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Exclusive: Groupon cuts over 500 staff, plans to focus ‘only on mission-critical activities’ from now on – TalkOfNews.com

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Groupon cuts over 500 staff, plans to focus ‘only on mission-critical activities’ from now on

#Groupon #cuts #staff #plans #focus #missioncritical #activities

Chicago-based Groupon today laid off more than 500 of its employees — 15% of its 3,416-person headcount — according to posts from former employees on social media. The reduction impacted workers in teams including merchant development, sales, recruiting, engineering, product and marketing.

Groupon confirmed the layoffs to TechCrunch after the publication of the story.

“Our overall business performance is not at the levels we anticipated and we are taking decisive actions to improve our trajectory,” CEO Kedar Deshpande said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. The chief executive says that the layoffs, as well as a reinvestment in marketing and initiatives that drive customer purchase frequency, will set the company up to generate positive cash flow by the end of 2022.

In a letter to staff, Deshpande said that Groupon is reducing its North America sales teams to focus on “self-service merchant acquisition capabilities.” It is also re-organizing the company to focus “only on mission-critical activities and leaning on more external support.” “In addition, we are proposing to reduce cloud infrastructure and support functions as we wrap up cloud migrations.” Groupon is also closing its Australia Goods business, more than a decade after launching there in the first place. Finally, Groupon said that it will “rationalize” its real estate footprint to be more in line with hybrid work.

Coupon-finding Groupon has grown to have steep e-commerce competition since its founding in 2011. Rakuten and Honey, which sit on consumers’ browsers to scour the internet to show related deals, have grown into massive companies. All the platforms make money from affiliate fees and revenue-share partnerships, meaning the more competitors, the bigger the fight for customer acquisition. A spokesperson from Groupon said that it does not view Rakuten and Honey as competitors because the companies are more focused on physical products, while Groupon is focused on experiences and services.

Still, e-commerce tailwinds have changed as consumer spending changes in reaction to the market downturn. It’s a hard time to be a growth-stage startup.

Over the past few years, the number of Groupon shoppers has fallen sharply. According to Statista, 22.2 million visitors to the company’s site purchased at least one offer in Q1 2022, down from nearly 54 million in Q4 2014.

The layoffs, while substantial, aren’t as large as the cuts Groupon made to its workforce in 2020. In April of that year, Groupon said it would lay off or furlough 2,800 employees as business “deteriorated” from the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the restructuring, Groupon phased down its goods category as it shifted to a third-party marketplace model, which had merchants assume responsibility for fulfillment and returns.

According to its jobs page, Groupon has openings for 67 roles in teams across account management, engineering, software development and more. The company is trading at $13.89 at time of publication, down 67% from its 52-week high of $41.66.

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It’s likely no coincidence that the layoffs arrived ahead of the release of Groupon’s Q2 2022 financial results this afternoon. Revenue was $153.2 million in the second quarter 2022, down 42% compared with the prior year, on just 21.1 million customers making one or more purchases within the last 12 months. The company blamed the transition of its goods business to a marketplace model as well as a “decline in engagement” on the platform.

Below is the entire memo that Groupon says Deshpande sent to staff this morning:

Team, 

I’m writing to you with some tough news. Later today, we will publicly be announcing a plan to streamline our cost structure, which will include our proposal to remove approximately 500 positions globally. While we have discussed the need to streamline our organization as part of our strategy to transform Groupon into the destination for Local experiences and services, I recognize that saying goodbye to colleagues will hit us all harder than any words on a piece of paper ever can.

We’ve done an intensive analysis of our organization and business structure, and the actions we are announcing today were not undertaken lightly. The impact will be felt primarily across our Technology organization, North America Sales and our Australian Goods business.  

Today’s news will be difficult to digest no matter how it’s presented, but I want to share as much as I can about why we are taking these actions.

