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Power

Online shopping could make up 30% of all U.S. sales this holiday season

Salesforce thinks that unprecedented shipping volumes could mean that retailers need to be smart about last-mile delivery plans.

Amazon delivery driver

Amazon's Prime Day could have a 'halo effect' on other retailers.

Image: Amazon

Online retailers better brace themselves: New forecasts from Salesforce suggest this will be ecommerce's busiest ever holiday season.

The company expects 30% year-on-year growth in global digital commerce this holiday season, dwarfing last year's 8% growth. That will drive ecommerce to a record high share of total commerce: It predicts that digital sales are expected to account for 18% of all retail globally, and a massive 30% in the U.S. "It took us 20 years to get to 15%, and just over the course of this year we've skyrocketed up to 30%," Salesforce's Rob Garf, VP of industry strategy and insights, told reporters.

That huge surge, driven by worries about in-store social distancing measures and product shortages due to supply chain issues, "is putting a strain on the system," Garf said. Salesforce expects the volume of packages to exceed global shipping capacity by 5%, meaning up to 700 million packages could be delayed.

"Winners and losers this holiday season will be defined by the last mile," Garf said. He suggested that retailers that are working with gig economy companies such as Uber and Lyft to expand their delivery capacity might be putting themselves in a strong position. Other options, he said, included "utilizing the store associates as not only pick-pack-shippers, but also delivery experts," or asking customers to come into stores to collect items, so they at least don't have to browse.

The demand could also cause technical issues. Etsy CTO Mike Fisher recently told Protocol that the company had been working with Google, its cloud provider, to model the holiday season. "Normally it's very predictable," he said, but "this year it's all up in the air." Etsy has been running "premortems" to figure out what might go wrong, as well as putting artificial demand on its system to figure out how much strain it can take.

To address the demand, "retailers are attempting as much as possible to pull forward demand," Garf said. Amazon, ironically, may come to the rescue of many other retailers: Its Prime Day, scheduled for Oct. 13 and 14, will "create this halo effect," Garf said, allowing other retailers to take advantage and start selling earlier than ever. "What that will do, based on our projections, is pull 10% of demand forward" from Cyber Week, Garf said.

Still, some things will have to give. "I would be shocked if the traditional December 17th ground shipping cutoff date stayed intact," Garf said, predicting that shipping deadlines will move much earlier. Time to start buying, then.

This story will appear in tomorrow's Source Code, Protocol's daily guide to what matters in tech. Subscribe here.

Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

People

Poshmark made ecommerce social. Wall Street is on board.

"When we go social, we're not going back," says co-founder Tracy Sun.

Tracy Sun is Poshmark's co-founder and SVP of new markets.

Photo: Poshmark/Ken Jay

Investors were keen to buy into Poshmark's vision for the future of retail — one that is social, online and secondhand. The company's stock price more than doubled within a few minutes of its Nasdaq debut this morning, rising from $42 to $103.

Poshmark is anything but an overnight success. The California-based company, founded in 2011, has steadily attracted a community of 31.7 million active users to its marketplace for secondhand apparel, accessories, footwear, home and beauty products. In 2019, these users spent an average of 27 minutes per day on the platform, placing it in the same realm as some of the most popular social media services. This is likely why Poshmark points out in its S-1 that it isn't just an ecommerce platform, but a "social marketplace." Users can like, comment, share and follow other buyers and sellers on the platform.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
Reinvention of Spending

Extend thinks warranties will be the next major point-of-sale trend

Extend wants to make warranties accessible to small and mid-sized retailers — but to make it worth their while, it needs to restore consumer trust.

Extend is looking to capitalize on the pandemic shifting everyone onto ecommerce.

Photo: Fiordaliso/Getty Images

One bad experience is often enough to taint a consumer's perception of product warranties forever: Maybe you broke a $600 blender, only to learn that the $50 warranty plan just covers manufacturer defects. Or perhaps in an attempt to repair a broken smartphone screen, you were told your device had water damage and wouldn't be covered. And that TV you bought five years ago because "'Shrek' needs to be watched in 4K to be fully appreciated"? Yeah, you'll need to find the receipt if you want it repaired.

Extend, a nearly 2-year-old startup, is aware of these pitfalls and wants to rehabilitate the perception of warranties. It aims to do for warranties what Affirm did for consumer point-of-sale financing. That entails making APIs accessible and convenient for smaller retailers, which have historically been locked out of the warranty market. Just as Affirm and other "buy now, pay later" companies have benefited from pandemic tailwinds, Extend aims to capitalize on the shift to online shopping at a time when consumers are looking for ways to stretch their budgets. But to do that, Extend needs to convince customers that it isn't the same old warranty business hiding behind shiny APIs.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
Politics

Here’s how Big Tech is preparing for regulations in 2021

Companies know that the heat is only going to increase this year.

2021 promises to be a turbulent year for Big Tech.

Photo: Ting Shen/Getty Images

The open internet. Section 230. China. Internet access. 5G. Antitrust. When we asked the policy shops at some of the biggest and most powerful tech companies to identify their 2021 policy priorities, these were the words they had in common.

Each of these issues centers around a common theme. "Despite how tech companies might feel, they've been enjoying a very high innovation phase. They're about to experience a strong regulation phase," said Erika Fisher, Atlassian's general counsel and chief administrative officer. "The question is not if, but how that regulation will be shaped."

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Power

Microsoft wants to use AR to see through fog and smoke

Apple autonomous cars, AI coffee orders, emailing help and other patents from Big Tech.

See what isn't there.

Image: Microsoft/USPTO

It's beyond dark out at 5:30 p.m. these days, so perhaps, as you're stuck at home with nowhere to go, you're tempted to log off your bad screen and onto your good screen a little earlier than you should. Perhaps that's what happened over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as this was a bit of a fallow week for patents from Big Tech.

That being said, there were still a few neat ones out there: Microsoft is looking into using AR to actually augment what you see; Apple is hard at work on autonomous vehicles; and Facebook, for some reason, is very concerned about the longevity of magnetic tapes.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

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