Retail Innovaiton

In today's digitally empowered business environment, retailers must stay on top of the latest technology and marketing trends in order to remain competitive. The companies that will thrive moving forward are actively testing and implementing innovative ideas and solutions. Retail TouchPoints stays on the cutting edge of retail innovation by hosting the annual Retail Innovation Conference, interviewing industry leaders, and tapping our collective experience to deliver insightful reporting on the most important retail stories.

The Home Depot Will Hire 1,000 Tech Pros As Part Of $11.1 Billion Investment

The Home Depot wants to upgrade its technology capabilities, particularly as a means to collect and understand shopper data. The retailer is investing in more than just new tools and solutions, however. Home Depot is hiring approximately 1,000 new technology professionals in 2018 at its primary technology centers in Atlanta, Dallas and Austin, Texas. The Home Depot already has approximately 2,800 employees in technology roles today, but the retailer doesn’t believe that number will be enough to sustain initiatives related to its $11.1 billion, three-year strategic investment plan. The plan’s ambitious goals include:

Brandless Prepares To Launch First Pop-Up Shop In L.A.

Brandless, the e-Commerce retailer that offers everyday essential products for $3, will host its first pop-up shop in Los Angeles from May 1 to May 13, 2018. The 3,500-square-foot space, called “Pop-Up with Purpose,” is located in West Hollywood at 8483 Melrose Avenue. The pop-up won’t actually sell any Brandless products, but it will keep some on display and offer select samples to consumers throughout the event. The space is designed to present a real-life embodiment of the #BrandlessLife community through live and online streamed content available nationally.

Target And Google Pilot Voice-Activated Coupons

Target and Google have partnered to issue a voice-activated coupon, a $15 offer for orders placed on Google Express via the Google Assistant platform. The offer was a pilot to raise consumer awareness for the feature, according to Adweek. To activate the offer, shoppers could say or type “Spring into Target” into their Google Assistant devices. Shoppers could then use their $15 credit either online or through the Google Express app on Android and iOS. Android Police first reported on the offer upon discovering it in March.

Lowe’s, Home Depot Deploy New Apple Business Chat

With the recent release of the iOS 11.3 update, Apple device owners can now use the beta version of Apple Business Chat to directly access customer service from a small group of companies that include Lowe’s, Home Depot, Newegg, 1-800-Flowers and Apple as well as Marriott, Hilton, Discover, TD Ameritrade and Wells Fargo. “More and more, customers are showing that they prefer the convenience of messaging customer service versus making phone calls,” said Gihad Jawhar, Lowe's VP Digital Development in a statement. “As a leader in service, Lowe's is committed to meeting customer needs on their terms and through their communication preferences. Our support for Apple Business Chat makes messaging exponentially more powerful for our customers and our customer service agents.”

Walmart Debuts Small-Format, High-Tech Supermarket In China

Walmart has opened its first small-format, high-tech supermarket in Shenzhen, China, according to Reuters. The store carries items that consumers also can buy on the online platform JD Daojia, an affiliate of Walmart has not released information about the size of the store, but it will stock more than 8,000 items, ranging from stir-fried clams to fresh fruit, 90% of which also will be available online. Items can be delivered within a two-kilometer (1.2 mile) radius as quickly as 29 minutes, and customers can opt to pay with their smartphones using the WeChat platform. Walmart recently implemented WeChat Pay into its mobile offering, replacing Alipay in all its stores in the western region of China.

Pop-Up Rental Platform Makes Space For VR Stores

By definition, pop-up stores are meant to be ephemeral, but however short-lived they were, they did exist in the physical world — until now. Through a global partnership with Virtual Reality (VR) retail platform Obsess, Storefront is giving brands and retailers the opportunity to rent VR pop-up stores on its platform. For a monthly fee, the renter gets up to 40 products featured, customized colors and logo, choice of layout and style, and the option to collect consumer data. The VR pop-ups are currently themed to be located in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but other virtual locations will soon follow. For example, a VR store in a Manhattan penthouse “atop The World Trade Center” features expansive views of the surrounding cityscape and is listed for $3,000 per month. VR stores must be rented for a minimum of three months.

