WWD – Women’s Wear Daily: Tech’s Crisis of Confidence

As posted on WWD on April 6, 2018. Written by Adriana Lee and Evan Clark. (Link to original article.)

An interview with John Wantz

The world is ready to log off — or at least, fed up enough to wish it could.

After 20 years at the pinnacle of consumer culture, technology itself is facing a crisis of confidence that is much deeper and more complex than any of its prior setbacks and data privacy snafus.

Technology’s issues have become more numerous and varied, encompassing not just a single industry, but a pillar of modern life.

* Facebook’s been scandalized by how its data was used to inappropriately target voters.

* Hackers regularly attack from the shadows, most recently breaking into the data vaults at Hudson’s Bay Co. and Under Armour Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp.

* Amazon’s seemingly ceaseless expansion has led to increased scrutiny, with President Trump keeping the heat on with fire-breathing tweets.

* And smartphones and social media have been blamed for everything from digital addictions to shorter attention spans to increased anxiety.

As tech grew up, it moved from geeky and remote to hip and innovative. Now the sector is plugged in and filthy rich, settling uneasily into its role as a key part of the new establishment.

The digital genie is not going back into the mainframe. But people have become less enamored, leaving average users, Silicon Valley (and brands that rely on the connection between the two) to muddle forward.

Facebook has been pushed to the forefront by its scandal around Cambridge Analytica, which secured information from millions of Facebook accounts and used it to target voters in the 2016 election. The scope was massive: As many as 87 million users could have been affected, up significantly from the 50 million users previously estimated, according to a blog post Wednesday by Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer.

The post covered new changes to platform and developer tools that set limits on developer access to user data. The nine new updates cover Facebook logins, groups, event data and more.

“We believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped,” Schroepfer said, pointing to a look-up feature that uses phone numbers and e-mails. (Scraping is a web tactic to extract data.) Facebook has shut down the feature.

On a call with reporters, chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the company didn’t have “a broad enough view of what our responsibilities were,” and personally took the blame.

“I started this place, I run it,” he said. “I’m responsible for what happened here.” And yet he couched the sentiment, drawing on the complexity of “building something like Facebook, which is unprecedented in the world. And if we got this right, we would have messed something else up.”

The takeaway: Connecting billions of people is hard, and fixing the gaps and securing the network is a process, a job that may never end. So far, the ceo said he hasn’t fired anyone over the scandal, and he plans to expand the team of 15,000 people who work on security and content review to 20,000 by year’s end.

Zuckerberg will testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “This hearing will be an important opportunity to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mark Zuckerberg is headed to Capitol Hill next week to explain Facebook’s data practices with lawmakers. Jeff Chiu/REX/Shutterstock (5744251g)

Lawmakers are feeding off an increasingly frustrated populace.

“Consumers are finally getting to the point where they’re saying, ‘No more, I don’t want it, let’s delete Facebook,’ or, ‘I want to punish the company,’” said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University and author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy.”

But signing out of Facebook or dropping tech completely could be hard or impossible.

“We have changed our psychology through the use of Facebook and we are now, I would say, dependent on it,” Yarrow said. “People look at it like a lifeline to relationships. People have also been presenting this idealized version of themselves through Facebook, and they become attached to this persona and they don’t want to let that go. It’s almost like an avatar in a way, ‘That’s a me that’s relevant to me.’”

So it won’t be an easy or simple process, but Yarrow said change has come.

“All of this is OK, it’s normal,” she said. “It’s wonderful, in fact, that we’ve now seen the limits of what we’re willing to tolerate. And I’m not sure what shape it will take, but there will be pressure, where really collectively we all say, ‘OK, I think that’s about all we can manage with this — we need to see what’s going on; we need more transparency, accountability,’ and we’ll start to see the pendulum swing back.”

Tech’s image problems tend to crest and fall like waves, sweeping in and then retreating, again and again.

But the recent spate of major tech failures have created a tidal wave-like effect that’s been building for some time.

According to a 2014 Pew Internet & American Life survey, 91 percent of Americans “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that people had lost control over how their personal information was collected and used. Roughly 80 percent of social media users were worried about advertisers and businesses plucking their social data, and 64 percent believed the government should do more to regulate advertisers. In another survey last year, just 9 percent of social media users reported being “very confident” that social companies would protect their data. About half of users were not at all or not very confident their data was safe.

The stakes are even higher now, with implications ranging from the financial to the political to safety. On one end, Uber and Tesla face the literal and figurative wreckage of recent self-driving car fatalities. On the other, Facebook contends with its latest data privacy scandal. In between lie many complex layers representing hundreds of millions of user data profiles and billions of discrete facts about how average people live and operate online.

Reconciling that with the evolution of modern retail is a hard calculus. Customer data is the lifeblood of e-commerce and plays a growing role in physical stores as well, fueling recommendations, personalized services and more. But that flow of information doesn’t work if people can’t trust their brands and service providers.

“What’s going on is real,” said Karsten Weide, program vice president of digital media and entertainment at IDC. “People are getting more concerned about privacy, and the reason is that the data breaches have become much more frequent than just once a year. I think this is here to stay.

