This Week’s Friday Five: Pizza and Toilet Paper, FitBit revival? and more

This week's Friday Five pizza and toilet paper, FitBit revival Mbrain

A pizza with a side of toilet paper

In another shift as companies and industries adjust to the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants are now selling grocery items. While there’s a disconnect between counties and cities and what constitutes a grocery store, it’s the newest creative way for businesses to stay afloat. With physical distancing and no-touching policies, it’s a way for restaurants to turn a profit and alleviate some of the pressure from overrun grocery stores. Even McDonald’s in Australia is joining in on the action.

The grocery essentials biz isn’t limited to restaurants, even ride-hailing/food delivery giant, Uber, is looking for a piece of the pie. With grocery delivery startups facing a massive stress test and out of delivery times, it’s a win-win for companies to step in that have seen a decline in their normal business. COVID-19 is disrupting every industry, even HR and recruitment practices, and things will continue to be changed. Society was trending towards delivery and takeout, now it’s just in hyperspeed, and restaurants are doing what they can to adapt.

Automakers get creative

Just like everyone else, automakers are adjusting their contingency plans as the pandemic unravels. Some contemplate the return to a greater domestic manufacturing of parts and more supplier diversity; others are upbeat at the prospects of eventually more sales as, for health reasons, people would rather buy their own gas guzzler than hop from germ-infested Uber to a germ-infested Lyft. As oil plunges on the twin punches from OPEC/non-OPEC squabbles and a drop in demand, this just adds more reason to pump the brakes on the automotive.

Not everyone agrees. Some industry players are using this time to put their evolution on steroids. DENSO, the behemoth automotive supplier, is growing its agricultural business by investing in a company that wants to feed the world one large-scale greenhouse at a time. And then there’s the versatile BMW that’s working on a fuel cell powertrain for its iHydrogen Next concept car. Fuel cell tech, somewhat shafted from the public imagination by the success of lithium ion batteries, might get its second chance, in part by a blessing from a company that switched gears to make pots, pans, and bicycles during the Second World War. History is clever that way.

Mental health… there’s an app for that

As technology continues to impact every aspect of our lives, our access to mental health services is no exception. Apps that focus on mental health via meditation had sales of $195M in 2019, up 52% from 2018. As healthcare workers are stretched to their limits during the coronavirus pandemic one such mediation app, Headspace, has offered its premium service for free for healthcare professionals. For others who are seeking therapy, apps are also the 2020 way to improve and maintain your mental health. One such service Better Help offers ‘therapy on demand’ for under $40 a week; combining Silicon Valley’s trifecta for success – wellness, subscription service and an app. Access to mental health services is a necessity, but operates as a luxury for many, and an app is a more easily accessible and affordable avenue. However, Better Help and its contemporaries face a difficult challenge when it comes to privacy.

Better Help says it encrypts information shared with therapists, however, an investigation by Jezebel revealed that some data does leak. The goal is to better track user behavior, but also gives social media companies an easy way to see who is feeling depressed. Tracking mental health data is highly controversial, but if a person can better access mental health services in which they wouldn’t be able to other wise (say in a worldwide lockdown) do the benefits outweigh the risks? As regulation for medical privacy in the expanding online world lags apps like Better Health will proceed in the wild west.

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Whatever happened to wearables?

Fitbit has just released its newest device amid a time that we are locked up in our homes: the Charge 4. This adds GPS along with other sensors that promise to help you keep an even closer eye on your health and track the intensity of your workouts. And while many appreciate the panoptic gaze, they can have over their step count and heart rate with their smart watch, is this really all wearables are up to these days? Apple Watch has had GPS since it launched Series 2 in 2016, so, this is hardly a “new” feature, but what happened to promises of the Google Glass making a comeback, or even more cutting-edge wearables that included pollution shirts or invisibility cloaks?

Is there even a market for these types of technology? The demand for wearable technology is expected to reach $57,653 million by 2022 with a CAGR of 16.2%. But wearable tech still has some bugs. Consumers are wary of the lack of battery life on many of these devices, their hefty price tag, and are concerned about data privacy. Striking the balance between cool, functional and affordable is tricky. Whether being stuck at home for the next few weeks (months?) will make us keep a closer tab on our everyday fitness, or throw it out the window, is sure to have a significant impact on the wearables market.

AR/VR the foundation to beauty’s future

As a beauty fanatic, I take much pleasure in perusing a Sephora and dipping my fingers into all the glimmers and shines. Now as all stores have closed and virtual has become reality for all aspects of our lives, the beauty industry is no exception. Though not a new concept, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have major roles to play in boosting engagement for beauty brands by letting users try on any kind of makeup from anywhere. With only 7% of shoppers buying in-store only and the global market for VR and AR in retail expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2025, this tech is nothing to scoff at.

Many traditional beauty retailers have employed AR and VR tech, including MAC, L’Oreal, and Sephora, while new startups have stepped onto the scene in recent years to partner with brands. One example is Perfect, the developer of the AR beauty app YouCam Makeup, which lets brands list a multitude of products for users to “try-on.” Data from Perfect shows that users of app are 1.6 times more likely to purchase beauty products, as compared to those who don’t use the app, and spend 2.7 times more money on beauty products, compared to those who are not experiencing virtual try-on. As e-commerce continues to dominate and concerns over hygiene escalate, AR and VR will become important tools for businesses of all shades to compete.

Light reading

On a video call the boss turns herself into a potato using Zoom backgrounds, and can’t turn it off.

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