[Image: Edward Burtynsky and amateur photoshopping]
Themes for 2021
Everyone has better hopes for 2021, though the first couple of weeks have continued to be 2020-style eventful. And, “alas”, welcome to lockdown 3.
It’s pretty obvious that this year is again going to be about the virus: the way it accelerates existing trends, reveals brittleness in government and other systems, and amplifies inequalities. The vaccines offer hope and big IT and distribution challenges. But they won’t be an immediate fix, as we’re already seeing.
Shopping: local, distant, and little in between? A lot of retail moved online in early 2020 and much of it will stay there. It’ll remain very reliant on an infrastructure layer of front-line warehousing and delivery people (see Breakroom story below). Some retail will sadly disappear. And local or social/experiential shopping may recover well, as long as retailers and small firms can survive the cycles of restriction and opening up. Sectors like travel and eating out may enjoy plenty of pent up demand. But what happens to the shopping in between - the out of town retail parks? Retail and services may start looking more obviously “safe”, though asking retail to police virus restrictions could be challenging.
Office work stays remote or hybrid. Workplaces that fail to find a way to keep remote staff as “first class” citizens could struggle. “Remote-first” may start feeling more like a question of accessibility and inclusivity than one of location. A lot of workers are now interested in more flexible working arrangements: geography, time, tasking. It will be interesting to see if a new wave of co-working office space happens as employers look to avoid long leases and stay capital light.
Everything is politicised. There will be some added fun from Brexit. Also: in a world of heightened political polarity, will workplaces take political positions? This question is interesting because workers are increasingly interested in ethical values.
Digital means survival. Thanks to the virus accelerating change and amplifying existing trends, “digital transformation” has gone from being the thing you do to refresh and reinvent your organisation to the thing you’re forced to do just to survive.
Regulation of tech. There will be increased regulation in the area of competition law and consumer right/privacy. Eg the EU Digital Services Act, but expect anti-trust moves from the EU and US states. (See corporations running America story, below.)
The bigger picture is climate change. It’s here but for most people the effects are still something they see on TV rather than in their communities. 22 disasters and $95 billion in damages. People and communities will need to be more adaptable because this is now a time of quicker and less predictable change. Brittleness and fracture. Stranded assets and altering communities. Heroic efforts. More weather. More migration. You might call it the entropocene era.
Food and online
“Sainsbury's said it would put trained security guards at store entrances to challenge those not wearing a mask and those who were shopping in groups” - Sainsbury’s and Morrisons will enforce masks in stores (though police won’t).
If you say “do not stockpile food” to shoppers, people could be forgiven for hearing “you’d better stockpile”. Before the holidays, the government was telling supermarkets to stockpile while telling shoppers not to.
Amazon shuts Pantry service. Its other delivered services from Amazon.com and Fresh and in-store grocery at Go and Whole Foods made a paid subscription for Pantry unnecessary. Amazon is prepared to experiment endlessly.
Only 15% of consumers are happy with their online shopping experience - top three annoyances: pop-ups and ads (49%), websites crashing (48%), discount code failing at checkout (45%).
Supply chains and Brexit and COVID
Online retailer Ocado warns of shortages as suppliers cut choice.
Hundreds of M&S products unavailable in Northern Ireland amid Brexit red tape issues.
Covid tests for Channel hauliers to continue 'until further notice'.
Amazon and health
Haven is over - the joint venture between Amazon, bank JP Morgan and conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway is being switched off. But this doesn’t mean Amazon has lost interest in health. Amazon Pharmacy is up and running for online prescriptions across the US, and the UK and EU trademarks are filed. The long term plan may be Amazon Care, which currently offers “in-person follow-up care and prescription delivery available in the Greater Seattle area [... to] Amazon employees and their families”.
Are corporations running America?
Twitter and Facebook have banned Trump for inciting violence. There is a sense that Twitter acted because employees said “enough”. The libertarian/extreme right/choose-your-own-adjective social media platform Parler was hilariously hacked (warning salty language) and was then kicked off the internet by Apple and Google who barred it from their app stores and Amazon who barred it from their server 1s and 0s.
There are obviously interesting questions about the amount of power big technology companies now have. But also about why government seemed powerless to act.
Also in corporate news: Amazon is building social housing in California. An alternative would be to find some financial way to “outsource” the social housing building work to local government.
Hourly work sustains the economy
“It’s striking just how many of the roles are paid by the hour. 10.6 million people (33% of the UK workforce) are key workers, and we estimate over 60% of them are paid by the hour.
Care workers, supermarket assistants, delivery drivers, and more: hourly work sustains the economy and keeps us all fed, supplied and cared for.”
Breakroom surveyed 50,000 people about their hourly jobs. Being paid by the hour in 2020 is precarious, unpredictable, badly paid and head office doesn't know what they're doing.
Co-op Digital news
2020: there’s a lot to be grateful for.
OneBanks and Co-op set to bring human banking back to Falkirk town - OpenBanking plus people = a staffed banking kiosk that works with any bank account.
Thank you for reading
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