“As we get closer to the midterms [elections], this is going to become more of an issue,” he said. “A lot of politicians will be using this for grandstanding, and so there will be calls for more privacy regulation. There will even be calls for the breakup of Facebook, the breakup of Amazon, the breakup of Google, perhaps. In Europe, they’re further along than we are.”

Next month, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation will go into effect, requiring companies to be more transparent with users about the data they collect and how they’ll use it. The rules also give consumers more control over their own information. Some social media companies plan to take the EU compliance standard beyond Europe and apply it universally.

“We’re taking a global approach to GDPR, to help ensure all members benefit from increased control and clarity,” said a LinkedIn spokeswoman.

Facebook will as well, said Zuckerberg, who noted that the company already complies with much of the GDPR. As for exactly how much, he wouldn’t say. “We intend to make all the same controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe,” he explained, but with the caveat that formats may differ by markets and according to regional laws.

Weide said the rest of the world could look to Europe as a template, and pointed to both Canada and Australia, which are looking at privacy regulation, as examples. He expects at least some companies to go above and beyond, like LinkedIn, which could help address some of the public’s discomfort.

While Facebook was pushed into the spotlight over data for the Trump campaign, it feels like the President himself is trying to drag Jeff Bezos’ Amazon into center ring.

Trump continued his Twitter attack on the e-commerce giant this week.

“I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy,” Trump tweeted. “Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne [sic] by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!”

That puts the President at odds with at least some of the experts in his own administration. The blog of the Postal Service’s Inspector General noted that “growth in packages is most welcome, especially as it continues to lose letter mail volumes.”

It remains to be seen if Trump can keep his attention trained on Amazon long enough to enact any real policies regarding the company’s relationship with the post office, its tax treatment or its general size and influence in the economy.

In friendlier times: Donald Trump listens to Jeff Bezos, the two buffered by Microsoft ceo Satya Nadella at a White House meeting last year. AP/REX/Shutterstock (8872937f)

But his attacks on Amazon have had real stock market impact. Since Trump’s beef with Amazon resurfaced last week, the high-profile tech stock is down 3 percent to 1,451.75, shedding nearly $22 billion in market value and spooking Wall Street traders overall.

Consultant Jonathan Low, partner at Predictiv, said Trump’s attacks are really directed at The Washington Post, which Bezos owns personally, rather than any antitrust impulse against Amazon. (Trump’s latest tweet on Amazon bears this out, describing the Post as the web giant’s “chief lobbyist.”)

“The underlying issue is potentially much more devastating — and I think it has to be not with Facebook’s abuse in data and not with Amazon taking over the world — it’s with the fact that every business today is a tech business,” Low said.

“And part of the success of tech and the companies that have adapted to tech is that they’re getting their raw materials for free from consumers and I think the fear is that that’s what’s going to end,” he said. “Margins are going to shrink dramatically because there will be more rules out the use of data, where there may be less access to data and companies will have to pay more. Consumers may even be compensated for their data somehow.”

A newer breed of startup has begun to take hold to address data privacy through blockchain technology, and they’re getting plenty of attention in the financial, healthcare and retail sectors. Groups like Hypr, Token and Shop believe that decentralizing data, so there is no single repository or overseeing organization, is key to safeguarding people’s information. The premise appeals to players of all sizes, including payment giants like MasterCard, which has been linking up with blockchain companies, and even Zuckerberg himself.

In January, the 33-year-old Facebook ceo pledged to fix the myriad issues plaguing his platform — such as the “fake news epidemic” — he also said he would explore encryption and blockchain. Hindsight offers extra context, as it’s clear now that Zuckerberg had long known about Cambridge Analytica by this point.

Blockchain startups like Shop, a cooperative that won Shoptalk’s Start-up Pitch Competition last month, believe in a tokenized approach to security and data privacy: Digital tokens act like a set of keys that give users access and control over their data. Shop aims to create an economy of sorts, with tokens acting as both retail currency and a basis for loyalty programs.

In assessing the landscape today, one particular tech giant stands out to Shop ceo John Wantz: “I think my respect for Apple is growing lately. Because governments are so intrusive on telecommunications, it had to develop a position [saying,] ‘Either we’ll be completely open like Android, and let any government in any country have carte blanche access to the data, or we decide whose side we’re on and maybe we cryptographically secure [it].” The way the iPhone maker built its technology and architecture impresses Wantz — it uses cryptography in various parts of its software, including FaceTime and iMessage.

Apple’s tendency to hold tight to user data might give it an advantage as consumer privacy concerns spike. Oleksiy Maksymenko/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock (9426243a)

When Apple launched Business Chat for iMessage, its approach to user control stood out. People can mute or silence brands, and they initiate all chats, not the companies.

“Another major difference with Apple versus the free-to-use, or monetized companies like Google and Facebook, is that Apple doesn’t have a business model with monetizing data flow,” explained Rurik Bradbury, global head of conversational strategy at LivePerson, which helps retailers integrate with the new iOS business features. “The data in the messages is encrypted up to the point where it hits the brand, and then encrypted on the way back again. So they’re not looking at what’s happening in these conversations, and they don’t have any interest in looking.…That’s quite positive for brands who don’t want to have their connection to customers digitally mediated.”

