Jun 8, 2020

World Update: Hashtag Power, Alibaba, and the Return of Retail

Once again, world events have shocked and surprised us all in the last two weeks. I will just point out one very good news story - the announcement in New Zealand today that the country is now virus-free, with the prime minister doing “a little dance” when she heard the news.

We publish this news review every two weeks, so let us know your thoughts, through the forum or by a quick email to membership!

Power of the Hashtag

@tawnychatmon, on @maeveinamerica
@tawnychatmon, on @maeveinamerica

Last week saw thousands of protests against racism around the world, on the streets and also reflected online. On Tuesday June 2nd, a campaign started by two African-American women working in the music industry had a big impact on many music corporations: it began under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused before spiralling into the larger #BlackOutTuesday campaign which was embraced on social media, and in particular, by the Instagram community. Millions of users posted a solid-black image and the feeds of Instagram were essentially blacked out for 24 hours. The correct use of hashtags was very important to this story. Many users who also used the tag, #BlackLivesMatter tag, were asked  by others not to use it as that was being used as an organizing tag for events happening in real time and the black squares were drowning out the more urgent posts. Others indicated that an upper-case hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was better for blind users on screen readers. The online phenomenon of #BlackOutTuesday clearly did inspire many to read more about the BLM movement and black art and culture (see example from Maeve Higgins's instagram above) as well as political and societal issues across many spectrums. Other hashtags were countering and counter-countering on all sides, with k-pop artists even getting involved. 

Whatever the reason for each individual’s use of any of these hashtags, it’s a clear demonstration of the power that can be held by a hashtag - a single word with a symbol in front of it. This NYTimes story digs a little deeper.

If the Clothes don’t Fit...


As retail in many countries starts to gear back into action after months-long lockdowns, clothing stores are having to rethink their shop floor layouts, occupancy size, and clothes hygiene. Many large chains, including Gap, Urban Outfitters, and Target, are keeping their fitting rooms closed - this is one factor which should see a smarter use of technology brought into focus. This article from pymnts.com looks at some of the options. And you might also enjoy our library article on trends in retail AR and VR.

Alibaba Looking for Treasure

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Chinese ecommerce and tech giant Alibaba is really in the news. It has joined the live streaming ecommerce trend, launching a new mini-program that will allow users to watch live streaming from another Alibaba-owned property, Taobao. It is also officially on the hunt for 100,000 influencers to help promote its brands. According to Clark Boyd: “This is a noteworthy development that we will see a lot more of around the world. Influencers first worked on a set rate per sponsored post, then started to disseminate their own discount codes. They were always selling, but the conceit was lightly cloaked. Now, they will become active salespeople for the brands they represent. This is already popular in China (WeChat or Pinduoduo), and Alibaba wants to serve 2 billion customers worldwide by 2036.” Read more 

In Other News

  • Google is to start taking seriously how users interact with your website experience, with the launch of theirGoogle Page Experience. It won't go live until 2021 but they are already guiding site owners, designers, and developers in how they need to take UX more seriously, such as being mobile-friendly, intuitive, and offering secure browsing. Thanks to Joe Williams for the tip on this story. And you can check out our own UX short course and get started early.
  • A report shows that Australia topped the charts when it came to early Corona panic buying. Read on.
  • More and more retailers are turning to robots and automation for their logistics. Here's an interesting overview from Technology Review.
  • No-one can quite figure out why the world is running out of yeast. Read on in Wired.
  • This US dad charmed social media with his praise of his daughter’s home-built restaurant. Read on.

And, Finally

We find it hard to ignore TikTok in this review, and this kind of story shows you why it's worth paying attention. A Northern Irish teenager has (literally) spawned millions of views with her tadpole collection, even earning herself a deal with a US influencer agency. See the full story here.

Paul Mcerlane/TheGuardian
Paul Mcerlane/TheGuardian

Emma Prunty
Emma Prunty

As the DMI's Content Editor Emma works to bring our members insightful and topical content every week. She has worked in digital everything for over 20 years, from New York to Oslo and Toronto to Dublin, and is always on the lookout for the latest currents of where things are going next. As producer of our popular podcast, winner of the 2023 Memcom Podcast Award, she's always happy to hear from anyone interested in coming on the show to share their expertise. She can be found on LinkedIn.

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