Too much instantaneity in our daily lives ?

It got me wondered, all those new delivery services, relying on dark stores or dark kitchens, delivering us food and goods in less than 15 minutes; is it really the future we want to live in ? Think about it, do we really want to live in a world where everything is instant ? Is it a bad habit ? Are we leaving the kid’s dream of desiring something and getting everything right away ?

I had this reflexion while ordering my coffee today, since it’s the beginning of the university year most new employees are student who are learning how to make coffees, hence it takes more time than the usually – learning takes time – . I felt that I was impatient and that it was not like usual, which made me wonder if I was getting too used to having everything very quickly. 🧐

You probably noticed, given the crazy amount of money these companies spent in marketing their products, that a bunch of Q-commerce (quick commerce) businesses are competing at the moment. Flink, Gorillaz and many others are racing to be the “on-demande delivery” or “e-grocery” kings. The ones that will bring to you, an any time of the day, that liter of orange juice you are missing, that piece of cheese you need for a late snack, that bottle of wine you need for a last-minute date. Instead of going out to your local little store still open late or at night, you can just click and order.
Q-commerce is making it’s money on the fact we are just lazy urban people. Because it is necessary to specify that these services concern only the big cities, they could not be profitable on less dense or too extended geographical zones.

Maybe I am not seeing the incredible potential here of the quick delivery business ? I think that my assumptions are based on the fact that I myself worked in a delivery company.
Deliveroo for example, created in 2013, has been losing money since then, and lost $309 million in 2020 while its revenues climbed to $5,64 billion.

The only two things in my opinion that are profitable in this type of business are :

  1. dark kitchens, own by the company itself, which are highly efficient production units without a storefront that are optimized for delivery, selling only via delivery.
  2. selling marketing services to their restaurants/partners

Even though they take about 30% on each orders make into the “normal” restaurants, this revenue is not enough for them to stop losing money. The main problem for these companies is that they have to spent gigantic amount of money on marketing to customers.

With Q-commerce, it’s not about dark kitchens anymore but about dark stores which would qualify has strategically located warehouses, in this case, in the very center of the city. Dark stores allows them the maximum agility and flexibility in order to deliver as quick as possible.

I have many concerns about the impact of these structures on the rest of the convenience stores. Are we going to assist to witness the death of these stores ? I mean, dark stores are no fun, and I recently read an article about a little supermarket in the very center of Paris who became a dark store, meaning a warehouse bad-looking unfriendly place, dark here takes on its full meaning. Are our city and town centers going to look like industrial zones ? A bit like what it was in fact looking alike during the big lockdowns of the covid crisis.

We have seen huge amounts recently invested in those quick delivery companies. Flink itself raised $240 millions last. For Paris itself, given the fact that many stores in the center closed during the covid crisis, I really think they will use this opportunity to buy a bunch of these places. I wonder how locals will react to these new-born stores that they can’t physically access ?

We could already witness the impact of Amazon on local small retail businesses, closing one by one when the owners retire. I do agree that this type of business have missed the opportunity to go online until now, relying on their loyal customers, and in fact, the covid crisis had a real positive impact in the profound changes that these companies must consider in their way of doing business. I think, for example that they could definitely keep their stores and either become Amazon sellers (or opening their own online shops) and therefore becoming themselves little “sort of” warehouses in the city centers.

Still, I wonder how these companies will end up making money. We can already guess the future here : the most successful ones will either buy the other ones or make them drown in the long run. Then giants like Amazon will probably buy them back. In my opinion, only a giant dominating the industry can make profits with its large scale.

There has been a few articles recently in the news regarding the possible soon end of the era of supermarkets, hypermarkets.

Has the hypermarket model had its day? This revolutionary concept of “everything under one roof”, popularized in 1963 by Carrefour, has conquered the whole world. Today, however, the French pioneer, like its competitors, is down on one knee. The crisis of gigantism, associated with the dehumanization of commerce and over-consumption, is the main cause. According to experts, the omnipotence of certain groups will be threatened within ten years. From now on, the whole sector is trying to save what can be saved, even if it means resorting to practices bordering on legality.

https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/095178-000-A/hypermarches-la-chute-de-l-empire/

Three years after buying Whole Foods for $13 billion, Amazon has already launched its own brand, Amazon Fresh. This year they opened one of the first Amazon fresh stores in London. In France, Amazon already holds 10% of the consumer goods market.

I think we really must ask ourselves about the dehumanization of commerce and over-consumption. Also we must worry about our selfie-obsessed generation, where we always want to look happier than the rest of our peers on Instagram. Writing this article I am not sure I can make the link between these different concepts right away but I have the feeling there is more to it, that Instagram and social networks have largely contributed to the fact we are quite comfortable with the concept of dehumanization and that the extreme narcissistic society we live in is well connected with over-consumption.

