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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: Centerlineautomotive/Amazon]


US election

South Ayrshire Golf club owner loses 2020 presidential election is one of the better headlines about the election. Joe Biden will be the next president in the US. And Kamala Harris will be vice president - itself a historic achievement. You’d expect less chaos, more stability and better decision-making. You’d hope that division can now give way to healing, though that may be a long road. The effect on the technology sector will probably be increased regulation and tax, though the former was surely coming regardless of the winner.

Previously, 2016: “the internet and social media played a part in “post-truth” politics”, which with 2020’s hindsight was a very coy way to put it. 


Should you own your delivery?

Thanks to the virus, delivery has gone from being another sales channel to the way retailers survive. 

To own or not to own delivery? Grocers reassess the Instacart dilemma. Outsourcing to delivery experts is a good way to get going quickly. But the retailer loses both control of the shopping experience and visibility/ownership of the shopping behaviour data. Over time these gaps may become significant. But given that most grocery delivery services are currently offered at break-even or below cost, there may not be much retailer appeal in chunky investment to build out delivery services. Yet.


Retail news

Small shops are better at surviving the virus than big ones - independent shops doing better than chain stores, says data. (Or maybe the data shows that closing a store is a viable strategy for chains but not independents…)

M&S slumps to first loss in public firm's history. Clothing and home sales fell due to the impact of lockdowns.

“We are refocusing on our core food business, putting food back at the heart of Sainsbury's” - Sainsbury’s is closing a lot of standalone Argos stores and opening some inside the supermarkets. This newsletter thinks supermarkets could experiment more with unusual store formats like Argos.

Nestlé purchased Freshly, a meal delivery co in the US.

Lockdown: Andrex maker has '100 million toilet rolls standing by’ - no-one will be caught short.

The next economic crisis: empty retail space?


Robots in the aisles

Walmart drops inventory-scanning robots from its stores - the robots trundled the aisles, looking for gaps on the shelves. “This was one idea we tried in roughly 500 stores just as we are trying other ideas in additional stores”. The human staff were better at the job apparently.

But it doesn’t look like a simple case of customers being freaked out by autonomous robots though, because Walmart is keeping its floor cleaning robots. So it may be that shelf-scanning is a task that’s too complex for 2020’s robots.


Neighbourhoods in the car park

Here’s a company that manages 4,500 car parks in the US. They do all the parking management stuff you’d expect, but they’re also trying to make the car parks work harder to provide other services: (“dark”) neighbourhood kitchens, “last block” delivery services. Leveraging space. You could imagine a trade here: do one delivery, get 30 minutes free parking.


Department of Amazon

'This is revolutionary’: new online bookshop unites indies to rival Amazon - just launched in the UK in partnership with more than 130 shops. (Hive is another anti-Amazon selling books.)

How Jeff Bezos is spending his $10 billion Earth Fund - slowly.

Lost in translation: Amazon bungles its launch in Sweden - the launch of Amazon’s Swedish website has been blighted by cultural gaffes and glaring mistranslations.


Various things

Tesla released its quarterly safety stats for its AutoPilot feature: “one accident for every 4.59 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged”. The report hints that AutoPilot is as safe as human driving, but it isn’t necessarily a fair comparison because AutoPilot driving is generally on motorways.

Tech is never neutral but it’s often indifferent to the uses it is put to: Activists are building facial recognition tools to identify police officers using off-the-shelf image recognition software (registration required for that link).

What is the internet doing to Boomers’ brains? - some sweeping generalisations here but interesting on the spread of misinformation and the erosion of trust.

Apple will require apps to add privacy ‘nutrition labels’ in December.

PayPal allows Bitcoin and crypto spending - very gradually, cryptocurrencies have been seeing more use. Many problems exist though: blockchainy approaches are often energy-inefficient, still.

How does Google’s monopoly hurt you? Try these searches. - “right under our noses, the Internet’s most-used website has been getting worse”.


Co-op Digital news and events

Free of charge events at Federation house (and elsewhere):

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

More detail on Federation House’s events.


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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