Those relationships are more fraught than ever. Today, the need for privacy safeguards and the demand for services can work like opposing forces. “Consumers say, ‘I don’t mind giving away my data, as long as I know what data that is, and what I get in return,’” IDC’s Weide said. “So you have to talk about the quid pro quo, something of value you provide in return.”

In Facebook’s case, the value lies in the connection to family and friends, or perhaps benefiting from ads aligned with their interests. “Most of the content that Facebook knows about you, it’s because you chose to share that content with your friends and put it on your profile,” said Zuckerberg. “And we’re going to use data to make the services better, whether that’s ranking news feed or ads or search, or helping you connect with people through people who you know. But we’re never going to sell your information.”

He knows his company hasn’t done a good job of conveying that to people, and when it comes to public trust, such failures are a fundamental problem. But it’s also an opportunity for businesses, if they’re clear about the data they gather, how they will use it and how they will protect it.

Today, dense terms of service, complex privacy settings or automatic opt-ins for unwanted features can seem like hostile acts toward consumers. Against that backdrop, greater care and transparency work as powerful differentiators, especially for customer relationship-oriented sectors like retail. Businesses capable of conveying that they’re built to serve people, not pull one over on them — and actually mean it — could stand out.

And so with another turn of the tech wheel, changes in one area might be opening up new opportunities in another — and perhaps a chance for fashion brands to benefit from a fresh start.

Amazon Destroys Brands

By John Wantz, December 8th, 2018

Dear Amazon recruiters, please see below:

If you’ve looked at Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and said that it got to be the largest business in China without the collusion of the Chinese Government, you might get laughed at.

Similarly, when discussing Amazon, it would be impossible not to claim that the domestic e-commerce monster got where it did today without the officially sanctioned collusion of the American government.

The problem with an all-knowing, all-selling monopoly like Amazon is that it not only kills innovation and small businesses, but it also encourages corruption among other companies that attempt to replicate the same type of massive marketplace growth across retail, food delivery, and other on-demand services. Jet.com, for example, tried to achieve the same results as Amazon, but it turns out that it’s difficult to compete in this way.

This is not to say Amazon hasn’t innovated, but the relationship they now have with American business and offshore dollars has become malignant at best. While Amazon may improve convenience, it is achieved on the backs of a suffering middle class and through the abuse of both big and small businesses in the USA. What’s even more incredible, is that the US Government has allowed this to happen unabated.

Here’s a list of the three methods Amazon leveraged to achieve market dominance through policy meandering and tax dodging which I believe are questionable.

Tax Gymnastics

  • “A new report says Amazon paid zero dollars despite making $5.6 billion in profits last year, and will be getting a $789 million tax cut thanks to the Trump administration’s new law in 2018. (source)
  • The company’s zero percent rate in 2017 reflects a longer term trend. During the previous five years, Amazon reported U.S. profits of $8.2 billion and paid an effective federal income tax rate of just 11.4 percent. This means the company was able to shelter more than two-thirds of its profits from tax during that five year period.
  • Good Jobs First estimates that Amazon could soon surpass Wal-Mart as the largest retail-sector recipient of state and local government aid, meaning that it would have received over $1.2 billion in public subsidies. (source)
  • At the end of 2016, Good Jobs First and the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR), a progressive policy group focusing on sustainable community development, pegged Amazon’s record for state and local subsidies at just over $1 billion ( for data on Amazon-awarded subsidies since 2015, see chart below). The new year began with Amazon committing to build out its rapid-delivery business model, and states and municipalities lined up to help. In less than three months, Amazon racked up another $92 million in tax credits and exemptions to develop warehouses and fulfillment centers in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and Michigan. (source)
  • The company’s early success as a retailer was due in part to its refusal to collect state sales and use taxes. Amazon cloaked itself in immunity under the nexus standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota504 U.S. 298 (1992), which bars states from requiring remote sellers to collect and remit taxes if the vendor lacks a physical presence in the state.
  • Critics contend the practice provided Amazon with a 6 percent to 10 percent price advantage over traditional retailers, which were obligated to collect such taxes due to their physical presence within each taxing jurisdiction. Before 2005, Amazon maintained warehouses and distribution centers in just a handful of states to avoid physical nexus and maintain its market advantage in the vast majority of states.
  • Using data developed through “ Subsidy Tracker,” Good Jobs First’s national search engine for economic development subsidies, Mitchell said Amazon collected tax subsidies totaling $613 million between 2005 and 2014 as it constructed 77 warehouses and fulfillment centers. Amazon also grabbed $147 million in tax benefits linked to its development of data centers, bringing it $760 million in total benefits through 2014.


More on taxes: https://itep.org/amazons-local-state-and-federal-tax-issues-explained/

Worker Abuse

Amazon’s warehouses comprise about 80 percent of the company’s U.S. workforce. The way they treat workers is deplorable.

