Any Other Business: 28 August 2020

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson
Discover content team
3 min read
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This week’s AOB looks at the latest e-commerce news from around the world including an unusual new snack launch, and why the older generation could mean big business for e-commerce brands. 

Consumers' unexpected cravings lead to new business idea

Airplane food is arguably not something many of us regard as a culinary treat, yet, the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 have triggered an unusual trend.  

With global travel restricted across the world, it seems consumers are craving a reminder of being on an airplane. Food waste startup Imperfect Foods1 has partnered with a catering company that supplies food to airline JetBlue2, to produce and sell subscription boxes containing traditional in-flight snacks such as raisins and popcorn.

Despite the niche nature of the products, Imperfect Foods has sold 16,000 cheese plates since the beginning of lockdown, and around 40,000 snack packs overall3, making it one of many direct-to-consumer services who have experienced increased demand during the pandemic.  

Fashion rental platform adjusts to the new normal

US-based fashion company Rent the Runway4 has recently announced it will close all of its brick-and-mortar locations to focus exclusively on e-commerce.

The clothing rental retailer originally started life as an e-commerce business, before opening physical stores in New York, LA, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco. Yet, the pandemic has been the catalyst for its return to a digital focus.

"The closure of our retail stores is something we had long considered as part of the evolution of our overall business strategy, as the primary use of our stores for the past few years has been pick-up and drop-off, and was a decision we accelerated during the pandemic," said COO Anushka Salinas.5

The luxury fashion sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic6, with store closures preventing consumers having the physical contact with a product they want before committing to high-value purchases. In response, many fashion brands have found innovative ways to engage customers online, including digital showrooms and virtual walkthroughs of their stores.  

Coffee brand serves up fresh direct-to-consumer model

What do you do when your business usually delivers coffee to office workers, but they’re not there anymore? Like so many other businesses, New York-based coffee maker Wandering Bear7 – the first company to make boxed cold brew – has had to adapt its traditional sales model to survive in the ‘new normal’.

At the start of the pandemic, it saw a dramatic rise in e-commerce sales as work-from-homers sought to get their caffeine fix by ordering coffee online. “It’s like the tale of two cities. Our e-commerce business is going crazy [seeing] 200% week-over-week growth with panic-buying, while our office business has ground to a halt,” Matt Bachmann, CEO and co-founder of Wandering Bear Coffee said at the time8.

“Consumer behaviors are changing and people aren’t receptive to the same conversations they once were because retailers aren’t in growth mode, they are in stock-the-shelves mode and making sure the warehouses are full. It’s a totally different mentality. It’s also about preparing for the new normal.”

For Wandering Bear, this preparation involved retraining field staff – who could no longer make in-person visits – to support the business in other ways, and switching its focus from offices. The company has recently launched a new range of products designed for consumers at home, including 32 oz. multi-serve cartons of the brand’s signature cold brew coffee, coarse ground coffee beans, and a 1-gallon cold brew bag-in-box. All packaging will carry the slogan “Stronger Coffee Tastes Better”, which signifies a broader repositioning of the brand.

Online marketplaces enjoy thriving trade in the UK

According to a recent consumer survey9 by Adobe10, over half of the 69% of shoppers who regularly buy online, do so via online marketplaces. Furthermore, between March and June of this year – when the pandemic triggered a sharp rise in e-commerce purchases across the world – the average UK online shopper made 11 purchases from an online marketplace compared to just 3 from an online retailer.

Peter Bell, Adobe’s Marketing Director for EMEA believes this pattern can be attributed to marketplaces’ “ability to scale quickly and establish a reputation for reliability that saw them become the first port-of-call for a wide range of goods.”11

This growing popularity of marketplace platforms is reflected across Europe as a whole, in fact, showing a rise in sales within all key economies on the continent12. Be sure not to miss out on the lucrative opportunities that selling through online marketplaces can give your e-commerce business with our in-depth guide to the leading platforms.

Older generation discover perks of online for the first time

The pandemic triggered a global rise in e-commerce spending, but it wasn’t just down to millennials and Gen Z-ers. Many older people, cautious about the risks of the virus, chose to stay home and shop online instead – many for the first time, choosing e-commerce over bricks and mortar.

In Germany, over 65's who relied on video-calling to curb loneliness during lockdown have now found themselves embracing the digital world on a wider scale. According to a survey13 of this age group by digital association Bitkom14, nearly seven-in-ten (69%) said they now see digitization as a positive opportunity, five percentage points higher than at the beginning of 2020, and two-thirds can no longer imagine life without the internet – all of which means potential new customers for e-commerce businesses.

1 - Imperfect Foods

2 - JetBlue

3 - Canvas8, August 2020 

4 - Rent the Runway

5 - Anushka Salinas, Retail Dive, August 2020

6 - McKinsey & Company report, April 2020

7 - Wandering Bear

8 - Matt Bachmann, New Hope Network, April 2020 

9 - Adobe survey, August 2020

10 - Adobe

11 - Peter Bell, Ecommerce News, August 2020

12 - Ecommerce News, 2020

13 - Canvas8, August 2020

14 - Bitkom