TikTok's future in the U.S is unclear, after TikTok announced it plans to sue the Trump Administration over an executive order from early August that had ordered Byte Dance to sell TikTok within 45 days, or the app would be banned in the U.S. But that hasn't stopped direct-to-consumer startups, who are hungry to find alternatives to Facebook, from trying to acquire new customers through the platform.
As beauty deal hunting and deal activity has picked up in the world of Covid-19, it's also extended to an unlikely group of investors -- those previously centered on the food and beverage categories with little beauty-specific segment experience. "We identified the better-for-you food and beverage space as an emerging sector back in 2014 and now see huge potential in clean beauty and wellness brands," said Jordan Gaspar, managing partner and president of AF Ventures.
The weighted blanket brand Bearaby is one brand that's benefitted from the collective stress and lack of sleep among consumers. It has become a bestseller in its category and recently expanded a long term partnership with West Elm. Founder Kathrin Hamm talked to Modern Retail about increasingly tweaking the supply chain and why having a beautiful Instagram feed isn't enough to sustain a company.
Lingerie startup Adore Me is encouraging more of its customers to become influencers. In February, the company launched its own self-serve platform called Creators, where social media influencers can sign up to promote product. Adore Me's self-serve approach is indicative of how direct-to-consumer startups' approach to influencer marketing has shifted over the past couple of years. Rather than trying to find the influencers with the most followers to promote their product, they're instead focusing on trying to find smaller creators who are more genuine fans of the company.
Despite their affinity for shirking traditional retail practices, there's one that direct-to-consumer brands can't shake off entirely: the belief that the customer is always right. Or, more commonly, DTC startups like to follow in the footsteps of Amazon, and declare themselves customer-obsessed. But when customers behave badly, it's often retail workers that pay the price. In order for DTC startups to truly champion diversity and inclusion, they have to train their store staff on how to handle racist or belligerent customers.
As it turns out, even meal kit enthusiasts are getting tired of the prep and clean up aspect of boxed ingredients. That's why the latest offerings by delivery services like Sun Basket and Home Chef are now including semi-prepared dishes that can be assembled and consumed within minutes. This modified model, a shift away from the simple novelty of pre-measured ingredients, has been a bet in recent years by the likes of smart oven manufacturer Tovala.
It's difficult to raise money for your startup -- and even more difficult if you're a person of color. Modern Retail spoke to multiple founders and VCs, and they described the venture capital world as insular, overly cautious and easily dismissive of big markets that cater to diverse segments they don't personally relate to. Several eventually threw in the towel on fundraising, choosing instead to bootstrap their ventures.
National distribution has always been a tough cookie to crack for scrappy, independent CPG brands. Without the distribution methods and supply chain of big brands like Coke and Pepsi, beverage startups have had a hard time scaling beyond health food stores and DTC sales. But the coronavirus has changed the playing field.
During the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., e-commerce has become a lifeline for businesses to stay afloat when many non-essential stores were ordered closed in April and May. Now, changes being made to one of the backbones of the e-commerce landscape -- the United States Postal Service -- threatens to create a huge headache for retail and consumer startups .In mid-July, many businesses started reporting packages were taking longer to get to customers, which coincided with new cost-cutting measures that the USPS could implement. Every e-commerce business, from mom-and-pop shops all the way up to Amazon rely on the USPS in some way, and any changes in service or prices could wreck havoc on small e-commerce businesses.
Public Goods, an online-only consumer packaged goods company, is making its first foray into physical retail. The startup announced on Tuesday that some of its products like shampoo, toothbrushes and facial cleanser, will now be available for purchase in select CVS stores.But Public Goods' strategy differs from that of other CPG startups in that shoppers have to buy a $59 per year membership in order to buy products from its website. So when Public Goods starts selling in CVS this week, it will be the first time that its products are available for purchase without a membership. It will be an important test for the young startup as to how receptive customers are to buying one-off products from Public Goods at a traditional retail store.
The office lunch run may forever have been changed by the coronavirus, but that doesn't mean services catering to those employees are going away. In fact, meal-subsidizing platforms like MealPal, Fooda and Ritual are finding a growing market among manual labor and service workers, an unexpected segment for the category.
From competing with giant retailers for customer loyalty to improving the supply chain, sectors across the DTC world have been transformed by the pandemic. Five direct to consumer brand founders give their takes about the changes they anticipate when the world eventually emerges from the ongoing crisis.
Goldbelly hit coronavirus gold. With restaurants closed, many iconic establishments have used the delivery platform to have their signature dishes shipped nationwide. But the question remains how long that will last. According to Goldbelly, it has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
DTC Twitter is obsessed with Tweet threads. Or, at the very least, they are frequently cited as recommended reads in industry newsletters like 2pm Inc. and Lean Luxe, and often serve as inspiration for further discussions in Clubhouse, Slack, or virtual events. Heavy Twitter usage is not unique to the DTC startup scene, but these Tweet storms are a good a mirror to expose the strengths and weaknesses of DTC startups.
For years, DTCs relied on monthly subscriptions for reliable revenue. But given the current climate and economic uncertainty, relying on those recurring fees may no longer be an option. Some brands, like at-cost goods seller Italic, are going back to the drawing board by truly "cutting out the middleman." However, access to these no-markup products comes at a cost of an annual membership.
One thing is true for nearly all conversions on Amazon: They’re captured by products on page one of the search results. And a significant share of purchases go to just the top few results.
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