  • Many of the workers in Amazon warehouses are subcontracted temporary workers, which the company refers to as “seasonal,” but are, in many cases, year-round “permatemps.” This set-up allows Amazon to skirt responsibility for these workers and any injuries they suffer on the job, and helps deter its direct hires from advocating for better conditions.
  • Employees describe running across warehouses that sprawl the distance of 17 football fields; production quotas, or “rates,” that can be set 60 percent higher than the industry standard and a disciplinary system that tracks workers’ every action and inflicts “points” for any deviation from Amazon’s standard. (source)
  • “If you’re a picker you have this scanner gun that counts down 22-seconds between every pick and you’re running sometimes to the other side of the warehouse to get that pick,”
  • “One day we came in to work and they said, ‘Your rate is now 500 units per hour,’”
  • Another worker, this one assigned to be a “picker,” told the paper, “It started with 75 pieces an hour. Then 100 pieces an hour. Then 125 pieces an hour. They just got faster and faster and faster.”
  • As Beth Gutelius, a researcher who has looked extensively at Amazon, told us, “It’s actually impossible to meet the productivity standards and do so safely.”155 The International Business Times has reported that these production quotas are set intentionally too high. “Amazon’s productivity numbers are apparently purposely designed to be unattainable for most workers so that employees feel that they are falling down on the job and push harder to hit the impracticable levels,” IBTimes wrote. “This strategy [is] known as management by stress.”
  • Closely managing workers’ injuries so that they don’t get reported. For instance, “A former warehouse safety official said in-house medical staff were asked to treat wounds, when possible, with bandages rather than refer workers to a doctor for stitches that could trigger federal reports,” a Seattle Times investigation found.
  • Drawing on more than 1,300 wage postings on Glassdoor.com, we found that that Amazon’s fulfillment center positions pay an hourly mean wage of $12.32,167 which is 9 percent less than the industry average for comparable work, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
  • In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where Amazon has seven large facilities, its mean hourly wages were 11 percent lower; in Seattle-Tacoma, where Amazon has five warehouse facilities, wages were 18 percent lower. The smallest gap was in the Phoenix metro area, where Amazon workers make an average of 6 percent less than other warehouse workers. The largest gap was in Kenosha, Wisc., where Amazon has one fulfillment center and one sortation center, and pays an average wage of $12.23–22 percent less than the average wage for comparable work, and 26 percent less than the living wage for the county.
  • Across these eleven metro areas, we found that Amazon wages were an average of 15 percent below the wages for comparable positions. It’s important to note here that though there are examples of better warehouse jobs, much warehouse work is not very well-paid to begin with and Amazon is dragging those low wages down further. Amazon is paying 15 percent less than an already low-wage job. These low wages disproportionately affect African-American and Latino workers, who comprise 45 percent of Amazon’s warehouse workforce, but only 8 percent of the company’s management.
  • Workers have been dying in Amazon warehouses since 2014 (source)

Merchant Abuse

  • Read this source.
  • Amazon merchants fear their voices are drowned out by the company when policy decisions are made that affect their livelihoods and the future of e-commerce. They think an association will help them lobby more effectively. (source)
  • The Online Merchants Guild has big ambitions, which include negotiating better terms with Amazon, pushing the company to respond more effectively to sellers’ complaints and lobbying government officials to make sure merchants’ viewpoints are being heard.
  • Amazon raised seller fees for several categories, increasing the percentage of the sale it takes from third parties, according to analysis from Instinet. The company raised the fee for the Clothing & Accessories category from 15% to 17% and for the Handbags & Sunglasses category from 15% to 18% on items priced above $75. Items under $75 will still be charged the 15% rate. (source)

Amazon has eliminated about 149,000 more jobs in retail than it has created in its warehouses, and the pace of layoffs is accelerating as Amazon grows.

Many more jobs are at risk: the retail sector currently accounts for about 1 in every 8 jobs, and unlike Amazon jobs, these jobs are distributed across virtually every town and neighborhood.

By using Prime to corral an ever-larger share of online shoppers, Amazon has left rival retailers and manufacturers with little choice but to become third-party sellers on its platform. In effect, Amazon is supplanting an open market with a privately controlled one, giving it the power to dictate the terms by which its competitors can operate, and to levy a kind of tax on their revenue.

Already there’s evidence that Amazon is using its huge trove of data about our buying habits to raise prices, and it’s also started blocking access to certain products, charging higher prices, and delaying shipping times for customers who decline to join its Prime program.

To focus too much on prices, though, is to miss the real costs of monopoly. Amazon’s tightening grip is damaging our ability to earn a living and curtailing our freedom as producers of value.

New business formation has plummeted over the last decade, which economists say is stunting job creation, squeezing the middle class, and worsening income inequality.

The case for damaging centralization, monopoly, and oligarchy are strong with Amazon. Something must be done…

Adweek: This Blockchain Ecommerce Platform Thinks It Can Take on Amazon and Major Retailers

As posted on Adweek on April 9, 2018. Written by Ann-Marie Alcántara. (Link to original article.)

