To the question as to whether this tech has the potential to provide enough value to in-store to reinvigorate the shopping experience, I believe the answer is mixed. On the one hand, retail is never going to go away, particularly for items like clothes where some shoppers fundamentally appreciate the value of the in-store “try-on” experience. So Amazon’s new approach should make the in-store experience more pleasurable, particularly for less trial-able items like staple foods and thus should help drives sales.
On the other hand, I don’t believe that customers will sufficiently appreciate the few minutes saved by the new Amazon experience to wean themselves away from the far more convenient practice of getting the item delivered to ones doorstep. Self-check out is improving (although not as quickly as I’d hope (ahem, CVS), but nonetheless, with things like Apple Pay making check-out more convenient, I don’t see Amazon Go as being a huge differentiator.
Regarding your first two questions (“…but is the luxury retail industry inherently incompatible with sustainability? Is the best way to reduce the environmental impact of this industry’s supply chain to influence consumer preferences away from products some may consider unnecessary?), I think the answer is that luxury retail is indeed inherently incompatible with sustainability. As much as brands like LVMH make their goods more “green,” they won’t ever become carbon neutral and the impact on landfill as our population continues to grow won’t be stopped by green practices.
The fact of the matter is that in order to be profitable, luxury brands need consumers to use their products for a limited period of time, either the product needs to lose its ability to perform (it tears/wears out), or it becomes too uncool to use. High-end brands are incentivized to lure their customers to new products each season and we see that play out especially in the fast-changing nature of women’s luxury fashion. In the end, we need to make using less, and having less in our closet the new cool. The most green and profitable approach would be to convince women and men to invest heavily in extremely expensive, durable goods, that should last for decades, not just a few fashion seasons.
Regarding your final question (With the potential for major administration changes in the U.S. every four years, how should companies think about the potential for considerable changes in trade policy on their supply chains?), I think that in the U.S. context at least, we’re in the midst of an aberration Administration and that companies shouldn’t view the wild trade swings of President Trump as a sign that this is the new norm. One might argue that the Democrats could elect a candidate in the mold of Bernie Sanders who would continue the isolationist trade policy, but I think again, that over the course of the next few decades, we will view this period in US political history, particularly as it relates to trade, as a blip in a long march towards greater globalization. Indeed, we’re already starting to see a snap-back by opinion makers in both parties related to the decision to pull out of TPP. They are starting to see how the US abdicated its leadership in trade and that other countries like China, Germany, and Japan are going to pick up the slack, causing the US to lose ground.
And as Sam notes, it’s not as easy to unwind trade deals as POTUS Trump might like to think. While I certainly could be wrong, at least in the US content, I see a reversion to the mean happening on the trade front and if this proves true, companies shouldn’t put undue weight on presidential politics as it relates to their strategy.
Thanks for your article, JS. To your question as to whether this is political posturing, I would answer a resounding “yes” in a normal political climate. But Donald Trump’s fickle nature is such that the last thing he hears in a meeting often determines his stance on major issues (see: climate change decision re: Steve Bannon’s recommendation). Trump has been beating the “end NAFTA” drum for quite some time and he has been fairly consistent in his policy making as related to campaign pronouncements thus far.
NAFTA has broad support from the business community and that, in the end, I think will allow for its survival (http://fortune.com/2017/10/12/nafta-mexico-canada-donald-trump/). That being said another more and more likely scenario is that NAFTA dies a slow death, as outlined recently in the NY Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/us/politics/nafta-negotiators-extend-talks-delaying-its-expected-demise.html). In the article, Commerce Secretary Ross notes that Congress might not have the will to reauthorize TPA, which is necessary for maintaining NAFTA. In the end, I think we’ll see that cooler heads prevail re: NAFTA, especially given that we’re seeing a slow burn of criticism on the decision to pull out of TPP from both sides as it is clearer and clearer that the USA abdicated leadership to China by pulling out of that deal.
Thanks for the insightful article, Eduard. I managed to escape Phoenix in May of this just before the heat wave! Unfortunately, I think this will start to be the new norm. Other than moving more hubs to cooler climes, an impractical solution, airlines will need to take measures to combat this risk, including by phasing out old airlines as you mentioned.
On the fuel front, it’s good to hear about their carbon-neutral grown goal, but they need to go beyond that, especially given the huge contributor (I didn’t realize it was so significant) airline travel is to carbon emissions.
Thanks, Sarina. You make a great point about how much other countries need to catch up. There could be some upside for Clever in that regard in that by the time other countries do catch up to the US, they will be have the capacity to take advantage of the international opportunity.
FYI–here’s an article on the international growth potential: https://marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/ed-tech-surges-internationally-choices-schools-become-confusing/
Thanks, Mo. You make a great point about a larger player perhaps being the default when ed tech starts to reach a tipping point internationally. At present, only a handful of nations are truly taking advantage of ed tech’s true promise, but that is set to change over the next decade as countries like Brazil, which just announced a connectivity initiative, catch up to the US, South Korea, and Singapore.
Thanks for your comment, Jim. This isn’t the first time US News has published an article of this sort. I find the argument that ed tech hasn’t been proven by the research a fairly lazy one. We didn’t argue that pencils and chalkboards were poor investments when they were introduced. Ed tech, or most of it, is meant to be used as a tool by great teachers and I’m skeptical as to whether we’ve seen strong research with highly effective teachers who are trained to use ed tech well. That being said, I thought this US News article wasn’t as bearish as we’ve seen in the past given that it clearly focused on the lack of studies that are out there and highlighted the areas in which ed tech is clearly working.
This is a very timely analysis. The recent acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon could accelerate adoption of this technology given Amazon’s scale and expertise in tracking their inventory.
I’m hopeful that blockchain technology will reduce disease outbreak, though I think the adoption curve might be slow in this space until customers demand that their foods include this information. I do think that there will be faster adoption in urban areas, especially those where organic foods are pervasive like Portland. In fact, there was a Portlandia (TV show on IFC) episode in 2011 where the writers satirized a couple who asked a million questions about the chicken that they were eating (video and article link below). In the episode, the couple asks the name of the chicken and whether it had a healthy social life (“Does he put his little wing around the other ones.” The waitress brings a picture of the chicken and a birth certificate. Instead of ordering the chicken, the couple asks the waitress to hold their seat while they take a visit to the farm where the chicken was raised.
Though this was a comedy bit, it speaks to the potential demand for this type of product in certain areas. I could see a future where there is strong demand from high-end restaurants to have this information included with their meat and produce.
1. Portlandia Clip: https://www.google.com/search?q=portlandia+chicken+colin&oq=portlandia+chicken+colin&aqs=chrome..69i57j0.7226j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
2. Article about Portlandia Farm Episode: https://www.eater.com/2011/1/14/6701741/portlandia-skewers-farm-to-table-fanatics