Shoptalk 2018 Secures Its Spot As A Must-Attend Retail Event

The impressive marketing and branding efforts have catapulted Shoptalk to the top of the events-on-your-radar list for retailers and brands, but the 2018 speaker lineup and massive 1:1 meeting setup has cemented the conference as one of the top “big” retail events-to-attend. As press attendees, it honestly was difficult to decide which sessions to cover and which meetings to schedule. Here’s a wrap-up of our key takeaways, in addition to the Quick Quotes article we shared last week:

Starbucks Will Build 20,000-Square-Foot Innovation Center

Starbucks is building a 20,000-square-foot space in Seattle that will house a new Tryer Innovation Center, according to Brent Cashell, the center’s Director who revealed the news at the Retail Innovation Lounge at SXSW. Cashell noted that any Starbucks employee can test ideas ranging in between “a new drink or a payment process,” according to a report from GeoMarketing. The unveiling comes more than a month after Kroger opened its own Culinary Innovation Center and nearly two years after Walmart opened its Culinary & Innovation Center, signaling that food and beverage retailers see value in transforming how these goods are presented and sold.

Macy’s Expands VR Pilot To 60 Stores, Will Add Mobile Checkout Nationwide By End Of 2018

Macy’s is unveiling two major features designed to transform and innovate the store experience, CEO Jeff Gennette said during a keynote at ShopTalk 2018. During the session, Gennette announced that Macy’s will bring VR furniture-selling tools to 60 stores by this fall and will debut mobile checkout in all stores by the end of 2018. The VR tools will allow customers to create a virtual replication of their home or specific room via their tablet, and then drag and drop various products into the 2D space. Using a headset, customers can then jump into that model and see what a couch might look like in their living room in 3D.

Alzheimer’s App Using AI-Based Facial Recognition Wins ‘Women Who Tech’ Award

  • Published in News Briefs
The Women Startup Challenge Emerging Tech, which showcases and funds early-stage women-led startups, awarded a grand prize worth $50,000 to the 14-year-old developer of an app designed to help people with Alzheimer’s. The “Timeless” app, developed by Emma Yang, uses artificial intelligence-based facial recognition technology to help users recognize people.…

Nordstrom Acquires Conversational Commerce, Digital Selling Platforms

To keep pace in the sprint to integrate online and offline shopper experiences at every touch point, Nordstrom has acquired two Seattle-based retail technology startups: BevyUp and MessageYes. BevyUp is a platform designed to enable sales associates to communicate with each other on the back end, encourage shoppers to share product information with each other and browse items together online. Nordstrom will incorporate the platform into a new mobile app for employees that the retailer will roll out later in 2018.

With Crowdsourcing, Betabrand Takes 3D Printed Heels From Design To Presale In 5 Days

Betabrand, an e-Commerce fashion retailer that crowdfunds and crowdsources ideas for its apparel designs, launched the “On-Your-Mark Heel Project” with one question in mind: “Can we create the next great pair of heels in less than a week?” The retailer collaborated with CPG manufacturer and designer Li & Fung to launch the project. Through crowdsourcing and 3D digital rendering, Betabrand is banking on this project to create and sell new products even more quickly than its fast fashion competitors. 

Zara To Deploy Click-And-Collect Robots In Stores

Zara has long been known as a fast fashion leader, but the retailer has been slow in one area: fulfilling buy online/pick up in-store (BOPIS) orders. The bottlenecks are a particular problem for Zara, a division of Inditex, because one third of its global online sales are picked up in store locations, including the 85 shops located in the U.S. The retailer will deploy robots operating behind the scenes in stores, according to the Wall Street Journal. Shoppers will scan or enter a code at in-store collection points, which will trigger the robot to search for the correct package in a small warehouse, then deliver it quickly to a drop box.

Exclusive CDO Q&A: BJ’s Goes All-In On Digital Transformation

In the midst of a multi-faceted digital transformation, BJ’s Wholesale Club is focused on offering convenience and value for its members. Recently appointed as the company’s first Chief Digital Officer, Rafeh Masood sat down with Retail TouchPoints for an exclusive and enlightening Q&A. Masood also will be presenting during the Retail Innovation Conference, May 1-2 in New York City, where he’ll share details on how he has been able to transform the culture and build out the digital team at BJ’s.

Kroger Launches Innovation Center To Research And Test Grocery Offerings

Kroger is the latest retailer to create its own innovation lab, opening the Culinary Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio on Feb. 15. The opening of a food-oriented Innovation Center is timely as the grocer moves ahead with its Restock Kroger plan. Kroger launched the initiative to invest in technologies that improve the company’s store offerings, personalize communications with customers, revamp product assortment and leverage data-driven shelf optimization.
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