Can streaming save… farming?


May 7, 2020

May 7, 2020
The Hustle
TOGETHER WITH
Sailthru

The shine of the Supreme Court’s tech revolution sure wore off fast. The legal world went bonkers when everyone got to listen to live oral arguments on Monday, for the 1st time ever.

Fast forward to yesterday, when the sound of a flushing toilet rang out on the court’s live stream, interrupting the justices’ very serious, um, business.

We’re no legal experts, but the argument for the mute button has never been stronger.

Field and Stream

China’s farmers borrow from the streamer’s playbook: They’re going live

Last month, Wuhan’s deputy mayor, Li Qiang, got down to business: He plopped himself in a sales room with packaged pastries and beef, and he began rattling off sales pitches to a live-stream audience. 

The show looked like something out of a home shopping channel from the ‘90s, but it worked like a charm: After 9 hours of campaigning, Li sold $2.5m in local goods.

Shopping cams are big business

As we covered on Trends last year, China’s live-streaming economy is a multibillion-dollar industry.

Companies offer their products to influencers, who sell them to fans. One Connecticut CEO sold $350k worth of handbags in 2 days on Taobao Live, a live-stream shopping channel.

Some of the world’s glitziest companies, like Louis Vuitton, have hopped on the trend, but now a new group is taking over: farmers. 

With supply chains disrupted, Chinese farmers have no choice but to pitch their flowers or pineapples straight to consumers. They hope the streams will keep the agricultural sector rooted in place.

It’s hard to get more D2C than this

In exchange for a small commission, the Alibaba Group is recruiting Chinese farmers with free live-streaming slots. Taobao Live has already raked in 50k+ signups from rural farmers.

In some cases, according to the MIT Technology Review, farmers have gone from selling 10% to 90% of their produce online.

Live-streaming isn’t the only way that farmers are hashing out a solution to their growing food surplus. 

In March, South Korean ranchers partnered with local governments to launch a website that offered huge discounts on spuds.

And lest you think US farmers haven’t tried their hands at remote sales pitches: The US Meat Export Federation has been sponsoring slots on South Korean shopping channels, including one in celebration of “American Pork Day,” in an effort to unload extra bacon.

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Behind the Hustle

If you’ve spent any time on Instagram (and judging by those screen-time reports, it’s a LOT lately), you’ve probably encountered the #vanlife. The images of carefree livin’ on the road look pretty amazing, especially now.

But the pandemic has made it complicated. Mia Sullivan, one of our contributing writers, plans to hit the road with her fiance (and their big dog) in a renovated Mercedes Sprinter van. In a new episode of Behind the Hustle, she talks to us about their plans, and how they’ll navigate the socially distant #vanlife. Watch it here.

Makeup Melee

Does the pandemic spell doom for the shop within a shop?

Sephora’s cosmetics experts aren’t the only ones who can throw seriously smokey eye shade.

This week, JCPenney went to court to stop Sephora from shutting down locations within JCP department stores, which are slowly reopening. It accused Sephora of trying to back out of an agreement that dates back to 2009.

Sephora disputed those claims and said in court documents that “no part of JCP’s fanciful, one-sided narrative was or is true.”

It could be a messy makeup breakup

And it may cost JCPenney dearly. The one-time mall mainstay was in trouble even before the pandemic blew up the retail sector. 

For those with a taste for carnage, Retail Dive is keeping track of dozens of retailers (JCP among them) that are most at risk of a Bad Times bankruptcy.

This scuffle cuts worse than skin deep

One analyst told Modern Retail that the store-within-a-department-store model is “broken.”

The now-rocky JCP-Sephora relationship also highlights an interesting reversal of fortunes:

  • Sephora announced in 2006 that it was coming to JCP — it had just 120 US stores at the time, compared to ~1k for JCP. The deal meant Sephora could tap into a much broader base of potential customers.
  • Fast forward ~15 years, and things look very different. JCP has fewer than 850 stores in the US, while Sephora has ~600 within JCP — plus hundreds of standalone outposts across the Americas.

The 2 sides say publicly they want to kiss and make up quickly. 

Retail Dive noted that if the breakup became permanent, it could hurt both parties — JCP would lose a significant driver of foot traffic, and Sephora could cede market share to Ulta, a mid-market beauty competitor.

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Gone Fishin’

Could sea bass be the next banana bread?

