We are certainly living in unprecedented times. The global outbreak of the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus has impacted many sectors of the economy and there is no denying that retail and hospitality have been particularly impacted. However, diamonds are made under great pressure and we have certainly seen the emergence of a few big hearts since the start of the crisis. We have seen genuine compassion, community engagement and sensitive marketing, coupled with inspiring ingenuity and fortitude. Many retailers have rolled up their sleeves and appreciated that creativity is no longer a choice, but a necessity if they wish to survive the current climate. Therefore we must look to developing technologies and those who seem to be proving themselves equal to adapting to the all-encompassing threat of global lockdown.
With increased demand for home delivery amid the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon are reigniting their Prime Air drone delivery system. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally relaxed its strict regulations and began granting permissions. This has put fire in the bellies of those hoping to elevate their delivery systems to new heights (pun intended). A prime example of is UPS, who have recently partnered with German startup Wingcopter to develop delivery drones. Leveraging drone technology as a transportation method has massive implications for the future of retail. It would encourage even more people to buy online and thus bolster a savvy companies e-commerce channels.
Since TickTok joined the global social media world in 2018 it has exploded and brands need to know how to use it. The Washington Post has hired a TikTok app expert and Buzzfeed is hiring teens to cover the election on the platform. It is a potential goldmine for retailers, accentuated by the lockdown, which has increased screen time for everyone, and TikTok provides exactly what we’re all looking for: various forms of entertainment and connectivity. Since ads have finally made their way onto the platform alongside shoppable content, it may be worth considering looking into TikTok marketing, stats, demographics and ad options. There are already 32 million posts with the #TikTok on Instagram and its success is only likely to grow.
Bread Ahead Bakery is a perfect case study of how food-based retailers can radically move from a 90% retail model, to an 80% online model, which is essentially what those with physical stores are having to do. The Bakery has been baking in London’s Borough Market since 2012, but with the tourists now gone Mr Jones has started baking to an online audience, hosting a live Instagram story every day. In the space of five days, the bakery has picked up 25,000 followers and boosted its online sales as well as collections from its stores in Wembley and Chelsea. Independents are adapting. Deliveroo has registered 3,000 new UK restaurants in the past month. Ingenuity is rife, with companies over 150 years old doing deliveries for the first time.
They say that laughter is the best medicine and when you’re in lockdown with a brood of small children, it is certainly preferable to the alternative. Mattel and Hasbro have really understood the struggles facing parents and have launched ‘Mattel’s Playroom’ and ‘Bring Home The Fun’ respectively.
Mattel’s Playroom is a resource for families to stay busy while home from school and work. The free platform offers play-from-home activities, games, content, and expert advice based on its well-known brands, including Barbie, Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels and Thomas & Friends. Mattel has really stepped up amid the crisis; donating toys and art supplies to children, and are producing face masks using Barbie and Fisher-Price fabric. Though they lead the pack, they are not alone in demonstrating that toymakers are spearheading the movement towards community, family and consumer engagement.
With the unprecedented shift to companies having to work from home, Zoom has seen not so much an uptick, as an upmountain. The estimated net worth of the founder has increased by more than $4billion since the start of the coronavirus and brands can capitalise on this upsurge in consumer use. Audi is the first to release specially curated images that people can use as a backdrop to their conference calls (which saves you from having to tidy a likely child-filled house). Audi have stated that images will be released periodically across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels, maintaining consumer engagement. Brands might think of linking these images to filters that could be used on Instagram stories – further cross-pollinating brand engagement across social media channels.
Sportwear brand Asics held its first virtual-reality shoe launch on Tuesday (the 31st March) after cancelling plans to host a physical event later on in the year. A 360 degree video of the launch will remain on Youtube for the foreseeable future. In addition to this virtual unveiling of the ‘Metracer’ shoe, Asics has opened access to ‘Asics Studio’, an at-home workout app you would normally have to pay for and will be keeping this open until the end of the lockdown. We have seen these kind of efforts mirrored elsewhere in Sports brands, with live yoga and fitness workshops on Instagram and sport challenges implemented across social media channels. As an industry the current situation actually allows for a plethora of marketing opportunities and consumer engagement. As we all strive to keep fit under cramped lockdown conditions, it is evident that “now, more than ever, it’s really important to remember the positive impact of sport for individuals and society.”
Last week, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic JanSport announced that it would be donating 10,000 backpacks to World Central Kitchen, a non-profit dedicated to creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty. The backpacks will act as vessels for delivering food to needy school students in Oakland LA, who are missing out on free state meals. JanSport timed this donation with an amazing campaign on TikTok. Working with youth-focused think tank JUV Consulting, they launched their #UnpackThatChallenge on TikTok. The challenge included grabbing a backpack from the left hand side of the screen, removing everyday school essentials and passing back to the left, whilst including the hashtag and pairing with Greyson Chance’s “Seasons Nineteen”. This encouraged ‘duetting’, building connections, but more importantly for retailers, it boosted its viral potential and got the brands name and product out there, whilst simultaneously spreading a positive message.
AR has been discussed for some time now, yet the heralded era of virtual changing rooms and purchasable virtual makeup applied to your own face, have not materialised as quickly as some hoped or expected. This has largely been due to a lack of skill in the area, the inaccessible nature of the technology and a ‘build it and they will come’ approach to retail. However, the dramatic shift from physical stores to online markets has reopened both the discussion and the eyes of the retailer. Uri Minkoff, CEO of Rebecca Minkoff states that when someone views a product in AR they are 65% more likely to buy, in addition to which viewing 3D models in AR increases the conversion rate on e-commerce sites by 250%. These are not stats to be sniffed at, and with the growing popularity and accessibility of filters, seizing the opportunity to monetarise products through AR is within the retailers grasp.