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John Lewis to launch second start-up incubator

John Lewis Stratford sign

Department store chain John Lewis is set to run another start-up incubator in 2015, as the retailer plans to begin trialling a new location-based technology click & collect service next month.

UK department store chain John Lewis is looking to work with start-up tech companies again in 2015, following the success of last year's JLAB technology incubator.

Speaking at the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Big Show in New York on Sunday, the retailer's IT director Paul Coby said the business is keen to repeat the success of JLAB, which resulted in mobile location tech provider Localz winning funding from John Lewis and the opportunity to implement its technology in-store.

Over the last three years, John Lewis has looked to bring innovation into its business by engaging with the technology community and encouraging its own staff to contribute new ideas and strategies around retail systems. JLAB seemed to catch the mood of the industry, with businesses keen to embrace innovation and fresh thinking that can help transform the customer experience.

Coby commented: "We're definitely going to do something similar [this year]. It was great fun and an eye opener. It won't be exactly the same, we'll try and put some new spin on it [and] we'll try and focus it on some specific areas."

The IT director also revealed that John Lewis will start a proof of concept with Localz in one of its stores, next month. Localz's solutions will be used as part of the business's click & collect operations, and – if successful – could be rolled out across the company's estate.

Localz was chosen as the JLAB winner, ahead of a number of tech solution providers addressing different aspects of modern retailing.

Using the Localz location-based technology, the test will see participating customers provided with a prompt when they arrive on site, allowing them to skip queues and collect their pre-ordered package at a place of their choice. Consumers will have the option of picking up items from a service desk, elsewhere in the store or they could choose to wait outside in their car and have the package brought directly to them.

Ultimately, John Lewis is trialling the technology as it looks to boost customer convenience and ensure its online operations are as closely aligned to its store processes as possible. It is also being implemented within one of the fastest growing areas of its business, as click & collect orders represented 56% of online sales over the Christmas period.

Commenting on the success of JLAB and John Lewis's work with the start-up community, Coby added: "We don't have a monopoly of all good ideas.

"Being able to open yourself up is really interesting, exciting and really quite challenging. Start-ups tend to move rather faster than traditional corporates do. It helps us to try and think a bit like the start-ups and hopefully gives the start-ups the ability to understand what it's like engaging with a large company.

"At the end of it we've got a good product and we are trialling a proof of concept in February."

Source : Ben Sillitoe – Essential Retail

14 January 2015

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