Turns out sourdough was only the starter. Homebound gourmets are getting ambitious with their cooking, and retail sales of fish are making a splash.

No squidding?

In the Before Times, fish was primarily a restaurant dish (the food-service biz typically accounts for  ~⅔ of fresh seafood sales).

Among our reasons for avoiding it at home: It’s intimidating to cook. Nobody wants to drop $20 on scallops only to overcook them to rubber. Some recipes are super time consuming. Oh, and then there’s the smell.

But with dining out no longer an option, people are willing to give it a whirl.

  • The New York Times cited data showing that fresh seafood sales were up 13% over 2019 in the 4 weeks ending April 19.
  • Meanwhile, SeafoodSource said the shelf-stable variety recently saw a 20.7% bump.
  • Frozen seafood sales spiked 46.8% (mmm… fish sticks)

Some companies have gotten creative to stay afloat

To move fish with restaurants on ice, some wholesalers have pivoted to makeshift markets or delivery services. Grocery stores, meanwhile, have had success with heat-and-eat specials and meal kits with pre-portioned ingredients.

You can finally use those weird forks your aunt sent

Here’s another theory for why the fish trend is fins-up: Quarantined chefs are making once-challenging dishes seem more accessible, and raging boredom/sourdough exhaustion means people are scaling up their ambitions… just for the halibut.

And now’s a good time to sharpen your filleting skills. With many meat counters facing shortages, fish could become even more popular.

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The Hustle Says

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A Most Monotonous Web

It’s not just you: Every website looks the same now

You know that scene in The Office where Pam hands Creed two photos, asks him to spot the difference, then confesses “They’re the same picture”? That’s what it feels like to surf the web right now. 

According to a new study from Indiana University, website layouts for the top 1k US businesses are more similar today than ever before.

The differences peaked between 2008 and 2010 — who knew we were living in a design golden age? — before tumbling back toward uniformity. 

Blame America’s other hamburger craze

To understand what’s got the web feeling so conformist, you have to look at hamburger menus — no, not a list of Big Macs, but the menu button with 3 stacked lines (vaguely resembling a hamburger) that lets you navigate a website.

Hamburger menus are absolutely everywhere, even though they are, er, overcooked. Design experts say they have lower click rates than other menu types because, to use them, mobile users have to reshuffle their grip on their phones.

Anti-hamburger screeds like “Banish the Hamburger Menu” and “Hamburger Menu: Too Big To Fail?” have tried to trash the hamburger, so far unsuccessfully.

Web architects have hit their Blue Period

So what else is making the internet look so similar? One reason, according to that Indiana University study, is about visual accessibility. Ultimately, the pared-down aesthetic is just easier on the eyes.

But the other big cause might be internet consolidation. Websites are built from a series of software libraries — like Bootstrap and FontAwesome, not to mention WordPress and its small army of themed templates.

As a shrinking number of those libraries takes over the market, the set of possible design elements is waning. In turn, that reinforces a very American tradition: burgers galore.

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Snippets

📉 Layoffs hit Uber — to the tune of 3.7k workers, or 14% of its workforce.

👀 Samsung’s leader issued a rare apology over a bribery scandal and said he wouldn’t pass management of the company on to his children.

🥁 The 1st American sports league to embrace quarantine play is… lacrosse?

🌿 Animal Crossing fans are moaning about weeds, but Facebook thinks they’re trying to sell pot IRL. One Animal Crossing FB group asked members not to use the word “weed,” period.

🎷 Your dad loves Spotify now: In the UK, the number of 55+ year olds streaming music almost doubled over the last year.

🎓 “Adopt a High School Senior” groups are popping up to send gifts and well wishes to students who missed out on graduation day.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

Creating a 9-figure business from trimming pubes?

That’s exactly what Paul Tran and Manscaped have done.

They’ve created some of the funniest ads on the internet that have generated millions of views and helped them to build a massive brand in the process.

On this week’s episode of our Exit Strategy podcast, Paul reveals:

  • How Manscaped invented a new category and turned it into an $100M+ operation.
  • Why their bootstrapped business went on Shark Tank and raised money, even though they didn’t need it.
  • Why Manscaped does everything in house and refuses to work with agencies.
  • How to test your DTC idea, pivot, and capitalize on momentum.

🎧 Listen to Exit Strategy here: Apple / Spotify / Castro 🎧

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