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

Click banner image for more Shopping Week coverage

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.


2- and 3-wheelers dominate oil displacement by EVs

Increasingly widespread EV adoption is starting to displace the use of oil, but there's still a lot of work to do.

More electric mopeds on the road could be an oil demand game-changer.

Photo: Humphrey Muleba/Unsplash

Electric vehicles are starting to make a serious dent in oil use.

Last year, EVs displaced roughly 1.5 million barrels per day, according to a new analysis from BloombergNEF. That is more than double the share EVs displaced in 2015. The majority of the displacement is coming from an unlikely source.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

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).

Sponsored Content

Foursquare data story: leveraging location data for site selection

We take a closer look at points of interest and foot traffic patterns to demonstrate how location data can be leveraged to inform better site selecti­on strategies.

Imagine: You’re the leader of a real estate team at a restaurant brand looking to open a new location in Manhattan. You have two options you’re evaluating: one site in SoHo, and another site in the Flatiron neighborhood. Which do you choose?

Keep Reading Show less

The limits of AI and automation for digital accessibility

AI and automated software that promises to make the web more accessible abounds, but people with disabilities and those who regularly test for digital accessibility problems say it can only go so far.

The everyday obstacles blocking people with disabilities from a satisfying digital experience are immense.

Image: alexsl/Getty Images

“It’s a lot to listen to a robot all day long,” said Tina Pinedo, communications director at Disability Rights Oregon, a group that works to promote and defend the rights of people with disabilities.

But listening to a machine is exactly what many people with visual impairments do while using screen reading tools to accomplish everyday online tasks such as paying bills or ordering groceries from an ecommerce site.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.


The crypto crash's violence shocked Circle's CEO

Jeremy Allaire remains upbeat about stablecoins despite the UST wipeout, he told Protocol in an interview.

Allaire said what really caught him by surprise was “how fast the death spiral happened and how violent of a value destruction it was.”

Photo: Heidi Gutman/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire said he saw the UST meltdown coming about six months ago, long before the stablecoin crash rocked the crypto world.

“This was a house of cards,” he told Protocol. “It was very clear that it was unsustainable and that there would be a very high risk of a death spiral.”

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

A DTC baby formula startup is caught in the center of a supply chain crisis

After weeks of “unprecedented growth,” Bobbie co-founder Laura Modi made a hard decision: to not accept any more new customers.

Parents unable to track down formula in stores have been turning to Facebook groups, homemade formula recipes and Bobbie, a 4-year-old subscription baby formula company.

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

The ongoing baby formula shortage has taken a toll on parents throughout the U.S. Laura Modi, co-founder of formula startup Bobbie, said she’s been “wearing the hat of a mom way more than that of a CEO” in recent weeks.

“It's scary to be a parent right now, with the uncertainty of knowing you can’t find your formula,” Modi told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Latest Stories