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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 Amazon distribution centre near Salford evaporates into the cloud.]


Amazon Go basket size

“Amazon Go shoppers spend on average between $7 and $15 per shopping trip”: research suggests that Amazon Go basket sizes are about half those at other convenience stores. It’s still early days for Go, so it may turn out that the smaller basket (or rather pocket) is the natural size for checkoutless store. If so, perhaps visit frequency will increase as shoppers get used to the concept.

(Checkoutless shopping startups to keep an eye on, from the same article: Standard Cognition, Zippin, Grabango.)

Domino’s pizzas aren’t for you when you’re disabled

Domino’s Pizza asks the US supreme court to say that disability protections shouldn’t apply online. The argument seems to be that accessibility litigation is increasing but because The Government has declined to give precise guidance on how organisations can comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, then everyone should be able to... just not bother complying? (It’s weird because it shouldn’t be too difficult to make the website fairly accessible: it’s some menus, choices and bit of geographic/language localisation, so… some forms, some pictures, some logic. Though it would have been cheaper to build it in from the start...)

It feels like this happens because it is still too easy to think of disabled people as “other”, a separate group of users whose access to a service could be thought of as a difficult-to-build nice-to-have use case rather than an essential. If everyone realised that one day they too will be disabled temporarily or permanently, there’d be less of this. Ability is temporary, and pizzas should be for everybody.

Event: 'Disability Confident' Celebrating diversity at work - Fri 13 Sep 8am at 151 Deansgate.  

Robots in the aisle

Check out Marty in action: Ahold Delhaize has robots trundling up and down supermarket aisles looking for stock gaps. If it was a network of cameras and sensors (ie an Amazon Go store), instead of a moving, vertical figure with eyes and face, would shoppers feel differently about it? What should robots look like and how should they behave to reassure shoppers and colleagues? (Are they all called Marty or will they get their own names?)

Related: How contextual research helped us redesign the replenishing process in our Co-op Food stores.

Privacy vs competition (Facebook, again)

The US Federal Trade Commission will fine $5bn penalty for Facebook for privacy wobbles

There can be a tension between regulation that strengthens privacy and regulation that supports competition. In the US, that tension is often discussed as if it’s either/or - governments shouldn’t strengthen privacy if it would dampen the vital competitive heat that comes from startups etc. The argument goes something like this: 

Facebook negotiates and agrees with the FTC to do these new things which come with a hefty compliance burden. The new compliance things become something like a standard that other companies will need to follow in future. FB is better positioned than most companies to do the burdensome compliance things, so FB would welcome that regulation because it entrenches the company’s position vs nimble upstarts etc. (So GDPR would be anti-competitive according to this view, though you’d wonder if there’s a bit of “how very dare EU” coming from US firms indignant at EU interventionism.)

But even more than that, there’s a more direct reason that strong privacy regulation is in tension with competition: when the gov legislates or has a consent decree with FB that their privacy controls must be much stronger in future, it becomes harder to apply competition-promoting remedies to FB in future. The gov cannot later say to FB “you’re a monopoly so you must open up your data so that etc”. Conclusion: FB is probably delighted at paying only $5bn to never have to share data with any third party competitors.

There’s some truth in and some problems with that argument: if it is just left to the market, we know outcomes can be unequal. We can see that Big Tech are good at absorbing any startups that threaten them these days (which is how FB ended up with Instagram and WhatsApp). So perhaps regulation *is* the meaningful brake on big tech overreach in future.


When we talk about Amazon Prime it’s usually in terms of Prime aggressively growing, capturing all of retail, never letting go etc. Yes, Prime’s a beast but it isn’t quite as clear cut as that: 28% of UK Amazon Prime customers say they signed up by mistake. And some percentage of Prime customers are very deliberately signing up to get access to the 15-16 July Prime Day deals, and then cancelling.

Other news

A working definition of Government as a Platform - good read.

US real estate/co-working startup firm WeWork secures 'financial inducement' of £55.7m in Brexit windfall :(

Store forecasting at Walmart scale - AI models (for technical readers).

"The attack then boils down to this: a vendor scans my QR code in exchange for me getting a free pen, and I retrieve a complete list of all contacts they’ve scanned on that device." - What happened when we hacked an expo?

A good example of an “Everything you need to know about how we use data” page, by Projects by If.

Co-op Digital news

We’re testing our ‘Pay in aisle’ app in Co-op Food stores.

Green is the default option for Co-op pension scheme.

Most opened newsletter in the last month: Tales from the crypto. Most clicked story: Communicating effectively through storytelling at Co-op Digital.


Public events:

Internal events:
  • Food ecommerce show & tell - Mon 29 Jul 10.30am at Fed House 5th floor.
  • Delivery community of practice - Mon 29 Jul 1.30pm at Fed House.
  • User experience future vision - Mon 29 Jul and every day this week 4pm at Fed House 5th floor.
  • Funeralcare show & tell - Tue 30 Jul 1pm at Angel Square 12th floor breakout.
  • Digital all hands meeting - Wed 31 Jul 2pm at Fed house Defiant.
  • Data management show & tell - Thu 1 Aug 2.30pm at Angel Square 13th floor breakout.
  • Membership show & tell - Fri 2 Aug 3pm at Fed House 6th floor kitchen.
More events at Federation House - and you can contact the events team at And TechNW has a useful calendar of events happening in the North West. 

Thank you for reading

Thank you, clever and considerate readers and contributors. Please continue to send ideas, questions, corrections, improvements, etc to the newsletterbot’s valet @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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