COVID-19 has hit every industry hard. But if something is certain, it’s that the world as we know it is different. As many as 25,000 stores may close this year as businesses continue to feel the impacts of the coronavirus, according to a new report from Coresight Research.
In order to stay relevant and adapt, many brands had to reinvent a business model that has worked for decades. It’s the brands that know how to properly pivot to anticipate and cater to their customers needs that are among the most successful.
Take ThirdLove, which recently lowered prices to be more inclusive and better align with top competitors, Victoria’s Secret and Aerie, given pricing is pivotal in a pandemic. Or hims & hers, which amped up its telehealth offerings and started at-home COVID testing. Or Purple, whose work-from-bed campaign has led to major demand for mattresses and seat cushions.
What do all three brands have in common? They learned to pivot and sustained growth as a result. They connected with consumers in a way that both enriches their lives and makes this difficult time just a little easier.
How? Let’s take a look.
ThirdLove: Inclusive Price Reductions
Now the third largest online bra and underwear company in the U.S., ThirdLove positioned itself as the bra and underwear brand for every body. While its products were considered pricier than competitors, the direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) brand focused on ensuring all women felt comfortable in their skin.
And then the pandemic hit. In a new world of financial uncertainty and increased e-commerce, ThirdLove had to make significant changes. In an effort to align with the company’s “every body” messaging, including every income level, race and body type, the price drop proved significant. ThirdLove lowered its prices to better align with its top competitors to give consumers a break on the cost, in addition to it being a diversity and inclusion decision. The brand halted plans to invest in physical stores, with the foresight that in-store traffic would be at a minimum for the foreseeable future.
And lastly, ThirdLove focused on diversity. With its initiative called the “TL Effect," ThirdLove selects early-stage, consumer-focused companies run by women of color to back, financially and via mentorship. Recently, it invested in Kyȕtee Beauty, an online glam store, with a $20,000 grant.
hims & hers: At-Home COVID-19 Testing and Telehealth Support
Going public through a merger in the midst of a global pandemic seemed overachieving to many. But for hims & hers, it made sense. Through a blank check deal with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Oaktree Acquisition Corp., hims & hers is now valued at about $1.6 billion. Not too shabby, at a time when many brands are struggling to stay afloat.
Furthermore, hims & hers started at-home, FDA-approved COVID-19 testing in May — for about $150. With consumers advised to stay home unless deemed necessary, at-home testing became an urgent need for many. Enter hims & hers, which recognized the issue right away and stepped in to help.
hims & hers launched websites offering free screenings for COVID-19, and helped assist customers with further cases if needed, following the screening. hims & hers’ quick thinking helped hundreds of consumers self-screen, and made it easier to find medical care when they needed it.
Purple: Work From Bed
As the world closed its doors, many were forced to spend the majority of their time within the confines of their own homes. Enter work-from-bed, or WFB. This major shift, from work office to home office, has led to major demand for mattresses, as consumers are saving money on travel and dining, and are looking to make their home spaces more comfortable. Before the pandemic, Purple worked with a number of big-box retailers, many which were directly impacted by COVID-19. As such, Purple had to quickly adapt to a more agile and digital-first strategy. Understanding this shift, Purple noticed an uptick in every aspect of its business, with seat cushions posting sales increases in the “hundreds of percent.”
However, it wasn't just about the sales for Purple. The D-to-C brand also understood the economic ramifications of the global pandemic on consumers. As such, Purple recently partnered with the Precious Dreams Foundation to provide donations of sleep comfort products and resources to children in shelters and foster care.
The Lessons Learned
So, what do all of the brands have in common? Not only were they able to successfully pivot to thrive, but they were able to provide necessary options that consumers needed, and continually need, to get through these uncertain times.
For brands that are struggling during COVID-19, the answer to being successful during a global pandemic lies within one of the fundamental reasons for a brand’s success — understanding its customers' needs. Consumers are still shopping, but for different items than before. The “must-haves” vs. “nice-to-haves” are different.
Look at your data to see which products are trending, whether within your own platform or across the industry, and in which markets. Identify the consumers who are quick to buy, and segment those from the ones who need more time. Amplify your promotions and marketing accordingly. While it might not have made sense for an underwear company to start making COVID tests, the price reduction opened it up to new and prospective customers.
I can’t stress this enough — understand what to do to cater to consumer needs today. Instead of focusing on the business model of the past, consider what to do to ensure you’re staying relevant and top of mind, no matter what comes your way and its potential ramifications — from a global pandemic to an unprecedented election.
No one knows when a post-COVID future will come about. Nor does anyone know what the new “normal” will be. But together, we, from brands to consumers, can get through this.
Andrew Furman serves as senior vice president of sales at Outbrain, overseeing North America. Outbrain is a digital native advertising company at the center of the feed discovery innovation.
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Andrew Furman serves as Senior Vice President of Sales at Outbrain overseeing North America. Outbrain is a digital native advertising company at the center of the feed discovery innovation.
In his current and past roles, Andrew consults brands, agencies, and publishes on how to successfully execute digital content marketing strategies and initiatives. Andrew has over 20 years of advertising sales and sales management experience, which includes over six years at FOX in both NY and Chicago. Andrew graduated from Indiana University School of Business with a BA in Marketing/International Business and received an MBA from Baruch Zicklin School of Business in NY. Andrew resides in Chicago with his wife and twin children and is an avid skier.