Put simply, our cost structure and our performance are not aligned. In order to position Groupon to successfully execute our turnaround plan, we have to lower our cost structure.  Over the last three months the senior leadership team has been challenging our current processes and automating how we work, both with an eye toward taking costs out of the business and improving our productivity.  As a result, we are announcing the following actions to:

  • Reduce our North America sales team and continue to scale our self-service merchant acquisition capabilities. As we transition to a self-service led sales organization, we expect to be able to onboard and manage inventory and continue to drive efficiencies for our merchant partners.
  • Put forward a proposal to re-organise and align the size of our tech organization to our business needs, by focusing our resources only on mission-critical activities and leaning more on external support.  As part of this work, we will also be exploring opportunities to leverage engineering centers of excellence to increase efficiency and productivity. In addition, we are proposing to reduce cloud infrastructure and support functions as we wrap up cloud migrations. 
  • Close our Australia Goods business, which runs on a different platform than the rest of the Goods business making it too costly and complex to manage on an ongoing basis. 
  • Rationalize our real estate footprint to reflect the needs of our new hybrid work model. 

The vast majority of these cost actions would happen this year. Going forward, we’ll continue to look at ways to optimize, like leaning into automation and streamlining our tech platform, two areas we’ve made significant progress in over the last three months as teammates stepped up and challenged our current processes. We will also continue to review our cost structure in other areas and ensure it’s aligned with the size of our current business, while still giving us room to grow.  

To those impacted by today’s news

For those of you whose roles are impacted today, we’re sincerely grateful for all of the contributions that you have made and want to do our best to support your success in the next steps of your career. For certain employees in International, you will be notified of our proposed changes and will enter into a consultation phase over the coming days and weeks.

Where possible, we will be giving departing employees the option to keep their laptops, offer outplacement services as an additional resource, and where legally permitted, provide the opportunity to submit their information into a Groupon Talent List that we will be sharing on LinkedIn. We will be notifying affected employees directly throughout the day today, some we are asking to stay on for a period of time to assist with the transition.  All impacted employees will receive information from HR regarding severance and other details on benefits to support you over the next weeks and months. 

Looking Ahead

I joined Groupon because I truly believe that our marketplace is special: a place that helps people create core memories and forge new connections that can last a lifetime. Today, my conviction that the Groupon marketplace can become the destination for local experiences and services is as strong as ever. We are well positioned to transform our company and we are laying the foundation for growth. Together, we can create a fundamentally better experience for our customers and merchants.

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We’ll continue to discuss today’s actions and our transformation in the coming days: as a reminder we’ll be hosting a Global All Hands meeting this Wednesday at 9:30am CT / 3:30pm BST / 4:30pm CEST to answer any questions, which you can submit in advance via this form. In addition, your STeam leaders will also be bringing their orgs together to host short, informal town halls over the next few days. 

Thank you for your continued commitment to Groupon. 

Kedar Deshpande

CEO

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Exclusive: FDA authorizes Covid booster shots that target omicron BA.5 variant – TalkOfNews.com

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FDA authorizes Covid booster shots that target omicron BA.5 variant

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A medical staff prepares a booster dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen at a vaccination centre in Brussels, Belgium, January 5, 2022.

Yves Herman | Reuters

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Covid booster shots Wednesday that target the omicron BA.5 subvariant as the U.S. prepares for another surge of infections this fall and winter.

It is the first time the FDA has authorized an updated vaccine formula since the original shots rolled out in Dec. 2020. Pharmacies are expected to start administering the new boosters after Labor Day weekend.

The U.S. has secured 171 million doses of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s updated shots so far, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

Pfizer’s new booster dose is authorized for people ages 12 and older, while Moderna’s new shots are authorized for adults ages 18 and older. The eligible age groups can receive the boosters two months after completing their primary series or their most recent booster with the old shots.

The U.S. will no longer use the original vaccines as booster doses for individuals ages 12 and older now that the the updated shots have been authorized, according to the FDA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to sign off on the boosters before pharmacies can give them to patients. The CDC’s independent advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday and Friday to review the data and issue its recommendations for health-care providers.

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Bivalent vaccines

Public health officials believe the redesigned boosters will provide longer lasting protection against the virus and reduce hospitalizations this fall and winter. The new boosters target both the original strain that emerged in China more than two years ago, which scientists refer to as the “wild type,” and omicron BA.4 and BA.5 which are now the dominant variants in the U.S.

Shots that target two different strains are called bivalent vaccines.

The vaccine makers developed the original shots against the strain of Covid that first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019. But the virus has mutated dramatically since then. Omicron and its subvariants have drifted so much from the original Covid strain that the virus is able to slip past the protective antibodies induced by the vaccines.

