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Jlab 2019 to focus on experiential shopping

Each year, John Lewis hosts a number of retail startups intent on using technology to transform the industry. Next year they will be aiming to change the customer experience in-store

The 2019 John Lewis Jlab will challenge startups to create technology services that promote experiential retail.

The challenge will seek companies that are creating products and services to transform the in-store experience for the brand.

Increasingly, customers are demanding a more personalised experience from retailers, and many observers believe that for physical retail to remain relevant, stores will need to become locations for experiences, rather than places where customers make purchases.

Peter Cross, partner and director of customer experience at John Lewis and Partners, said: “As customer expectations of the shopping experience grow at the fastest pace in living memory, John Lewis and Partners is actively looking to engage with the brightest and most entrepreneurial minds in the nation, whether that be a new technology solution to make shopping more convenient, or an idea that will fundamentally transform how the nation shops.”

Successful applicants to the challenge will be able to work with John Lewis to develop their ideas.

Technologies that the brand has already introduced in-store include experience desks, which offer customers concierge-style experiences. John Lewis has also been experimenting with pop-ups and in-store events to draw customers to its bricks-and-mortar locations.

The department store has also been working to create a more personalised shopping experience for its customers.

John Vary, futurologist at John Lewis Partnership, said the move towards experiential retail is an extension of the company’s founder’s values of experimentation.

“Technology, in its many forms, is a central part of our lives and has led to breakthroughs we thought impossible in the past,” he said. “The vital role of tech in society is exactly why we are always on the lookout for how it can be used to create outstanding experiences and help us better understand our customers.”

Read more about experiential retail

  • Group insight director at video games retailer explains how customer interaction data has been used to create a personalised experience in-store.
  • Luxury Italian shoe retailer M.Gemi has designed its store to act as a showroom where customers can experience their product before making a purchase.

Entries for the Jlab experiential retail challenge are open until midnight on 25 November 2018, ahead of an official pitch day in 2019 in front of a panel of seven judges.

The latest challenge follows two other Jlab challenges launched by John Lewis in 2018 – one focused on finding startups using technology in the health and wellbeing space, and the other aiming to reduce the impact of plastic waste.  

More than 200 entries were whittled down to three health and wellbeing startups and four businesses aimed at reducing plastic waste. They will work with John Lewis to develop their ideas, with the potential to work with the company in the future.

John Lewis has been running its Jlab accelerator programme for a number of years, and last year saw Waitrose join John Lewis for the programme for the first time.

However, the department store reported a drop in profits in September 2018, pointing the finger at high IT costs and the rising cost of its estate of physical stores.

The brand has been focused on restructuring the businesses to cater to demanding customers, and has often blamed this, as well as a shift towards omni-channel retailing, for its falling profits.

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