Coronavirus: Brand Moves for Tuesday May 12

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PepsiCo has launched two ecommerce websites that provide direct-to-consumer options for its dozens of packaged goods brands, such as Frito-Lay, Quaker, Muscle Milk, Gatorade, Hilo Life and more. With more consumers turning to online ordering, PepsiCo wanted to “offer shoppers another alternative for easy and fast access to products they love,” the company’s SVP and head of ecommerce, Gibu Thomas, said. The first, PantryShop.com, offers seven themed multi-product “pantry kits,” each including items from categories like breakfast, snacking, workout or hydration. The kits come in two different sizes, and standard delivery is free. The second site, Snacks.com, touts a wide variety of Frito-Lay brands – largely chips, crackers and nuts – to be delivered to your door. There’s a $15 minimum purchase, and the delivery charge is waived as an introductory offer. More items will continue to be added to the site in the coming months. “We’ve seen incredibly strong demand for our snacks during this time,” said Michael Lindsey, chief transformation and strategy officer for Frito-Lay North America. “Snacks.com offers consumers another way to purchase the products they love, delivered right to their door.” Online shopping has skyrocketed under shelter-in-place orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even as economies across the country and around the world begin to reopen, industry executives are predicting that the shift to ecommerce will endure, noting that the pandemic only accelerated a change in consumer habits that was already underway. The news is notable particularly because conglomerates including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Procter & Gamble typically sell products almost entirely through wholesale channels such as grocery stores and restaurants. Analysts have noted that COVID-19 has been a bit of a wake-up call for brands that were slow to transition to ecommerce, and that for some companies it might be too late to catch up. PepsiCo’s new websites seem like an attempt to do just that. The sites were created from concept to execution in less than 30 days, the company said.

A Brooklyn-based 3D printing lab that designs Covid-19 protective gear is increasingly fielding requests for custom-branded personal equipment as companies plan out scenarios for bringing their workforce back into an office in some capacity. Christina Perla, co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based 3D printing service Makelab, said she has received “quite a few” orders for protective face shields bearing the logo of a particular company in the past week or so from businesses anticipating the limited reopening of workplaces. some companies have already started to deploy branded PPE to essential workers in the field. Local news reporters at an ABC affiliate in Boston and a CBS affiliate in Providence, R.I., for instance, have been spotted in masks bearing the logo of their network. At least one Domino’s Pizza employee has posted on social media about a local franchise providing custom masks branded to match uniforms, and supermarket Publix has been selling branded masks in its company store. “We’re starting to see a new demand pop up, which is pretty interesting,” said Perla. “We’re getting a lot of requests from brands that are formulating their reopening plan for custom-branded face shields to replace the need for physical Plexi barriers.”

Remote working is continuing to affect the property market; Since the pandemic, Google’s parent company Alphabet has pulled out of deals to acquire more than two million square feet of office space, including what would have been the biggest real estate deal in the Bay Area. James Gorman, the CEO of Morgan Stanley, recently said that the company has proven it can operate with “effectively no footprint” and will have “much less real estate” in the future. Insurer and financial services provider Nationwide has announced plans to close five offices, permanently transitioning those employees to working from home. “We’ve been investing in our technological capabilities for years, and those investments really paid off when we needed to transition quickly to a 98% work-from-home model,” CEO Kirt Walker said in a company statement. Groupon, which recently laid off or furloughed roughly 44% of its workforce, is looking to sublease 150,000 square feet in its riverside headquarters. And on Friday, real estate development startup Culdesac announced it would be giving up its San Francisco headquarters. “Remote work is going great for us,” tweeted co-founder Ryan Johnson. Meanwhile, commercial broker Newmark Knight Frank is getting a lot of requests from clients wanting to downsize their current space, says Roy Abernathy, the company’s head of global corporate services workplace strategies: “I was just on a call where the CFO said, ‘I want you to go back to the landlord and shed 25% of our space.’”