As a consequence, the shots’ effectiveness at preventing infection and mild illness has declined substantially as the virus has evolved. Though the vaccines are still generally preventing severe disease, the protection they provide against hospitalization has slipped over time as well.

“There is declining effectiveness against hospitalization and severe illness. The problem has been persuading the American people to get boosted on a regular basis,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. Hotez led a team that developed a Covid vaccine based on protein technology that is authorized in India.

Original vaccines losing effectiveness

About 76% of people ages 12 and older have received their first two vaccine doses in the U.S., according to CDC data. About 50% of those individuals have received their first booster dose.

For adults ages 18 and older, three doses of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s original vaccines were 55% effective at preventing hospitalization from the omicron BA.2 subvariant four months after the third shot, according to CDC data.

Three shots were 19% effective at preventing infection from omicron five months after the third shot, according to CDC data from Aug. 2021 through May 2022. The rapidly spreading BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants have since driven omicron BA.2 out of circulation.

Dr. Peter Marks, head of the FDA office responsible for reviewing vaccines, said the hope is that the updated boosters will restore the high level of protection against disease that vaccines demonstrated when they were first authorized in December 2020.

“We don’t know for a fact yet whether we will get to that same level, but that is the goal here. And that is what we believe the evidence that we’ve seen helps point to,” Marks told reporters during a press conference after the authorization Wednesday.

The Biden administration moved rapidly over the summer to get updated shots ready for the fall. Public health officials are worried that the U.S. is on the verge of another wave of infection as more transmissible omicron variants spread, immunity from the original vaccines wears off, and people head indoors to escape colder weather.

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Pfizer and Moderna were originally developing boosters to target omicron BA.1, the variant that caused the massive wave of infection last winter. But the FDA told the vaccine makers in late June to switch gears and target BA.4 and BA.5 instead as those variants quickly gained ground. The sudden change in plans left little time for clinical trials in humans before a fall rollout.

As a consequence, the authorization is based on human clinical trials from the BA.1 shots, which produced a better immune response than the original shots, according to FDA. But it’s unclear how the BA.5 boosters will perform in humans since the data is based on BA.1.

Marks said it will likely be at least another two months before human clinical data on the BA.5 shots is made available to the public.

The most common side effects from the human trials of the BA.1 shots was pain, redness, swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea, vomiting and fever, according to the FDA. The Covid vaccines also have a well established safety profile after administration to millions of people over the course of the pandemic, according to FDA.

Mouse data

In addition to human data from the BA.1 shots, the authorization was also based on animal studies from the BA.5 boosters, Marks said. In June, Pfizer also presented data to the FDA’s independent vaccine advisory committee that showed the bivalent omicron BA.5 shots increased antibodies in mice that protect against infection by about 2.6 fold compared with the original vaccine.

Marks said the FDA used the same process for the authorization that it relied on in the past for switching the strains in flu vaccines.

“We’re pretty confident that or what we have is very similar to the situation that we’ve done in the past with influenza changes where we don’t do clinical studies for them in the United States,” Marks said. “We know from the way the vaccine works, and from the data that we have, that we can predict how well the vaccine will be working.”

But some infectious disease and vaccine experts say the FDA should have waited for human data from the BA.5 shots before authorizing them. Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s advisory committee, said data based on mice studies is not sufficient to justify authorizing the new boosters.

“You have to show some evidence in people that the immune response that you’re getting with the bivalent vaccine is clearly better, and those data haven’t been presented,” said Offit, an infectious disease and vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Human trials

“You can’t ask millions of people to get this booster dose without showing some human data that you have a dramatic increase in neutralizing antibodies to the BA.4/BA.5 strains as compared to boosting with the ancestral type,” Offit said, referring to the currently authorized shots based on the version of Covid that emerged in China, more than two years ago.

Michael Osterholm, a leading epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, also said more data needs to be presented on how the BA.5 shots perform in humans.

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“It’s not that I don’t think it could work,” Osterholm said. “But I think we need the data first to show that the immune response to this vaccine is equivalent to or better than what we have already.”

But CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in a radio interview, said waiting longer for human data from the BA.5 shots could mean the boosters become outdated if a new variant emerges. Walensky said the change in the vaccine formula is small and should not affect safety.

“There’s always a question here of being too slow versus too fast,” Walensky told Conversations on Health Care in a radio interview. “One of the challenges is if we wait for those data to emerge in human data […] we will be using what I would consider to be a potentially outdated vaccine.”

