Digilocalism, a response to digital giants?

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The development of digital technologies has fostered the emergence of retail giants, such as Amazon, which are blurring the boundaries of consumption. However, the attraction for local shopping, exacerbated by the pandemic, has led to the emergence of another phenomenon: “digilocalism”, thanks to platforms that combine online consumption with local interest.

The pandemic has brought the closure of borders and with it the temptation to 'relocate' production and 'recontinental' supply chains , while large platforms like Amazon are criticized for taking advantage of the misfortune caused by the crisis. .

Thus have emerged platforms such as the Blue Basket , Ma Zone Québec , Boomerang, inc , J'achète au Lac , or the first local electronic commerce platform for shopping centers and EVA that allows you to become a driver in a cooperative and to have influence as a business owner.

These configurations have the advantage of giving meaning to consumption and production activities . And, in these times of transition, meaning, isn't that what people are looking for more and more?

The era of the consumer-supplier

Whether through carpooling platforms like Eva, exchanges between individuals like Kijiji, crowdfunding like Ulule, or even a marketplace solution like Dvore , the concept of consumer-supplier is which allows this transition.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the modes of production and consumption have been separated. The consumer has essentially taken on the role of buyer. Nowadays, new concepts crossing the two modes appear. Think of collaborative consumption , the sharing economy or crowd-based capitalism . The passive consumer is replaced by an actor consumer, who takes on the role of supplier, volunteer, or partner.

For example, within NousRire , an eco-responsible bulk food purchasing group in Quebec, the customer takes on the role of supplier, volunteer, and more broadly, partner of the organization .

In the NousRire buying group, the customer takes turns playing the role of consumer, volunteer, supplier and partner. Screenshot of the website www.nousettre.com

Large-scale distribution is not left out. The second life of the furniture of IKEA France or shwopping (contraction shopping and swap ) in Marks & Spencer, who gets used clothing store, work on the same consumer-supplier principle.

To deal with this new type of consumer, Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers popularized the notion of collaborative consumption , where the consumer can become a supplier through platforms and applications. This is the case with Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, InstaCart or even VarageSale.

Not just to save

But what motivates the use of these types of exchanges? If financial and utility reasons prevail for buyers and suppliers, suppliers are also strongly motivated by something other than the sole aspect of financing . The value of what they provide is often greater than the compensation obtained in exchange. The supplier must therefore be motivated by something other than financial gain to invest efforts in such an exchange. These actions can be motivated by coercion, socialization, the desire to contribute to society, or even altruism.

Individuals have a variety of platforms to exchange, but also to train, advise, especially with Coursera , or outsource tasks through Amazon MTurk , for example.

In health, a transition to digital health is currently taking place , which distributes health care more effectively within territories and allows individuals to give advice and intervene in patient forums, groups or communities. online.

Democratize the markets

The financial sector has also become democratized. Crowdfunding platforms like Ulule allow individuals to donate or invest in projects led by other people, while platforms like eToro democratize investment in financial markets. These platforms thus allow individuals to drain capital in areas neglected by public or private investment to revitalize local economies.

Another case of interest is cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. Thousands of cryptocurrencies exist, like Bitcoin, and miners are replacing central banks. Facebook's Diem cryptocurrency project hints at the emergence of a “total digital ecosystem”, a society centered on the individual, dematerialized and demonetized.

India has already tried to set up a cashless society in 2016. This policy has had an impact on practices specific to emerging countries, including cash on delivery, which has become payment on delivery . Good or bad news ? Often informal collaborative transactions certainly became much more fluid, but fully traceable and taxable.

A controversial economy

The collaborative economy is probably the most visible, the most documented, and the most controversial manifestation of this reconfiguration of market exchanges. The hospitality industry complains about Airbnb and taxis have it against Uber because anyone can now accommodate or transport other people for a fee. The battles on this subject have resulted in certain more accommodating laws , leading these platforms to strengthen their activities in Quebec .

For the authorities, this standardization also makes it possible to transfer to the private sector the burden of meeting needs that must otherwise be met by the public sector. In transport, for example, the offer of carpooling services makes it possible to compensate for the lack of public public transport services. The citizens are also attached to these practices because they meet many of their needs, while maximizing the use of dormant resources, allowing better access to resources for the poor, and lowering unemployment .

However, it is not certain to what extent these platforms degrade work or whether they reinvent it by making the supplier an “entrepreneur” .

An illusion of power?

It is also necessary to understand the transformations that the algorithms of the platforms generate in terms of governance, inclusion and user rights. Indeed, the exponential quantity of data generated by the platforms increases the capacity of dominant firms to identify users' needs very early on and to very precisely assess their payment capacities , which can lead to discrimination. Additionally, the platforms feature high price opacity as they often customize and adjust prices in real time based on each user .

Furthermore, the collaborative economy remains monopolized by technological giants, leaving little room for the emergence or survival of more modest platforms. So, in short, the consumer has an illusion of power by becoming a supplier - which we call entrepreneur, flexi worker or self-employed worker - at the service of mega-platforms.

Can digilocalism make its place in this universe? Do these platforms born out of the pandemic in an effort to support the local economy have any chances of survival in the longer term?

According to a case study of small and medium-sized ridesharing platforms in China, the only chance of survival for smaller platforms lies in meeting the needs not addressed by the giants, including the customers served, critical partners, value proposition offered, and cost and revenue structure.

However, it is certain that recent developments in digital technologies have given more opportunities for individuals to contribute. This digital transition, which is already well underway, has accelerated with the Covid-19 pandemic and will probably not stop anytime soon!

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