The Cashless Backlash

Amazon’s first cashier-less convenience store has opened in New York. Crowd DNA’s Tom Eccles pops in for a browse…

New York recently became the fourth city to feature one of Amazon’s cashier-less ‘Grab and Go’ stores. The stores offer a selection of typical convenience food – think sandwiches, drinks, ready meals, cook-at-home kits. But the appeal of Amazon Go isn’t really the products on offer – it’s the store experience itself; from the lack of any kind of checkout process, to the novelty that you simply take your items from the shelf and walk straight out the door. No lines, no one fumbling for quarters and no “unexpected items in the bagging area.”

Along came lunchtime on Friday – it was time to test drive the future of retail. I jumped on the subway, tapping my phone on the turnstile using NYC’s new contactless payment system, OMNY. To enter the store, I had to download the Amazon Go app, sign in and, again, scan my phone on the barrier. I browsed around, picking up and replacing a few items to try and fool the system, before deciding on some lunch and walking straight out.

Sure enough, a few minutes later I had a mobile notification with a receipt, helpfully informing me that I’d spent six minutes and ten seconds in the store. All in all, a pretty seamless, stress-free experience – and I didn’t use a single coin, banknote, or even a physical card.

So why, if the cashierless experience is so quick, easy and painless, is there a backlash against cashless stores on the rise? Earlier this year, Philadelphia became the first US city to ban stores from not accepting cash. New Jersey followed suit with a state-wide ban, joined soon after by San Francisco. New York City is now working on similar legislation. In response, fancy salad outlet Sweetgreen – after going card and app only in 2017 – has pledged to resume taking cash in all stores by the end of this year.

The main argument against going cashless is the exclusion of those who often don’t have the means to access digital forms of payment; namely lower-income families, the disabled and elderly. According to the FDIC, six percent of American households (8.4 million) don’t even have a bank account. Furthermore, a lack of adequate banking facilities disproportionately affects households of color: 17 percent of African American households have no bank account, and therefore no method of accessing cashless stores and services.

There are other arguments too. Privacy campaigners point out that a transition to electronic payments means yet more personal data being handed to corporations and governments – the latter a particular concern in China, which is well on its way to becoming the world’s first cashless society. It also increases the risk of potential exposure to identity and financial fraud.

As the option to pay with cash is disappearing from our streets, the ability to actually get hold of cash is also vanishing. In the UK, an average of 460 cash machines closed every month last year, while the number of bank branches is now less than 8,000, down from 18,000 in 1989. Here in the US, 6,008 branches closed between 2008 and 2016, resulting in ‘cash deserts’: areas with no banks and no access to ATMs.

Of course, times change – and as technology advances, the tech industry must find ways to include lower income and minority communities in the cashless revolution. For brands, while it is clearly important to embrace new and more efficient ways of working, they should do so in the most inclusive way possible too. As for Amazon Go, it is undoubtedly a futuristic and novel concept, but whether it is the future of retail, or an unnecessary pit-stop on the road to an e-commerce based future, is up for debate.

We're seeking a finance manager to join our friendly team in Hoxton Square, London...

Working in a fast moving and stimulating environment, reporting in to our senior directors, the role will involve:

– Overseeing the day to day accounting function

– Managing sales and supplier invoicing/payments

– VAT accounting and returns

– Payroll and pensions

– Monitoring, improving and managing general financial processes (expenses, fixed costs, travel, sign-off of invoices etc)

– Supporting the management team to achieve agreed financial targets through effective and timely financial reporting and analysis of project by project performance

– Preparation of year end accounts

– Overseeing the finance responsibilities of our office and operations manager

– Working on our London business will constitute the majority of the role to start with. However, we’re building teams in New York, Singapore and Sydney; experience of accounting in different markets therefore an advantage

Benefits

Competitive salary and annual leave allowance / Betterment scheme / 2 x company days out / Christmas close / Early summer finishing / Quarterly awards / Free lunches per month / Massages, fruit, drinks, other treats! / Scope for working from home / Paid sabbatical after five years

About You

We want someone who can point to solid accounting and finance experience, ideally in a small business environment and, better still, with experience in a company that offers ad hoc services on a project-by-project basis (therefore dealing with a range of clients and with bespoke costs per project).

If you can point to experience in a business with overseas clients and/or offices, that’s an advantage; as is experience using Quickbooks.

We are open to candidates looking to work in the role full time, but also those looking for a three or four day role.

To apply for this role, please get in touch with Andy Crysell, including a CV.

Hello Sydney! Crowd DNA is super excited to be up-and-running in Australia. We've a lovely office and we've some exciting clients - and now we're looking to build out our team...

