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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: Brian Pooley]


Dolly Parton cured coronavirus

Covid vaccines are on the way, and while we wait for them Dolly Parton had the best headlines

2021 may look better than this year, but vaccines won’t be a silver bullet on their own. Cheap mass testing + effective trace and isolate + effective vaccine + policy measures around border controls + good voluntary guidance (and compliance) = an end to lockdowns, and a route out of covid world. But not exactly a return to normal, because the virus has accelerated some changes permanently.


Self-driving grocery delivery

Walmart and GM-owned Cruise will trial a grocery delivery service using self-driving cars in Arizona, USA. “While the vehicles will operate autonomously, a human safety operator will always be behind the wheel.” You guess the Cruise safety driver won’t be handling any groceries, so the car would make one trip for each delivery, or will need to be fitted out with different storage areas.

Walmart has also partnered with other self-driving companies for different delivery and logistics trials, so it’s trying everything, and of course robots are being used for last-mile delivery by Tesco, Co-op and other supermarkets. 

Further afield, as delivery becomes more important in a post-virus world (and when self-driving works in most places), you can imagine the car looking quite different, and perhaps the shop will come to you.


Amazon pharmacy: discounted prescriptions 

Amazon will offer prescription medications for home delivery through a new online drugstore, promising Prime members free two-day delivery and discounts of as much as 80% on medications purchased without insurance.” The service is launching in the US.

The “purchased without insurance” bit probably doesn’t translate well to the UK, but the idea that discounted pharmacy would be bundled into the annual Prime membership payment will raise an eyebrow at online pharmacies. PS: Co-op has a repeat prescription delivery service in England.


Scan and pay

Coronavirus: M&S expands its scan-and-pay app to all UK stores - it’s bringing the service to 573 stores as part of its response to Covid-19.

More scan and pay at Coop Sverige in Sweden. 


Retail and lockdowns

Amazon is trying to safeguard the next wave of panic buying by preventing excessive and unreasonable price increases. “On one hand, Amazon can’t possibly catch all bad actors on its platform. But on the other, its algorithms will continue to accidentally suspend some sellers who had nothing to do with price gouging at all.” This problem sounds the same as large social media platforms have with content moderation: monitoring doesn’t scale as well as software.

In Japan, a robot trundles around a shop, checking that people are wearing face masks and social distancing.

Are big retailers exploiting lockdown loopholes? Scotland has just closed non-essential retail for about 2.5m people, so these questions may become more pressing.



Not traditionally associated with hi-tech

“[Shopping app] Ubamarket has struggled to persuade the UK's biggest supermarkets to adopt the app, so it has instead done deals with smaller convenience shop chains in the UK including Spar, Co-op and Budgens, stores not traditionally associated with hi-tech.”

Aw thaaanks, in a story about retailers using AI to amp up their merchandising efforts: How artificial intelligence may be making you buy things. Anyway, the Co-op is proudly about making a difference to communities, not hi-tech.


Various things

Shopify is offsetting all carbon emissions from Black Friday/Cyber Monday order deliveries.

Aldi extends click and collect to 200 more shops - expanding its trial as it faces growing competition from rivals.

This looks like an interesting book on US grocery: 'Secret life of supermarkets' shines a light on Bounty's dark side.

On recycling batteries - a growing challenge and opportunity.

The sad tale of Britain’s Government Digital Service.

“The pandemic has proven that while we may not love them, we do more or less trust them. And trust remains the commodity that is hardest to acquire.” - on Monzo.

How private is my pay app? - the pandemic has more people using apps like Venmo and PayPal, but not all pay apps treat data privacy equally.

Amazon Alexa will start second-guessing what users want - the voice assistant will answer questions with follow-up questions for the user.


Co-op news and events

Co-op Digital: We’ve re-platformed the Co-op Legal Services website - how to balance competing priorities.

Co-op Group: “If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that collaboration works. The power of what’s possible when we come together against the odds continues to amaze me. The Roadmap is a great example of co-operation in action and I’m proud that we’ve played our part in its development alongside [60] other retailers.” - We need to be bold and take collective action to tackle climate change.

Free of charge events at Federation House:  

Paid for events: Tech for Good – Webinar – 18 Nov - 10am.

Events elsewhere: How responsible data helps you build a resilient business by Projects by IF - 24 Nov 3pm, online.


Thank you for reading

Thank you friends, 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.

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