Shoppers get to decide whom to share their data with

Thanks to the ever-growing list of data breaches across retail companies and Facebook’s privacy crisis with data firm Cambridge Analytica, data and privacy issues are at the top of people’s minds both in and out of the retail industry. It’s a looming and necessary concern, especially as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is set to go into effect in May.

While the United States has nothing in place like GDPR (yet), other technologies like blockchain are popping up to give consumers the power to own their data again. Blockchain, as a concept, is a widespread database that holds different but anonymous records. In ecommerce, blockchain can decentralize a consumer database. So, instead of one company knowing every clothing preference of a consumer, it’s spread out on the blockchain, with the consumer owning that information. It’s a use case a company like Shop wants to implement.

SHOP (now EVERY) is an ecommerce system built on blockchain that wants to give consumers even more power by giving them control of their data and dictating which brands can use it.

Blockchain in this case decentralizes and creates an anonymous shopping user database in which shoppers and brands can see different data points. With E, however, consumers decide how much data about themselves — gender, shoe size, clothing preferences and more — they want to feed into the blockchain. Those consumers then get to decide which brands can access that data in exchange for rewards like discounts or loyalty perks.

“We want to court brands and shoppers into adopting a protocol where the data is not centralized — it’s decentralized; it’s owned by them,” said John Wantz, founder and CEO of EVERY.

The point of SHOP (now EVERY)is to move away from the centralized format of retail as it exists now, with shopper information and data all organized “by a few tech companies,” particularly with Amazon. From Wantz’s point of view, Amazon’s data on its users lets the company dictate what products to suggest to users and use that information to create private label brands that thwart other brands from making a dent in the market.

“We think [EVERY*] is critical for the future of retail because if a few players like Amazon are able to consume all of our value and all of our information and leverage that against us, they’re doing a great job thus far dictating what products we buy, the frequencies we buy them in, regulating our selection and managing the price against the selection that’s being made to us,” Wantz said.

With SHOP (now EVERY), consumers create an account that gives them a EVERY* digital wallet and the option to pay $5 to join the EVERY* co-op. From there, they can reveal and store certain information about their shopping habits like gender, shoe size, activities they’re interested in, and trade that information for Shop tokens that function as rewards, discounts and in some cases, can be used toward purchases.

The concept appears to favor of brands and consumer data, but Mc Kenna Walsh, a strategic advisor at MoreFaster, doesn’t know if this is a solution to an actual problem in the retail industry.

“Unless the solution to the problem is inherently a database, you’re just barking up the wrong tree,” Walsh said.

Blockchain isn’t necessarily GDPR-compliant either, since data on the blockchain can’t be deleted. Wantz, however, said Shop is working toward conforming to GDPR standards and that as the company works now, all of the data is owned by the shopper and is encrypted.

SHOP (now EVERY) is planning on minting 1 billion of its tokens on May 14, with any credit in the digital wallet converting to a token balance on that date. The “minting” process is simply a token-generating smart contract (a code that runs on blockchain), that keeps a record of the tokens. Shop plans on working with an independent auditing firm to assure buyers the minting process is correct.

By ensuring 450 million tokens go to brands, these yet-to-be-named companies can give them to shoppers, who get to decide how much information they want to give the brand. The idea is that brands can then take these tokens further by finding customers who fit a profile and giving them discounts and rewards to keep shopping with them.

Wantz wants to take the brand-consumer relationship even further by minting 100 million company-specific tokens. That way, brands could in theory create their own branded tokens that only work with their shops and give them to consumers with data that’s valuable to the company.

For now, the data consumers will give to the blockchain remains a bit of a mystery. Wantz said consumers will store “basic personal information” about themselves as well “passive data,” such as the history of the sites they’ve visited, translation history and other information, which will be collected and stored for Shoppers in the wallet. The point of collecting the “passive data” as consumers browse the internet is to “grow” their value to brands.

“[The] more brands we can represent, the more shoppers we can represent, the more leverage we have over these incumbents,” Wantz said.

Living in the era of post data privacy?

Data Privacy is paramount; breaches, hacks and identity theft are just some of the risks we are all exposed to. The internet put the world at our fingertips.

Want to know something? Google it. Want to buy something? Order it online. But with this freedom has come risk. To sign up for brand accounts or make a purchase we have to share our data. Social Media accounts gather user data from the minute they create an account. Our friends, posts, preferences, likes, reshares and subgroups all tell the platform a story about who you are. Connections and personal preferences are valuable data that can be sold or used internally to better target advertising.

Google and Facebook are the leading companies investing in Artificial Intelligence, which will allow them to delve even further into who we are. They are building research facilities in Paris making it the European hub for AI. Futuristic shows such as Westworld paint a terrifying picture of a world where technology can imitate us flawlessly, and companies can use algorithms to predict our every move before we make them, meanwhile many of us joined Facebook without an understanding of what we have given away.

Google and Facebook are the leading companies investing in Artificial Intelligence, which will allow them to delve even further into who we are. They are building research facilities in Paris making it the European hub for AI. Futuristic shows such as Westworld paint a terrifying picture of a world where technology can imitate us flawlessly, and companies can use algorithms to predict our every move before we make them, meanwhile many of us joined Facebook without an understanding of what we have given away.

