Blog Series

Meet the new boss, (sort of) same as the old boss

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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The change in presidential administrations offers mixed impact on digital retail.

Now that Joe Biden is officially president, the country will run differently than under the previous administration. However, the shift in chief executives may not drastically affect digital retail, at least in the short term.

Following is a look at how the arrival of a new presidential administration will (or won’t) affect the direction of three current digital retail trends.

Tech giants under scrutiny
The four major tech giants – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – received a lot of unflattering attention from various government regulatory bodies during the Trump administration. This included antitrust lawsuits, proposals to break large tech companies up, and increases in liability for counterfeit goods sold on e-commerce platforms.

These efforts were bipartisan, driven by Republican federal government officials as well as by the Democratic-majority House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel and by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D). Close government scrutiny, and possibly even attempts at breaking up some or all of the “Big Four” tech companies, will likely continue under the Biden administration.

Chinese consumer apps – threat or treat?
The Trump administration made concerted efforts to heavily restrict the use of Chinese short video platform TikTok and payment apps AliPay and WeChatPay. The rationale for these efforts was primarily that the apps could pose a national security threat due to their potential links with the Chinese Communist Party.

Although a federal court struck down the TikTok ban, the government can still appeal the decision. The executive order banning AliPay and WeChatPay hasn’t gone into effect yet, and can be overturned by President Biden. Given the generally more globalist views of commerce and trade held by the new administration, in all likelihood neither of the bans will go into effect.

In the case of AliPay and WeChatPay, retailers including Walgreens and Guess can continue offering a payment method popular with Chinese tourists and nationals in North America. Meanwhile, eliminating the government effort to minimize TikTok’s ties to its Chinese parent company ByteDance might also end the effort by Oracle and Walmart to jointly purchase its North American business, as well as open TikTok to more e-commerce partnerships like the one recently launched by Shopify.

Consumer preference for contactless retail
The Biden administration is already launching a much more centralized response to COVID-19 testing and vaccination than the prior administration. Time will tell how this affects the course of the disease.

However, data from Verizon Media indicates that consumers will continue their ramped-up interest in seamless shopping offerings this year, regardless of pandemic-related developments. Eighty percent of shoppers expect to increase buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup over the next six months, and 90% prefer home delivery over an in-store visit.

Especially with Amazon Prime offering five-hour delivery in select cities, retailers will need to develop methods of safe, fast omnichannel fulfillment to meet customer preferences, regardless of who is in the White House.

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