In particular, we’re looking to hear from those with one to three years experience, for a consultant level role in our fledging Sydney business. You’ll get to work on exciting projects at the intersection of culture, insight and strategy for some of the most forward-facing brands in the world. You’ll get to collaborate alongside the wider Crowd DNA team in our other global offices and play a key role in helping our Sydney start-up to fly high.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

One to three years of experience. This could well be in an insight agency, or potentially elsewhere in the marketing comms field

You’ll have a strong sense of why culture is important to brands – and you’ll be ready and confident to share that point of view with our clients; in presentations, reports etc

While you won’t necessarily have ticked off every research method under the sun, you’ll come with a good basis of understanding of qualitative techniques (if you can bring some quant to the party, too, better still!)

Though much of our work is about exploring culture, we’re doing it to create commercial advantage for our clients. Thus, we’re looking for a recruit who can demonstrate strong client management skills

Next to a passion for the cultural perspective, we’re particularly keen to speak to candidates who also have a creative skillset – writing, film making, design etc

While Crowd DNA as a group is 11 years old, it’s early days in Sydney. We want someone with a real appetite for working in a start-up business (think diverse challenges, fast learning)

The role comes with a competitive salary, great benefits, the chance to work on some of the most stimulating and culturally-driven projects out there; and the opportunity to progress and make a real difference in an exciting and progressive business. To apply (attaching a CV and covering letter), please get in touch with Elyse Pigram.

Didn't make it to Glastonbury this year? Fear not - for the second instalment of our Listening In series, consultant Benji Long transports you to the fields of Worthy Farm (via social media) to uncover the festival's biggest talking points...

As won’t have escaped you, Glastonbury 2019 saw 200,000 revellers – a number equivalent to the population of Colchester –  descend on to Worthy Farm, Somerset.  To track the buzz as things unfolded, we set up a social listening monitor that gathered over 320,000 mentions online over seveb days. In that time, Glastonbury conversation surpassed chat about who will be the next British prime minister, and the even more British topic of the (hot) weather. So, what was all the fuss about at Glasto?

Stormzy makes history

There was one clear winner in generating the most online hype. London-based grime artist Stormzy took the largest slice of online mentions, with 61% of the top eight artists combined. His headline performance drew attention for a number of reasons. Firstly, that this was the first British black male to headline the festival in its 50 year existence – something he was not afraid to capitalise on. Characteristically, Stormzy took the opportunity to speak out about racial inequality in the UK and even sampled MP David Lammy’s influential interview on racial prejudice in the British criminal justice system. Continuing his political crusade, he orchestrated his liberal-leaning crowd to chant ‘f*?@ Boris,’ knowing it would be broadcast well beyond the farm fields to millions watching live via the BBC coverage.

Thiago Silva rap goes viral

You might suspect the most engaging post of the weekend to be about another of the weekend’s stars – Kylie’s come back perhaps, or Lewis Capaldi dressing as Noel Gallagher anyone? But no. Instead it was Alex (no surname required), die-hard fan of rapper Dave, who came on stage and perfectly recited the track ‘Thiago Silva’ during the rising star’s set, fittingly dressed in a PSG shirt with said footballer’s name on the back. Having been published on Saturday evening, one Twitter post about this stage-crashing went on to be retweeted 20,400 times and garner 119,000 comments. Looking at the virality map below, we can see how the initial tweet at 22:40 spread across the platform, before being picked up by BBC news which helped it to go stratospheric.

The greenest Glasto yet

In other festival news, Michael Eavis’s announcement that Glastonbury would ditch plastic bottles was praised on stage by 93-year-old David Attenborough in a deafeningly-cheered surprise appearance. “That is more than a million bottles of water that have not been drunk by you,” he told the audience from the Pyramid Stage, just before Kylie Minogue’s set.

However, Glastonbury’s environmental efforts were also met with backlash. While ‘Attenborough’ and ‘plastic-free’ dominated the positive conversation, there was negativity around the state of the site after the festival. ‘Rubbish’ and ‘tents’ highlight the waste that was left behind as festival-goers ‘desert[ed]’ the site.

The power of Glastonbury

Once again, Glastonbury makes a claim for being the world’s best festival (though we might be biased here in the London office, having waved a few of our own off to it last week). But this is also reflected in the festival-goers’ online conversation, making headlines for all the right reasons; supporting diverse and emerging talent and using the magnitude of the event as a vessel for wider societal change.

Social listening is a powerful tool for tracking events as they unfold, and analysing trends is part of how Crowd DNA provides culturally charged commercial advantage to brands all around the world. If you need to understand more about an event, category, theme or topic, and want to find out if social listening can get you to answers, contact us at hello@crowdDNA.com.

 

Rise: New Hedonism

Ignore the rumours: hedonism is alive and well. Join Crowd DNA associate director Berny McManus at our next Rise breakfast session in London, as we explore the changing dynamics of having fun – and why we’re all still party people at heart...

