Five on Friday: Groceries, Beauty Boxes and Podcasts

Featuring INMA, Meredith and Instagram

Three months into quarantine and the coronavirus is still having a significant impact on our daily lives. Throughout the pandemic, some businesses have fared better than others. For example, grocery stores have had to make adjustments now that consumers are shopping online more, while beauty subscription boxes are staying strong during the pandemic. Also this week, HBOMax is officially live, Meredith is launching four new podcasts and, if your subscription company is on Instagram, we’ve got some tips for writing attention-grabbing captions.

How COVID-19 Has Shifted Grocery Shopping from In-Store to Online

Since the pandemic began in the U.S. in early March, I have been to the grocery store less than five times. Instead, I have bought most of my groceries online. I am fortunate to live in an area served by Amazon Fresh, which I have used periodically before, so it was an easy decision. In the beginning, it was difficult to get delivery from Amazon Fresh within a 48-hour window, but that was understandable with higher demand. Now Amazon Fresh is operating on a 12- to 24-hour window for orders. I can’t always get what I want, but I can get what I need. This is just one example of how COVID-19 has changed how we grocery shop.

Image from Bigstock Photo

As points out in “What the Grocery Giants Are Doing to Respond to the Consumers’ Shift Online,” most consumers like to choose their own groceries, particularly meat, produce and specialty items. Safety over choice is now a higher priority for many of us. In a consumer survey done by PYMNTS, they learned that…

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  • In early March, only 3.9% of consumers shopped for groceries online.
  • By the end of April, 14.8% had made the switch to online grocery shopping.
  • In its first quarter earnings call, Amazon noted they had increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 60%.
  • Amazon also expanded in-store pickups at Whole Foods from 80 stores to 150.
  • Walmart has increased “slot capacity” to meet growing demand, and it has expanded its list of general merchandize available for online order and curbside pickup.
  • Consumers surveyed told PYMNTS their future plans include staying in and sticking with their new online shopping habits for the next seven months or so.

How has the pandemic changed your grocery shopping habits?

How Beauty Subscription Boxes Are Weathering the Coronavirus Storm

In recent months, our retail habits have shifted with many of us opting to shop online for things we want and need versus going without because many retail stores remain closed. That trend has spilled over into subscription boxes with consumers relying on them for everything from toothbrushes and razors to meal kits and beauty products. While the initial impact from COVID-19 was rough, things are rebounding, reports Glossy.

According to Rodger Berman, co-CEO of Box of Style by Rachel Zoe, subscriber growth declined between 20% and 30% between March 8 through March 26. However, sales, subscriptions and subscriber retention have since returned to normal. He noted that daily average subscriber growth is 20% higher in the second quarter compared to the first. The company’s online store is seeing a 30% increase compared to the same quarter last year.

Sephora is replacing its Play! subscription box with Luxe, a collection of deluxe beauty samples.

In early February, Birchbox announced it was laying off 25% of its staff around the world. According to a company statement, the reason was to reduce redundancies across the organization, particularly in the U.S., U.K. and Spain. That undoubtedly helped the company’s bottom line. At the same time, new subscriber rates for Birchbox subscriptions have increased daily and monthly. Retention is about the same, says Ali Edgerton of Birchbox. The number one reason for canceling, however, is now for financial reasons. That used to be the number two reason. Another change is the addition of more personal care products like hand sanitizer.

Meanwhile, Sephora ended its Play! subscription box in March. Instead, the company is offering the Sephora Luxe box for purchase. Sephora says Luxe will give beauty shoppers six deluxe samples from three different categories. The Luxe box is not available by subscription, however, just as a one-off purchase. Sephora says the cancellation of Play! is not related to the coronavirus.

“We know that having a sense of community during this challenging time is more important than ever, and we hope to find new ways to meet our clients where they are,” Sephora announced. “We believe the Favorites sets have something for everyone to enjoy.”

Retail therapy, anyone?

Meredith Adds Four New Podcasts to Engage, Transport and Inspire

Starting May 27, Meredith is launching four new podcasts to engage, transport and inspire audiences. Each of the four podcasts will be branded – Allrecipes, PARENTS, Southern Living and Travel + Leisure – and will debut with 12 initial episodes that will range in length from 20 to 40 minutes. The podcasts will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms.

“Podcasts present a growing opportunity for our trusted brands to tell resonant stories in ways that are possible only through voice technology and the intimate listening environment it provides. As we continue to expand our podcast programming, we’ll engage and entertain both new and existing audiences through authentic conversations and diverse perspectives that offer a mix of star power, escapism, advice, and timely insights,” said Catherine Levene, president of Meredith Digital in an announcement.

Meredith is launching four new podcasts.

Homemade from Allrecipes will launch on May 27. It features author, home cook and Next Food Network personality Martie Duncan. Guests will include Guy Fieri, Rachel Ray and Carla Hall.

Biscuits & Jam from Southern Living will launch June 2. Editor-in-chief Sid Evans will interview musicians like Martina McBride, Willie Nelson and Gladys Knight to discuss their careers, Southern culture and Southern living – and, of course, food!

We Are Family from PARENTS will launch June 9. Hosted by Shaun T. Firness and Julia Dennison, the show will feature conversations about today’s modern families, in all of their diversity.

Let’s Go Together from Travel + Leisure launches June 10. Featuring host Kellee Edwards, the travel expert will explore travel and travel-related stories.

For links to the new podcasts and to existing podcasts, visit

5 Tips for Writing Attention-Grabbing Instagram Captions

Writing Instagram captions is easy; writing attention-grabbing captions that will get your brand noticed requires more thought. Here are five quick tips for making sure your Instagram posts get noticed:

  1. Write the most important info first. While you can write up to 2,200 characters (please don’t!), you want to focus on the first two lines. After that, your caption gets cut off and users have to click “more” to read the rest of your post.
  2. Add a call to action. Engage your followers by asking them a question, tag a friend in the comments, or directing them to the link in your bio for a recipe, to order a subscription, purchase a product, etc.
  3. Be stingy with the hashtags. Some brands will use dozens of hashtags which can muddy up the message. The hashtags may improve discoverability, but they can be annoying when there are too many. Hubspot recommends that you limit your hashtags to four that really speak to your brand and message. [Bonus tip: Add the hashtags at the end of the post!]
  4. Adapt your brand’s voice to match the tone of Instagram – which is light-hearted and fun. This is NOT the place to post your latest news release or earnings report. Instead, it is an opportunity to engage with your followers visually and with upbeat text, emojis and hashtags. Think product launches, fun visuals of customers using your brand, contests, quotes, puppies, kittens, anything that will leave a positive impression with your followers about your brand.
  5. Short and sweet always works. Instagram is not the place for long-form brand messaging. Save that for your blog. Use Instagram to make a lasting impression with strong visuals and engaging text – but not too much of it.

It’s Official: HBO Max Is Live!

It’s official. HBO Max, HBO’s latest streaming service, launched on Wednesday. For $14.99 a month, HBO Max is priced higher than other competing services, including Disney+ and Hulu. It is priced comparably to Netflix’s most expensive plan and can be accessed on Android phones, tablets and TV; Apple TV; Chromebooks; Chromecasts; iPhones and iPads; PlayStation 4; Samsung TV and Xbox One. HBO Max is not yet available for Roku or Fire TV.

According to WarnerMedia, HBO Max has launched with more than 10,000 hours of movies and TV including fan favorites such as:

  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Sesame Street
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • Aquaman
  • Joker
  • The Goonies
  • The Sopranos
  • Game of Thrones
  • Gremlins
  • The Wizard of Ozz
  • DC films including Wonder Woman and Justice League

Because millions of Americans are still sheltering in place at home, the launch of HBO Max may do well, but HBO Max Originals – like the Friends reunion – are still on hold until studios return to work. Not sure you’re ready for HBO Max? The streaming video subscription service offers a seven-day free trial, for new customers only. Learn more at

Image courtesy of HBO Max