In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
UK-based retailer, John Lewis, has narrowed down the 163 start-ups that applied to be part of its JLAB business accelerator to five finalists.
The final five have technologies spanning 3D room planning, in-store digital engagement, wireless sound systems smart labels for after-sales care. The high street giant believes the finalists represent a range of innovative ideas with the potential to shape the shopping experience of the future.
The five JLAB finalists are:
- Localz, in-store digital engagement
- Musaic, wireless sound system for smart homes
- SpaceDesigned, online 3D room planning
- Tap2Connect, smart labelling for after-sales care
- Viewsy, in-store digital engagement
The finalists were selected by the JLAB judging panel, comprising of John Lewis representatives, technology entrepreneur and JLAB partner Stuart Marks and a selection of external mentors, following a pitch day on 20 May that saw 30 companies pitch their ideas.
The five start-up companies will receive dedicated office space at JLAB's London hub, located within Level39, as well as initial funding of £12,500 and access to John Lewis proprietary technology (platforms, data, APIs etc.)
They will also have access to mentors like Luke Johnson, chairman of Risk Capital Partners, and Sarah Murray OBE, founder of confused.com, alongside a range of John Lewis leaders.
JLAB will be situated in Level39's High Growth Space, which is based on the 42nd floor of Canary Wharf's One Canada Square building.
Following a 12-week incubation period, the JLAB panel will select a winning company who will receive up to £100,000 in further investment and the chance to trial their solution in-store. Should this be a success, their solution may be implemented across the John Lewis estate.
Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said: "Innovation is at the heart of John Lewis Partnership's DNA, in our 150th year I am delighted that we will be working with some of the best technology innovators to develop better products and better customer service.
"We're confident that the JLAB finalists each have an idea with real potential to either improve the shopping experience or offer customers something new to use in the home. I really feel that if our founder Spedan Lewis were alive today he would be starting a tech incubator."
Last month, Coby allowed start-ups to quiz him via Reddit on why they should apply to be a part of the JLAB incubator earlier this month. During the online discussion, the IT boss denied that the incubator is merely a John Lewis PR stunt.
Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur and partner in JLAB, said: "We were very pleased with the quality of companies that attended the pitch day. We are certain that the companies that we have selected will thrive at JLAB over the summer and benefit from the exceptional mentoring team and access to the John Lewis business. Every company has the potential to win and it will be exciting to watch how they develop."
JLAB will officially open on 9 June.
THE FINAL FIVE
Headed up by co-founders Tim Andrew, Pete Williams and Melvin Artemas, Localz is an in-store digital engagement system which uses proximity and iBeacon technology. Currently, retailers don't know when their best online shoppers arrive at a real life store. Localz is designed to let retailers know they have arrived as they walk through the door.
A demo video with further information on Localz can be viewed here.
Musaic is a wireless sound system designed to integrate fully with today's smart home. Founders Matthew Bramble, Simon Grabowski and Carolyn Van Dongen have created a wireless hi-fi system that can stream music from any platform to multiple rooms in a house.
A demo video with further information on Musaic can be viewed here.
SpaceDesigned, from co-founders Nicholas and Diane Shaw, is an online app which allows consumers to accurately create and view virtual 3D versions of rooms in their house. They can then add potential new furniture purchases and see how they might fit in.
A demo video with further information on SpaceDesigned can be viewed here.
Tap2Connect, from founder Steve Cooke, is an after-sales service that uses smart labels to increase customer engagement. Smart labels enable consumers and retailers to track a product's lifecycle and make on-going service or repairs easier to handle.
A demo video with further information on Tap2Connect can be viewed here.
Viewsy, founded by Odera Ume-Ezeoke, is an in-store digital engagement system designed to help retailers better understand their customers. In-store sensors track customers' behaviour as they move through the store, allowing retailers to better understand them and to offer them more personalised and efficient services.
A demo video with further information on Viewsy can be viewed here.