Given the critical nature of our data, should we all go off the grid? Does data privacy mean having no connection to the outside world?

No, absolutely not. We should be able to continue to take advantage of our greater access without fear of data theft or misuse.

This is why at EVERY we are not just planning to focus on just security or privacy; but rather on data ownership. Data ownership is a principle of stewardship that lies at the core of data security and privacy.

It is our data, and we should be able to do as we wish with it.

Data ownership means that companies will explicitly gain customer permission to use customer data. For example, if you follow a brand on Facebook, the platform knows that you like that and other similar brands. This data is then given to companies that use Facebook’s advertising platform to serve and improve their ads. They combine this data with your Facebook friends’ data to determine if your friends might like the brand as well. The data they gather is so specific that users can feel like Facebook is listening through the microphones on their devices (not true). Reply All did a special describing how Facebook’s data gathering works: it’s an advertising process that feels invasive.

This is why EVERY is building an ecosystem focused on data ownership. Consumers should not be expected to sign over all of their data rights to use a platform; rather they should be explicitly asked for the use of their data in a blockchain-powered exchange that allows shoppers to monetize that data by gaining loyalty points and custom discounts directly with brands.

EVERY shoppers will choose to share their data.

Blockchain + User Privacy Use Cases

By John Wantz, April 6th, 2018

The polls and surveys are in: people do not trust large internet companies. In a recent report by Politico and Morning Consult, only 39% of Americans said they trusted Google, while 31% trust Facebook, and a mere 21% trust Twitter.

This is particularly startling when you consider that the platforms these companies operate are staples of daily life used every day by billions of people: Google search, Gmail, Android, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Periscope, and more.

So how do we combat this trend? How can new companies build trust and protect their users’ privacy? Here are 3 ways we believe that blockchain technology will transform the user privacy issue.

1: Return Power to Users

Today, the bulk of the power resides with large centralized internet platforms: The Facebooks, Googles, and Amazons of the world. These companies often have complicated legal terms many users are uneasy with when using these services, even if they use them regularly (and have no alternative but to abide by terms they disagree with in order to use them).

Blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, can return this power back to the users. Blockchain technology allows decentralized applications, called dapps, to be built. Compared to a conventional, centralized application, a dapp inverts the power dynamic.

A decentralized system allows more direct relationships to be built between developers and users. For instance, users could be given the ability to vote and contribute to future product decisions. And certain rules, like the ability to not be censored, can be fully enforced through smart contracts.

We anticipate a number of different platforms to pop-up, some that will be more open than others. But the blockchain is the single enabling factor that is moving us towards a more decentralized world.

2: Selective Sharing

In addition, sharing today is rather black or white. Things are either private or public. They are either ephemeral or permanent. But with blockchain technology, we open up the world of selective sharing.

For instance, Blockchain Health is working on a system where consumers are intimately involved in the process of sharing their healthcare data with different researchers. Their system requires the user to explicitly accept that a new research institution can use their data. This system can also be adopted by care providers, financial institutions, insurance, and more.

We can also imagine new sharing options, such as case-by-case sharing, automatic sharing (rule-based), or time-based. If you are looking to get a second opinion, you could provide a certain doctor’s office with your information for two weeks.

Instead of creating multiple paper or digital copies of your sensitive information and sharing it openly, you can invite people to view the relevant data on your blockchain based on need or time.

3: Monetization for Sharing

The third option is to directly reward people for sharing their information.

Steemit, for example, is a social media platform that rewards its users who make good posts or helpful comments with Steem Media Tokens (SMT). The company has paid out millions of dollars to users to date and hopes that its incentivization structure will promote positive content.


Today, people are losing confidence in some of the world’s largest companies and becoming increasingly aware of their personal data footprint and the privacy concerns that surround it. As people look for new solutions, blockchain-enabled software platforms may be the way forward.

We look forward to closely monitoring this space as it continues to evolve and mature.

Originally published at every.shop.

Originally published at shoppers.shop on April 6, 2018.

Blockchain + Retail Use Cases

My thoughts on four use cases that blockchain can directly benefit merchants involved in online retail.

It’s been a buzzword we all hear every day, but blockchain is much more than a fad. The technology — which provides the foundation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and more — has the potential to transform the retail landscape, from inventory management and payments, to financing, insurance, supply chain management, and more.

Improved Checkout

A recent Barilliance study found that 3 out of 4 Shoppers do not purchase items that they put into their carts. This is obviously a huge loss of revenue for eCommerce stores. It also goes to show how important a frictionless user experience (UX) is to combat this trend.

Bringing that elevated experience design to independent merchants is a major driver in the success of market leaders like Shopify and Squarespace Commerce. Given their large R&D budgets, these firms can afford to test and iterate successful UX at a level that SMBs simply cannot. Blockchain can take this to the next step.

Blockchain technology enables more secure payments, an easier checkout, and a consistent user experience across multiple stores. Imagine being able to conveniently share your payment information with every vendor without having to log in, or being able to purchase items across the world with the same ease as purchasing goods locally in your local currency.

Breaking Borders

In 2018, it’s estimated we’ll see almost $700 billion in cross-border shopping spend. By 2020, cross-border eCommerce is estimated to reach $1 Trillion. Around 54% of US digital shoppers reported making online purchases from a foreign site in the past, and 67% of global consumers who shop abroad claim to do so because prices are lower outside of their own country. (source)

This means Brands and retailers need a simple way to accept a broad array of cross-border payment types including credit, debit, prepaid, fiat, and cryptocurrency.

Blockchain technology, with its ability to seamlessly facilitate cross-border transactions, supply chain management, and shipping and customs practices, can be the driving force towards broadening access to international eCommerce and global shopper inclusion. As proof, Chinese multinational eCommerce giant Alibaba recently announced their T-Mall is moving all cross-border eCommerce to blockchain.

Connecting with Shoppers

In today’s retail landscape, all of the power resides with a handful of big international marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba. These marketplaces force both brands and individual consumers to play by their rules because they control all traffic and the resultant user data.

We believe there will be a shift from this current centralization model to a focus on decentralized eCommerce stores because, increasingly, users are not comfortable with the data collection practices of large corporations, and brands are suffering from extreme margin squeeze. Even more alarming is the fact that Brands are being forced out of their own markets by having to compete with marketplace private line development that copies their most successful products.

Most important, however, is the simple fact that niche Brand stores can provide a much more personalized, curated experience for Shoppers, while decentralized marketplaces would allow for Brands to flourish in an environment where data is shared, and ultimately return more value to the platform.

Opening access to user data can help facilitate this shift and lead to a closer relationship between Brands and Shoppers and go a long way towards improving online experiences, products, and services.

This model provides for more than just margin maximization. Understanding Shoppers’ needs and preferences informs Brands’ product development and marketing strategies and enables them to offer more insightful promotions for sharing posts with friends, or discounts on future purchases.

Greater Transparency

Blockchain can empower consumers to capture and reclaim ownership of their personal data as they move across the web and permission that data to Brands within each transaction in return for discounts and loyalty rewards. This way, Shoppers enjoy personal data ownership while Brands get the valuable consumer insights they need to better serve them.

Protocols will be enabled that allow developers to easily create new decentralized shopping platforms and apps that deliver the efficiencies and inherent security of the blockchain.

Blockchain to the Future

Online retail sales are growing growing like wildfire and blockchain is poised to bring empowerment to both Brands and Shoppers more than ever. We look forward to being stewards of the forthcoming retail revolution.

2X eCommerce Podcast: Decentralize and Give Shoppers Full Control of their Data

Originally published at medium.com on March 28, 2018.

EVERY* CEO, John Wantz, was featured on 2X eCommerce’s podcast hosted by Kunle Campbell. Listen to John share his thoughts on blockchain, tokenized retail, and the value of EVERY for Brands and Shoppers.

Listen here: online, soundcloud, and iTunes.

SHOP is now EVERY* (Every instance of SHOP including the title has been changed for brand equity)

Sourcing Journal: How Serial Entrepreneur Uses Blockchain and Crypto to Reimagine Retail

This article was originally featured on Sourcing Journal on March 22, 2018. Written by Jessica Binns. (Link to original article.) SHOP is now EVERY* (Every instance of SHOP including the title has been changed for brand equity)

John Wantz thinks blockchain can create better relationships between brands and consumers.

Back in 2011, the serial entrepreneur co-founded Comr.se, a commerce-centered API for social networks, mobile and marketplaces. After a failed attempt to sell the startup to Target, Wantz joined the big-box chain’s innovation team and worked for a year on its secretive Project Goldfish initiative. When Target shut down Project Goldfish (as well as its Store of the Future innovation group) following disappointing holiday earnings, Wantz launched yet another startup, EVERY — which looks to the decentralized nature of blockchain technology to reimagine the retail experience and, Wantz hopes, to strengthen consumer relationships with brands.

At SXSW, EVERY revealed that it has acquired three other startups: Wantz’s own Comr.se, Kanga and venture capital-funded FoxCommerce, the latter two of which will be the first apps to run on SHOP’s blockchain protocol. While FoxCommerce’s website claims it’s an e-commerce platform designed for the digitally native brands disrupting retail today, Kanga says it’s a millennial-driven apparel marketplace — offering goods like Angie Bauer lingerie and collections from Diesel — with seemingly revolutionary rhetoric built into its mission. It’s “a brand-direct marketplace for those who reject the status quo. gamechangers. rule breakers. goodtrouble makers,” according to Kanga’s website.

Kanga, in particular, maintains that retail has had too much control over consumer data for far too long. But Kanga, according to its website, “empowers you to take your data back, control who knows what about you, and respects the value of your personal information by rewarding you for the data you choose to share.”

The EVERY technology ecosystem seems to be a response to Amazon and its obsessive control over brand data.