US online used car seller Vroom has recently filed confidential paperwork for an IPO with regulators. That in itself doesn’t mean Vroom will actually go public; a number of high-profile tech companies have filed confidentially for IPOs since the beginning of last year, including Postmates, DoorDash and Asana, but have yet to stage an offering. What is surprising is that Vroom reportedly wants to go public in June, which seems like very ambitious timing. Then again, a technology company – Chinese cloud provider Kingsoft Cloud– did go public on Nasdaq on Friday, and has since seen its shares rise to $25.97 from its IPO price of $17. It could be that IPO investors start to make exceptions for companies like Vroom, which helps people buy cars and get them delivered without having to leave their homes – a good fit for shoppers who remain reluctant to go out in public. Meanwhile, online UK car sales platform Motorway has re-started daily online auctions alongside free trials of a “contactless” car transportation service as car retailers look towards stocking their dealerships ahead of an easing of lockdown restrictions. The online stocking platform – which sources vehicles direct from private owners – is offering two free vehicle collections for every dealer in May and June as it launches its new logistics offering. Its new no-contact transport service provides vehicle inspection, collection and delivery of cars to dealers. Car buying and selling activities have now resumed on its Motorway Pro platform, having paused since the coronavirus lockdown was announced. Initially launched in August 2017, Motorway is now used by 1,500 dealers and had been completing 3,000 car sales each month ahead of the lockdown. In the last 12 months, the business has sourced £300 million of used cars to retailers.

Creative marketing platform Genero has launched an online resource which tracks the status of video production potential given the severity of infection rates and lockdown policies in each country. The levels range from “post production & studio product shoots,” such as animation, editing and augmented reality, to “full-scale productions possible,” the latter of which is only true of Taiwan at the moment. The statuses are based on data gathered from creators using the Genero platform and verified with media reports and accounts of measures taken in every country. Co-founder and CEO Mick Entwisle said the project was inspired by concerns the company was hearing from its clients about how to continue producing content amid the quarantine. “Our clients were sharing their anxieties and uncertainty about how to pivot their marketing plans and continue producing content during the pandemic,” Entwisle said in an email. “They wanted to understand the full range of options on a global scale, so they could make educated, informed and safe decisions about production.” Entwisle said Genero has already been working privately with brands including HP, Facebook, the BBC and Universal Music on how to safely navigate production in their given environments.

Online dating platform Tinder has announced plans to add a video dating feature as a response to the threat posed by coronavirus in slowing its user growth. Its rival apps have already latched on to the trend for face-to-face calls – Bumble, for instance, introduced a video and voice call feature last year, while Hinge launched its own ‘Date From Home‘ feature at the start of lockdown in March. “I imagine that we’re going to see far more dates than ever come out of this,” Hinge’s chief marketing officer, Nathan Roth said, explaining how through ‘Date From Home’ users can share when they’re ready for a digital date, to ease the often awkward and vulnerable transition from messaging to meeting digitally for the first time. “This specifically came out as a response to listening to our customers and their needs during the quarantine, and figuring out a way how we could serve them best,” he adds. “During social isolation, everyone has had to adapt their dating strategies to use virtual solutions, such as video dating,” explained Naomi Walkland, associate director for EMEA marketing at Bumble, a dating app that boasts nearly 90 million users worldwide. Walkland explains how physical distancing has shown us that in times of uncertainty, people seek meaningful connections and “that connections made online are just as meaningful as those made in real-life. People will always look for new ways to socially connect.” She explained that overall: “data indicates a trend of increased use by our new and existing users, especially in regards to the chat, video call, and voice call features. We have seen users spending more time speaking to each other on the app, with call durations averaging at 21 minutes as well as a 12% increase in messaging. This shows that people are taking the time to really get to know each other, even whilst apart,” she continues. After introducing the ‘Date from Home’ feature, in March, Hinge experienced a 30% increase in messages among users in March (compared to January and February) with 70% of its members open for a virtual date. Globally on OkCupid, there has been a 30% overall increase in messages sent each day since March 11. Matches have increased by 10% and conversations increased by over 20% as singles turned to online dating.

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