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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. Thank you for reading - send ideas and feedback to @rod on Twitter. Please tell a friend about it!

[Image: An agency did some funny stay-at-home architecture designs for IKEA]

 

The retailers growing faster than Amazon

Some companies are growing their ecommerce businesses faster than Amazon! In online retail, Walmart and Target. And in food delivery, Instacart is growing very quickly. The numbers are in this interesting ecommerce story by the New York Times

If others are growing faster than Amazon, does it mean that Amazon is actually… struggling? That’s putting it a bit strongly, but some see existing retailers like Target and Costco sharpening their game, and ecommerce rivals like Shopify - or perhaps the just-announced Facebook Shops - intensifying competition.

 

Marketplaces delivering your food, at a loss!

Delivered food and meals have become critical infrastructure, at least while people are travelling less. Very roughly, there are two types of food delivery setup. The first are food or meal retailers delivering their own food: that’s supermarkets, Dominos pizza, etc. 

The second type is food delivery marketplaces, in which many people can order food or meals from many food retailers and the marketplace delivers them to complete the transaction. Many takeaways used to do their own delivery but have switched to using marketplaces like this. The big ones in the UK are Just Eat, which is being bought by Dutch marketplace Takeway.com, and Deliveroo, which is taking investment from Amazon. 

In the US, there are rumours that rideshare marketplace Uber will buy food deliveryco Grubhub. Uber already has a food delivery service called Uber Eats. Grubhub was an early leader in food delivery, but has lost ground to Doordash in recent years - the combined GrubhUber (please call it that) would overtake Doordash.

But not all is well in food delivery marketplaces. This is because “food delivery is a marketplace where buyers (diners) and sellers (restaurants) meet to transact. This means that food delivery is subject to the same economics which is that it is a winner takes all game where one needs to establish a dominant position.” So there are too many VC-funded startups trying to achieve a critical mass by running at a loss. 

This leads to some weird and occasionally unpleasant business practices - deliverycos effectively hijacking Google search results to stealthily insert themselves as an intermediary. It also leads to some unusual opportunities, like a pizza shop making money by using Doordash to buy pizzas from itself (that’s an interesting read on how delivery marketplaces work, but warning: some salty language).

Elsewhere:

 

Empty tables

Restaurants are partly about social signalling. If your restaurant is empty, that might be a sign that it’s not very good. If your restaurant is full, that’s a sign that you’re breaking the social distancing rules during the coronanow. What to do? A restaurant in Amsterdam is socially-distancing its customers by seating them in teeny greenhouses - it’s fully booked and looks… fun? And a restaurateur in Washington Virginia will be filling his dining rooms with tables populated by mannequins: “servers will be instructed to pour them wine and to ask them about their evening.” That one sounds terrifying.
 

Other news

Technology goes in cycles of breaking things apart and then putting them back together in different ways. Streamed video is breaking apart broadcasting - everyone watches when they want, but none at exactly the same time. And then you get experiments in watching streamed TV together: Netflix party and now BBC Together.

Not even wrong: ways to predict tech - you can’t rely on judgements like “this looks like a toy” or “this got funded” because some toys and investments come to nothing and some change industries. Instead ask “what would have to change, for this to work?” and “... and if it did work, what might then change?”

Lights stay on despite cyber-attack on UK's electricity system.

Salute to this party in a Shared Google Doc - in a spreadsheet no less!

Look it is fine for this newsletter to make up words by mashing Uber and GrubHub together, but “phygital”, sorry no - from a piece about fashion shows being held in front rooms.

 

Co-op Digital news

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Thank you for reading

Thank you, beloved readers and contributors. Please continue to send ideas, questions, corrections, improvements, etc to the newsletter’s typist @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.

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