To be continued…

The most underrated shop in Wroclaw

This store has an uninviting atmosphere and seems to be from the 90’s, but it is such a gem in the very center of the city, it’s located in a 6th floors Art Nouveau building from 1904. I am here talking about the Feniks store of course !

I often go for walks in the center, enjoying a new restaurant, or discovering a new café. I like to discover new shops and streets I haven’t had the chance to explore yet. The center is full of very cute colourful buildings and most shops are like any other European cities, own by international brands.
The entry of this old-looking mall is situated on Rynek, between a Burger King and a McDonald, on the other side the entry is next to an old barber shop, and is in fact the entry of the supermarket situated on the ground floor. You might have been to the supermarket full of very Polish goods, but skipped the next floors given the uninviting style of the elevators or the big marble stairs with their ugly looking neon lights. This design feels super outdated in today’s world where malls are big shiny places.

Each floor consist of a large space filled with a pallid light, and some dusty looking shelves but please don’t run away, because this shop is definitely worth it !

On the first floor, you will find plenty of made in Poland clothes including scarfs and leather gloves with fair prices, vintage looking but great value. A bunch of toys and games for kids, and a solid choice of stationery items. There is also a shop specialised in selling old coins, like old zlotys, it looks perfect for finding a gift for your grand parents !

On the second floor, you will find what I would describe to be what Amazon is today. You can find anything for you house, your bathroom, your kitchen, vintage or modern. I have never seen such a large choice of glasses, of vases, of cups, coffee utensils, plates. From grandma style looking cups to more modern standards. Basically all you can ever dream to find in the same shop. Of couse there will also be a large choice of old looking stuff, I won’t judge, all I can say is that there is something for everyone 😄 even if it is a greyish looking sheep plush.

On the third floor, there is a bunch of clothing accessories, including rock&roll style T-shirts and clothes shop, a choice of skateboards, a large choice of shirts and suits (all of these items are always made in Poland) and a large choice of shoes for women and men. There is also a selection of old Vinyls between the military looking clothes and the Rock bands t-shirts and pin’s 😃.

address : Rynek 31/32, 50-114 Wrocław, Pologne

Online banks and massive frauds

N26 fined €4.25m for its weakness of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks, regarding 50 transactions that were reported to late to the authorities, puts once again online banks in the spotlights.

BaFin which is the German control authority has placed their own people inside N26 following a big series of weakness found into N26 AML system. It seems that N26 was under close watch since 2017 and that its management was well aware of these issues.

There has been countless articles and reports in the news the last few years regarding those regulations weakness inside the fintech. A few weeks ago, a german journalist was reporting that the bank was hoping for a regulation change within the German authority instead of taking care of the issue.

The fine seems pretty small but you have to take into account that it only concerns 50 transactions reportes to late to the authorities.

N26 has been suffering since 2017 of a huge back log of reports between authorities requisitions and internal reporting coming from automated alerts and customer care flagging. It has suffered for years from online complaints regarding accounts blocked for weeks until they could finally make a decision between closing an account or unflagging the transaction.

The worforce organisation is also in the spotlights, N26 has been leveling down their AML services by creating low paid low level entry jobs consisiting of pre analysing fraud alerts and was in fact relying on a few seniors to supervise the operations. I wonder if the fact that their AmL team works in the sulphurous city of Berlin has had a negative impact on their reporting abilities ? A quick search over the Internet will lead you to countless pictures of after work parties within their Berlin office !

I am not saying that hyper growth is easy, but when a service, that doesn’t work as it should,is potentially exposing your whole company to big fines it’s the CEO responsibility to make changes !

Most fintechs road maps are pressuring the world wide expension and customer acquisition before the regulatory compliance. I am not sure european authorities will be any flexible regarding those questions anytime in the future. German baFin was already in the spotlights following Wirecars scandal, they won’t let the fintech rule compliance their own way.

N26 will likely survive to the storm if they make the right decisions regarding compliance.

For years they have been focusing on a fast answer less than 30 seconds answers for their customers, with the use of customer care workforce from external centers. Maybe it’s time to finally focus on quality whether than fast answering. Being myself a user of their banking services I was surprised by how low the level of 1st level customer care was, no better then Amazon ones. Then i was transferred to their level 2 which is an agent in Berlin to take care of a chargeback, they told me it would take weeks dor my demand to be processed given the huge back log. It only confirms that their N26 Operations is totally overwhelmed and under-staffed, both on customer care side and compliance.

All european fintechs now that they are being screened by the authorities, that they will be meticulously controlled by them, some are playing by the rules and some are bracing for impacts.

After sharing with some N26 employees I found out that they were planning to go Public soon, I am not sure given the situation they will be allowed to do so before thoroughly working on their internal compliance systems…

To conclude this fine is likely another BIG warning from the German authorities which have been more than nice since the beginning with the well known German fintech.