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Hello, this is the Co-op Digital newsletter - it looks at what's happening in the internet/digital world and how it's relevant to the Co-op, to retail businesses, and most importantly to people, communities and society. Your will be even more magnificent if you tell a friend to sign up for free!

Amazon Dash cart: the trolley inside the self-scan bleeper

Back in 2016(!) the newsletter characterised Amazon Go as the shop placed inside the checkout: “So where stores contain self-serve checkouts and payment queues today, in Amazon’s future the checkout machine has grown in size until it contains the entire store on its weighing pan”.

Now Amazon is trying out some variants of the Go idea. The new Dash Cart is designed for smallish two-bag shopping trips and moves all the expensive computer vision tech into the smart shopping trolley itself, and a dedicated checkout lane:

“The end result is similar to the Amazon Go grocery and convenience stores, without the elaborate technical infrastructure of those stores. The Dash Cart works on its own, requiring no sensors in the shelves or specialized cameras overhead.”

(If the clever stuff is in the trolley, they’ll need to be robust. It also means that trolley theft will need to be minimised, otherwise local canals will be full of dead Dash carts.)

The [Dash] cart uses a combination of computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to identify items you put in the cart. When you exit through the store’s Amazon Dash Cart lane, sensors automatically identify the cart, and your payment is processed using the credit card on your Amazon account”

So, rather than the whole shop inside the checkout machine, this is the checkout inside the self-scanning bleeper. The Dash cart idea has critics who point out that the standard Go store already has a clearer proposition (“just walk out”). But maybe it’s better to think of Dash cart as a marketing reference system that helps third party supermarket chains see how they could retrofit their existing stores to add Go technology: a few months ago Amazon said it would start licensing Go technology to other supermarkets.

Related: other smart trolley companies include Veeve, Caper and Smart Cart (website seemingly down but this video was good.)
 

Grocery landscape goes online but margins drop  

Ocado says the switch to online shopping is permanent: “we have seen years of growth in the online grocery market condensed into a matter of months; and we won't be going back [...] leading to a permanent redrawing of the landscape of the grocery industry worldwide”.

How to ramp up online grocery - without breaking the bank outlines the hard choices grocery currently faces. Part of the problem is that supermarkets have subsidised online shopping, making delivery and click and collect cheap or free. And running online services on top of existing offline supermarket infrastructure (eg dark stores) also adds cost. 

“Those that choose not to expand online will avoid short-term earnings erosion, but their resulting lack of digital infrastructure could leave them uncompetitive in the long term. Grocers that scale up through a third party to meet demand will be similarly vulnerable if the partnership ends and leaves them without e-commerce operations. Yet according to our modeling, a grocer that ramps up its own online arm without structural reform could see its overall profitability fall by 50–80 basis points over the next five years depending on the rate of online growth”

Dedicated, automated local distribution centres would offer better margins, if your supermarket can bear the capital expenditure setting them up. That piece is also interesting because it suggests three scenarios for the future, which broadly say “if the virus remains rampant or if virus management remains strict, online does better”.

Elsewhere in grocery:

 

Retail jobs

1,500 staff at Morrisons head office will work 4 days a week. Marks & Spencer is “to cut hundreds of jobs” as coronavirus hits sales. Lidl plans to open a shop a week until Christmas, creating 1,000 jobs. Tesco staff are to take on cleaning duties (controversial).

 

How Zoom’s pricing model helped it win video conferencing  

Zoom did their homework: capping the meeting length rather than the number of participants was the key move.

“The Zoom team did research and found that the average video-conference meeting is 45 minutes. Putting the free limit right under that enabled them to offer a holistic product experience for free without having to worry about revenue cannibalization.”
 

Designing for society  

Good piece by Sarah Gold at Projects by IF on the need to shift from “users first” to “society-centred”

“We have a collective opportunity right now to design out the structural inequalities around us. To collectively hold each other accountable, to examine our existing products and services to make sure they are equitable. [...] To take a society-centered approach means fundamentally looking at the underlying values of your business. Until now, individual needs have been the foundation of a business’ growth, profit, and culture. Now it’s time to look towards society’s needs.”
 

Various things  

Delivery “robots” that are actually driven remotely by people in Colombia.

Google is redesigning its chat products - a response to Microsoft Teams and Slack.

“Carbon savings” from Covid-19 lockdown halve within weeks.
 

Co-op Digital news and events  

Remote research: Funeralcare’s ‘start an arrangement online’ form:

“Death is an emotional subject and research around funerals must always be carried out with acute sensitivity. However, carrying out research around funerals in the midst of a pandemic has been particularly challenging – doing it remotely makes it harder to pick up on non-verbal communication so we’ve had to tread even more carefully than usual”.

The Federation House team is running weekly drop-in chats for the community every Wednesday at 10am: Join us here. See our online events. You can also see how The Federation is planning for a safe return to the co-working floor.

Free events 

Paid for events

  • Invisible Cities - Online Tours of Manchester or Edinburgh – Various Dates & Times
  • Mandala Yoga – Online Yoga Sessions - Various Dates & Times
 

Thank you for reading

Thank you, beloved readers and contributors. Please continue to send ideas, questions, corrections, improvements, etc to @rod on Twitter. If you have enjoyed reading, please tell a friend! If you want to find out more about Co-op Digital, follow us @CoopDigital on Twitter and read the Co-op Digital Blog. Previous newsletters.

Copyright © 2020 Co-op Digital, All rights reserved.


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