Date: July 11

Time: 8.15-9am

Location: Crowd DNA, 5 Lux Building, 2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

Hedonistic pursuits – you know, the ones driven by pleasure and indulgence – have traditionally been grouped as facets of ‘letting go’. Drink, drugs, sex and other forms of escapism have always dominated. But what happens when you add wellness, environmental concerns and other topically 2019 themes into the mix? 

According to the ONS, Gen Z in the UK are consuming 20 per cent less alcohol than their millennial counterparts drank at their age. Similarly, the portion of young Americans reporting having had no sex in the past year more than doubled between 2008 and 2018. The rise of Generation Sensible, who are more interested in mindfulness than MDMA, is fuelling a growing consensus that hedonism is dying. 

But can we ever reach a point in culture where pleasure takes a permanent backseat? 

Join us on Thursday July 11, as we redefine hedonism, our host Berny taking us on a journey through scenes of the past (from 90s rave culture up to the yoga enthusiasts of today); before diving into the new hedonistic occasions of 2019. 

Using a unique need states model, we’ll share a revamped definition of hedonism – demonstrating that the fundamental human desire to let off a little steam still prevails. And, naturally, what this means for brands – from shaping comms to products to experiences.

For coffee, croissants and hedonistic insights, please fill out this form or contact rise@crowdDNA.com. And feel free to pass this invite on to any party people who might also be interested. 

Our new thinking around Gen Z has landed. Here's our Hybrid States model, including a chance to download the full Hybrid Generation report...

Download the full Gen Z: Hybrid States report here.

Gen Z are many things. They’re health obsessed, alcohol avoiders with a plan to save the planet; but they’re also everyday teenagers intent on breaking rules. While this duality can be a daunting prospect for brands to engage with, one thing is very easy to grasp – Gen Z are now the biggest generation on earth.

With that pressing fact in mind, our latest Rise breakfast was dedicated to the launch of a new framework for getting to grips with Gen Z – a model that we’re calling: Hybrid States. Presented by Crowd DNA’s London managing director Dr Matilda Andersson and senior consultant Rachel Rapp, today’s young adults were described as a generation defined by their own duality.

Thanks to the unique context that they’ve grown up in (think polarised, yet hyperconnected), Gen Z’s values and motivations are combining in unconventional ways. Combinations that we’re now labelling, and embracing, as Hybrid States. Using Schwartz’s Theory Of Basic Human Values, our presenters showed how their motivations are blending and fusing together. As it turns out, Gen Z’s value states are never binary and don’t plot easily on the map, which, when you think about it, is pretty exciting.

We’ve identified nine of these Hybrid States that we see Gen Z occupying. Providing fertile creative ground for brands of all shapes and sizes, you can read more about opportunities for winning with Gen Z in our full Hybrid States report – available to download here.

And keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks as we bring Gen Z’s Hybrid States to life in nine short films.

The nine hybrid states of Gen Z...
The nine hybrid states of Gen Z...

Download the full Gen Z: Hybrid States report here.

In a new content series, we’re zooming in on the unique character of New York City neighborhoods, as seen through the eyes of those born and raised in them...

Culture is core to our work at Crowd DNA – plotting change (fast and slow) and applying this understanding to problem-solving for our clients. Get beyond the gridlocks and the concrete, and culture is what makes cities work, too. It’s what makes them fascinating, rather than just frustrating. It’s where the energy and the hope comes from.

Crowd DNA New York’s The Neighborhoods Project looks to explore these themes, and to do so from the perspective of natives of some of the city’s finest boroughs. We’re seeking to understand the impact of gentrification (not always what you might expect); the unique qualities that continue to drive local pride and preserve identities in spite of rapid change.

Our first collection dives into Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Lower East Side and Greenpoint. We meet those born and raised in each, those working hard to stay put. There are stories of embracing heritage but equally of the quest for adaption. Ultimately, we’re getting to the bottom of what makes New York, New York.

Stay tuned this summer for more on this exciting project from Crowd DNA New York.

You can check out more city thinking from Crowd DNA in volume four of City Limits, an editorialised report series which, this time, focuses on emergent solutions to urban problems.

 

In our fourth issue of City Limits, we’re getting optimistic about urban problems, exploring the solutions that are changing things for the better...

City Limits Volume Four – download it here.

Our City Limits series – Crowd DNA’s exploration of the ever evolving urban experience – has so far looked at mobility, youth and city living around the globe. Now, we’re tackling the stickier stuff. As cities grow and evolve they inevitably face more complex problems that need fixing, so we’ve taken a worldwide tour of the most innovative ways that individuals, institutions, governments and brands are making a difference.

From changing the conversation around homelessness and getting to grips with a new wave of millennial volunteers; to shedding the doom and gloom associated with megacities and spotlighting new safety measures for women, this issue is looking forward to a positive urban future. 

City Limits Volume Four is available to download here.

Check out the trailer below: