of credit cards; small online retailers are increasingly being offered the ability to procure or produce inventory without fronting large sums of money.
Despite social distance restrictions being loosened in California, the timeline for Grove's San Francisco office return won’t be until “sometime after Labor Day," said CEO Stuart Landesburg. With pre-planned product launches being pushed back, the strategy to resume facility operations has proven tricky. While some members of the team are able to work remotely, others who need to test and devise new products are having difficulty doing their jobs. It's a problem felt by many brands.
Virtual try-ons quickly took the place of fitting rooms, and with many brands still strategizing reopenings, the solution has quickly become a growing part of the e-commerce offerings. For brands that heavily rely on help from store associates and customer test runs to make sales and minimize return rates, such as Lululemon, Deciem and Design Within Reach, providing virtual customer support is a long game.
Running different channels requires skills and discipline. Brand consistency is key, especially when many channels are involved internationally and across different touch points. Ask “what are the reasons to come to the site and why is the experience special?” said Ugly Drinks CEO Hugh Thomas.
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