“We’re laser-focused on shopping and powering experiences that enhance the direct relationships between brands and shoppers,” Wantz said. “EVERY is establishing a decentralized retail ecosystem where brands and shoppers have the power to dictate how value will be exchanged amongst themselves based on shopper-controlled access to their own personal data and appropriate rewards given by brands in return.”

Those rewards come in the form of the EVERY cryptocurrency token, which shoppers receive for sharing information with brands such as their personal style preferences, profile info and purchase history. Consumers then can exchange tokens for discounts and other purchase incentives, according to SHOP. The company plans to sell 100 million EVERY tokens between May 14 and June 13 this year. Both Kanga and FoxCommerce — which was launched by former ModCloth co-founder and chief experience officer Adil Wali — were acquired via EVERY tokens.

“The EVERY token has been designed to support an ‘information marketplace’ that continually increases the amount of personal consumer data being shared between shoppers and brands,” Jamie OShea, EVERY CMO, explained. “This equitable exchange helps brands deliver more meaningful retail experiences to shoppers while returning greater savings to them in the process.”

“For shoppers, this is the first tool that empowers them to own and monetize their personal data, shifting that control out of the hands of third-party retailers like Amazon,” added OShea, who co-founded the counterculture art publication Juxtapoz and provided marketing consultant services to brands like Disney and Nike.

“Blockchain technology has the power to greatly improve many industries, and retail is chief among them,” Wali said. “EVERY is well positioned to be a large part of the meteoric rise of decentralized technology.”

Originally published at medium.com on March 28, 2018.

EVERY Announced as Shoptalk 2018 Startup Pitch Winners

SHOP is now EVERY* (Every instance of SHOP including the title has been changed for brand equity)

John Wantz, CEO of SHOP, pitching in front of the panel of judges at Shoptalk 2018

Earlier this week the EVERY team attended the Shoptalk Conference in Las Vegas, the “world’s largest conference for retail and eCommerce innovation,” according to the Shoptalk website, winning 1st place in the Startup Pitch Competition.

The finalist of the competition consisted of 15 technology companies from around the globe who are building retail solutions, but in the end the judges selected EVERY for its promise in disrupting the retail landscape and awarded us the $25,000 prize.

Watch the video above to see the entire 5 minute pitch our CEO, John Wantz, presenting at Shoptalk, and hear how the EVERY* (formerly SHOP) team is bringing value back to Brands and Shoppers through the decentralization of retail.

For more information about EVERY, check out our white paper, Github, and our new marketplace, Kanga. If you’re looking to become a part of the EVERY community, join our Telegram and say hello!

Our team’s extensive experience in the retail industry enabled us to understand critical Brand and Shopper pain points, and led us to create EVERY as a means to return power to Brands and Shoppers.

Originally published at medium.com on March 27, 2018.

Why Blockchain is the Missing Piece in Retail

Consumers provide more value to the retail industry than simply the dollars they spend. Many shoppers aren’t aware of the mass amounts of personal information retailers are collecting about — and profiting from — all of us every day. If you shop at a major retailer often, they likely know your age range, style preferences, location, and more. Some shoppers brush this off as a way for companies to more effectively market products. Recently, the Daily Mail revealed how brick-and-mortar stores are using laser and motion sensors to track where customers are walking, and what products they physically gravitate to. More disturbingly, many retailers are starting to adopt facial recognition on a grand scale — including Walmart — and using consumers’ personal biometric data to inform their sales strategies. And that’s just a glimpse at what’s happening in-store.

Online, all our actions are tracked, analyzed, centralized, and monetized in order to extract maximum value from every customer’s every movement across the web. The accumulation and monopolization of this data in search, social, and ecommerce is exactly what’s made Google, Facebook, and Amazon some of the most valuable — and unbelievably powerful — companies on the planet.

Sure, there’s some advantages to customers in having their personal behavior and shopping patterns tracked in the form of better targeting by retailers (ie: getting products we actually want in front of us at cheap prices), but now that the center of modern commerce has shifted to massive online data centralizing marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba, we’ve seen Brands brought to their collective knees as the power to understand and better serve their customers has been hijacked on a grand scale. Even worse, because they have the most understanding of Brands and Shoppers, these marketplaces are using this data to actively copy their best-performing Brands with their own in-store lines, and promoting them more heavily to shoppers.

To help return the balance of power to Brands & Shoppers and protect the longevity of the Brands we love, we created EVERY*, the first cryptocurrency purpose-built for shopping and an accompanying blockchain-based protocol that empowers developers to create new decentralized retail experiences. Now, for the first time — via the EVERY* Wallet & Token — Shoppers are able to recapture and control their personal data and barter it in exchange for discounts from Brands as a native aspect of the shopping experience. Shoppers win when Brands understand what they love and are able to serve them with more meaningful, personalized retail experiences, and greater savings.

Our goal is to establish a thriving community of Brands and Shoppers that, for the first time, have complete control over the fair exchange of data and savings on their own terms. It’s difficult for one person to effect change in a huge industry, especially with such powerful forces in control, but hopefully, together, we can pave the way to the decentralized future of retail.

Originally published at medium.com on March 17, 2018.