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Exclusive: The 'Lipstick Effect' Exposes a Surprising Truth About Our Priorities in a Recession. Here's How Businesses Can Cash In. – TalkOfNews.com

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The 'Lipstick Effect' Exposes a Surprising Truth About Our Priorities in a Recession. Here's How Businesses Can Cash In.

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Brinn Garner is the current chief revenue officer of Orveon, the company that owns major beauty brands like bareMinerals, BUXOM and Laura Mercier, but 15 years ago, she was working for a different company when she took a late-night phone call that would change the trajectory of her life and career.



orveonglobal.com

Garner was talking to a man she was dating, dressed in pajamas with no makeup on, when she experienced a barrage of doubts. “I was feeling weak and vulnerable,” Garner tells Entrepreneur. “What if he doesn’t like me? I don’t know where this is going.”

So Garner decided to take action. She put on bold red lipstick — and regained control.

“Within minutes, the conversation turned,” Garner says. “I had the power. I was confident. And at that moment, the power of beauty dawned on me so much more — because that little red lip gave me power and confidence.”

Garner ended up marrying the man on the phone; the couple will celebrate their 10th anniversary next November. But that moment was a turning point for Garner, opening her eyes to what she’s since dubbed the “lipstick effect”: that powerful phenomenon of contagious positivity that so often starts with just a little bit of extra confidence.

Of course, there’s another “lipstick effect” on the brain these days, as inflation soars and a recession looms. The term refers to the resiliency of cosmetics sales amid an economic downturn, and it can be traced back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Cosmetics sales increased from 1929 to 1933 despite U.S. industrial production being cut in half. More recently, former Estée Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder popularized the idea when he observed the same trend in 2001, following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

Essentially, many people might not be able to swing big-ticket purchases like a new car or tropical vacation in times of economic decline, but they can afford to treat themselves to high-end lipsticks (or other small luxuries) — so they do.

Related: 7 Recession-Proof Industries to Protect Your Money

“It opened up the market share opportunity and increased the potential of how much makeup could be consumed.”

Garner admits that no industry is fully recession-proof, but some, including beauty, are “recession-resilient.” “I’ve been in this industry for 22 years, and it’s wild what has changed and what has yet to change,” she says. “And I talk pretty openly with my retailers and with my team about how I feel it’s evolved and will continue to evolve, even as the world experiences various economic pain points.”

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Although “July got scary for a second,” Garner has noticed a strong August bounceback, which she attributes in part to spikes in travel and back-to-school shopping. (After all, consumers might need to buy a new shade of foundation to match their tans). Despite not being worried about the beauty industry’s outlook, Garner emphasizes the need to always stay on top of new developments.

According to Garner, beauty commodities are one of a kind — capable of changing the way a person looks, feels and lives. Today, part of beauty’s success stems from just how much consumer education has changed over the decades. Thirty years ago, if a girl wanted to learn how to apply makeup, her mom would likely take her to the department store beauty counter, where a sales associate would tell her which colors to use and send her home with several products, Garner says.

In the years since, particularly the past 10, the digital revolution has completely revamped that old model, Garner explains. The rise of social media and its influencers ensure that beauty education is just a few swipes away, and the breakdown of that barrier means the possibilities are near-limitless.

“All of a sudden, it became really cool, fun, interesting and exciting to learn how to apply and further the art of makeup,” Garner says. “Then it opened up the doors for education, which meant that people were more knowledgeable, savvier. They wanted to learn more, so it opened up the market share opportunity and increased the potential of how much makeup could be consumed.”

Naturally, that removal of an educational barrier extends beyond beauty, Garner points out. People are generally more aware of the goings-on in the world, she says, including climate and economic crises.

“Now, what I anticipate in the next 10 years is even more openness in the beauty industry, as people become savvier about tech, innovation, ingredients and the importance of all of that transparency,” Garner says. “I call it the ‘sustainnovation moment.’ Because we have to be responsible for showing people how beauty and life can work together.”

Related: How UOMA Beauty’s Founder Merges Activism and Makeup

“Making education easier and more entertaining is only going to help the customer connect more with the product.”

People want to look good and live better, Garner says, and, perhaps more than ever before, they’ve learned that life is short and it’s up to them to make the most of it — that includes being intentional about purchases, especially in a time of economic uncertainty. “So small things matter more,” she explains. “If I’m going to spend $20-$30 somewhere, I’m going to educate myself so I can pick what’s right for me.”

The good news is that even for industries that fall outside the strict scope of beauty, taking a page out of the self-care sellers’ playbook can go a long way toward safeguarding sales in the face of a recession.

Not only should businesses give would-be customers as much access to product education as possible, but they should also be mindful of upping the entertainment value of those resources — an absolute must, according to Garner, who was dismayed to find out just how dry they could be when researching power drills for her father’s Christmas gift.

“Making education easier and more entertaining is only going to help the customer connect more with the product,” Garner says.

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Garner also cautions against resting on your laurels, saying, “You can never keep doing more of the same. If we’re not trying to constantly evolve and anticipate where the customer is heading, then we’re going to get stuck in the past. We have to meet the customers where they are now and where they’re going to be in the future.”

Don’t sleep on tech advancements either, Garner advises, as staying up to date on the latest and greatest will keep the customer experience exciting and innovative — “then there’s a ton of potential.”

Along with that, be on the lookout for new trends, especially those cropping up in other markets, so you can plan accordingly. For example, Garner’s noticed an uptick in live selling in Eastern markets; it’s yet to catch on in the U.S., but it’s a strong possibility, as “there’s a lot of trading between Western to Eastern market trends.”

“That’s definitely something we need to anticipate,” Garner explains. “So we’re building a lot of our strategy around being very relevant in the metaverse and finding ways to make live selling easy, digestible and fun for the customer.”

Related: 100 Things You Need to Know to Succeed in the Modern Beauty Industry

Beauty products, like most hot commodities, help consumers feel good (no doubt something everyone wants in these stressful and uncertain times). But standing out in today’s saturated market requires taking things up a notch, no matter the product or service — that starts with education, and never stops with innovation.

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Exclusive: LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman on Hiring During a Downturn – TalkOfNews.com

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LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman on Hiring During a Downturn

#LinkedIn #Founder #Reid #Hoffman #Hiring #Downturn

If you think a recession is a good time to sleep on hiring, you need to wake up. Take it from Reid Hoffman, who started LinkedIn during the dot-com bust and grew it through the 2008 crash. Reid Hoffman knows a few things about hiring. Aside from creating one of the Internet’s most powerful tools for both job creators and job seekers, the LinkedIn co-founder and former CEO has a commanding view of the job market from his current perch as a partner at the powerful venture capital firm Greylock, as well as from his many interviews with entrepreneurs for his podcast Masters of Scale. As he prepares for the inaugural Masters of Scale Summit, this October 18-20 in San Francisco and online, he took time to discuss hiring amid economic volatility, technological change, and the fast-evolving workplace. Now, as the pandemic reshapes markets and another downturn looms, Hoffman, a 2011 Inc. 5000 honoree, returns to Inc. with advice on finding and retaining top talent.

How will hiring change in the next year?

During volatile periods, many businesses mistakenly play defense instead of offense when it comes to hiring. But if you have the capital and revenue, now is the time to hire, because others aren’t doing that. That will put you in a really strong position in two to five years.

People will want to get back to the office once they realize they’re missing opportunities to be creative with one another, build social capital and trust, and be better positioned for promotions. But we’ve also been ­remote for over two years. That’s going to have a lasting effect on hiring patterns. If the best person for a project or team lives in another city, managers will compromise by having them come down to headquarters for a week every six weeks, or something like that. Successful managers will learn how to identify what types of people fit well in this hybrid structure–and get the right ongoing training to lead and retain them.

Where can entre­preneurs make an impact?

How do you foster office culture in a virtual environment? How do you create better spaces for collaboration? There’s a whole stack of hybrid work-process things that either haven’t been created for the hybrid future or are just emerging. Tools like Coda, for example, adapt to your process rather than having you adapt to theirs, but I think we’re still in the first inning of building all that. Technology doesn’t get built in one or two years. It gets built in five or 10.

What about nontech businesses?

Every company needs a digital strategy–even, say, steel manufacturing. Your smelter might look the same as it did 40 years ago, but what about the marketplace? Your supply chain? Your logistics channel? You have to hire with the goal of advancing your technological evolution.

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From the September 2022 issue of Inc. Magazine

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