Welcome to Shopping Week

Buying, selling, shipping, shopping: Everything's complicated this holiday season, but there's room for innovation and change.

An open box with glowing interior

All this week on Protocol, we'll be diving into all the ways tech is changing the way we shop, buy and sell.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

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You may have already noticed that this year's shopping season won't be like any other. Did you see the Black Friday deals start to hit your inbox in mid-September? Or did you watch the delivery date on your new TV or sofa slip a few days, then a few weeks, then a few months? Maybe you've noticed you're buying more stuff through Instagram ads than usual, or that your whole wardrobe seems to have come from that one livestream you watched the other day.

We're entering the largest shopping season of the year as we wind toward the holidays. Last year, Adobe found that in the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, U.S. buyers put $34.4 billion worth of toys, gadgets, clothes and KitchenAids in their digital carts. Curbside pickup was one of the year's biggest innovations, and social media showed signs of becoming a shopping powerhouse.

This year? The only thing we know for sure is that it's going to be chaos. Chip shortages mean companies can't make enough stuff; supply-chain problems mean even the stuff they make gets stuck in a shipping container off the coast of Who Knows Where. Knockoffs are everywhere, fraud is rampant, and it's often impossible to know whether that 5-star review was bought and paid for. Discounts are down, out-of-stock messages are way up. The pandemic has changed the way stores operate, and in many cases shifted businesses more into digital-first operations. Can they keep up with the holiday rush? Can FedEx? Can anyone?

But amid all that upheaval, there's also innovation. Businesses around the world are beginning to rethink how they make, ship and sell products. New companies are springing up to create second-hand markets or to help repair things instead of just replacing them. Meanwhile, buyers are shopping in increasingly social, increasingly digital ways. (If you're not giving someone an NFT for the holidays this year, do you really even love them?) They're looking for new things to buy and new ways to pay. And hang on: Does anyone even care about Black Friday anymore?

All this week on Protocol, we'll be diving into all the ways tech is changing the way we shop, buy and sell. Because it takes an entire industry — or two or three — to get your gifts to your door on time.

Welcome to Shopping Week. And good luck out there.

Climate

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Photo: Humphrey Muleba/Unsplash

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Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

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