I listen to all the RED Ocean messages and store closures (approx 20.000 in 2019??) I look at new experience stores that feel like they are on the BLUE Ocean. But I Focus on the Big Tsunami, Waves and Changes that Customers are facing and are redefining the retail game.
What do these colors mean?
There are so many great new opportunities for Customer-oriented retailers and brands. The Future of a New Product, a New Company or a New Service has to be born on the Street (Streetail) and should be prepared and tested for Roll Out in a LAB.
We at retailLAB (since 1991) are proud to help Retailers and Brands navigate through the retailStorm.
It’s all change, hyper-competition, internet, consumer power.
So it’s all about new rules of play and engagement.
With our retailFRIENDS, a network of highly qualified and motivated retail experts, we can create a viable, sustainable new future for you. Being different, create new market space and make the competition look irrelevant.
It is good to see that some key retail players follow the same path
Walmart Test Lab
Walmart’s new ‘Intelligent Retail Lab’ (IRL) in New York is a fascinating and experimental retail space, filled with futuristic tech. It features AI-enabled cameras, interactive displays, and a huge data center, all built to showcase what AI can contribute to shopping experiences. Sensors and cameras monitor product inventories in real-time and notify staff on precisely what to re-stock and when.
There are also a number of educational displays to inform customers about IRL, its purpose and how AI can be beneficial. There is even an interactive, AI-powered interactive display that mirrors customer movements – an easy way of showing the fun side of sci-fi tech. Importantly, all of this vital data collection and learning is happening in an extremely busy location with high footfall, meaning Walmart is gathering meaningful insights into retail’s future.
Key People: Hemal Kuntawala, Head, M&S Venture Lab
The M&S Venture Labs is designed to help understand how customers shop at M&S and opportunities to make their purchases easier or more frequent. Since then, M&S has embraced its digital strategy. It recently announced partnerships with Microsoft focused on “testing the integration of Microsoft AI technologies into M&S’ customer experience” and Founders Factory as a “joint venture (JV) focused on investing and growing start-ups.”
Notable Projects: Try Tuesday is an online personal stylist tool. Users are matched with a stylist who then picks M&S clothing out for them based on their profile.
Key People: Albert Lai, Hallmark Labs SVP and General Manager; Jeff Allen, VP of Operations
Hallmark Labs is the “the digital, direct-to-consumer arm” of the Hallmark brand. It primarily looks to explore innovative ways to bring more digital content to consumers. “Labsters,” as they are known within the company, work to collaborate internally to build more digital media opportunities. The lab is also focused on growth and the ways it can smoothly expand consumer offerings on current Hallmark products without impacting the business.
Notable Projects: Hallmark Movies Now came out of the digital arm at Hallmark Labs. It is a subscription-based on-demand streaming service that offers 1,000 hours of content not available on Hallmark’s cable channels. It has over 500,000 subscribers.
Walmart — Walmart Labs
Key People: Marc Lore, President and CEO of Walmart e-commerce
Walmart’s innovation lab is designed to help them stay competitive in the increasingly online and mobile world. Workers are organized into “mini-startups,” each with their own projects, across various product lines. A focus on technology and supply chain is an increasingly important focus for the labs as they look to continue to improve their in-store and online shopping experiences while still holding Walmart’s philosophy of everyday low cost.
Notable Projects: A Picking Optimization Solution was developed through the lab that uses a combination of “machine learning, genetics, and metaheuristic optimizations” to determine the best routes for store employees to pick goods for online orders, saving time and reducing errors.
Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab (iLab)
Key People: Scott Emmons, Director
Neiman Marcus has earned a reputation for retail innovation thanks to the iLab, its hub for evaluating, designing, testing, and piloting cutting-edge technologies and applications for luxury retail. The primary focus on the iLab is to reimagine the role digital could play in the in-store customer experience.
Notable Projects: The “Memory Mirror” is a dressing room feature that allows customers to see how they look in the clothes they are trying on from all angles. The initial rollout saw almost 40 mirrors installed in 20 stores. Now a similar concept is being tested in the beauty departments as well.
Lululemon — Lululemon Lab
Founded: 2009 (Vancouver), 2016 (NYC)
Key People: Pascale Gueracague, Director of Concept & Materials
Lululemon’s solution to the constant need for new fashions was to open two in-house labs, one in Vancouver (where its corporate offices are) and one in NYC (a worldwide fashion hub). Designers work collaboratively in a setting that encourages forward thinking and creativity. The open door policy of the labs themselves makes for a fascinating experience for shoppers as well, who might be helped on the floor by the head designer and can be a source of inspiration too.
Notable Projects: Lululemon Lab operates under the concept of “offline exclusivity.” Items in the labs are often one of a kind or have only a few pieces in stock. To shop, visitors have to go to the labs as the clothing offered is not available in the other retail stores.
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