John Lewis invests in the ‘future of retail’ with incubator finalists

John Lewis has selected the five finalists for its JLAB technology incubator that it believes have the ‘potential to shape the shopping experience of the future’.

John Lewis

The start-ups were picked by a panel comprising of technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks, as well as John Lewis execs and external mentors. The start-ups include Localz and Viewsy, which both offer in-store digital engagement, and online 3D room planner SpaceDesigned (see full list below).

The five finalists will all be given dedicated office space at JLAB’s London hub, located within start-up accelerator Level39, as well as initial funding of £12,500. They will also get access to John Lewis’s technology and a mentor panel that includes execs from the retailer, as well as Confused.com founder Sarah Murray and Luke Johnson, chairman of venture capital firm Risk Capital Management.

After a 12-week incubation period, the JLAB panel will pick a winning start-up that will receive a further £100,000 investment and the chance to trial their technology in John Lewis stores. If that proves successful, it could be implemented across the retailer’s entire estate.

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lews, says: “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’m looking forward to working with them over the next few months to help make their ideas a reality.”

John Lewis is one of a number of brands turning to start-ups to bring an entrepreneurial spirit and keep them at the forefront of changes in technology. Unilever last week launched a platform, the Unilever Foundry, that aims to work with innovative digital marketing start-ups while L’Oreal is looking to nurture talent internally through the launch of its Next Fund competition, which invites UK employees to come up with marketing, sales and retail solutions for its Active Cosmetics Division.

The launch of JLAB forms part of John Lewis’s 150th anniversary celebrations, with managing director Andy Street recently telling Marketing Week that it is looking to emulate its founder, who he describes as a “radical entrepreneur”.

“Our anniversary not only gives us the chance to reflect but to look forward at how we shape the next 150 years. Through our JLab incubator we will nurture the next generation of technology start-ups while helping ensure we remain on the cutting edge of retail change,” adds Street.

The Five Finalists

Localz – an in-store digital engagement system that uses proximity and iBeacon technology to let retailers know when their best online shoppers are in-store.

Musaic – a wireless Hi-Fi system that can stream music from any platform to multiple rooms in a house.

SpaceDesigned – an online app that lets consumers accurately create and view virtual 3D versions of rooms in their house and add potential new furniture purchases and see how they might fit in.

Tap2Connect – an after-sales service that uses smart labels to enable consumers and retailers to track a product’s lifecycle and make on-going service or repairs easier to handle.

Viewsy – an in-store digital engagement system that tracks customers’ behaviour as they move through the store, allowing retailers to better understand them and to offer them more personalised and efficient services.

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