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Six experiential retail businesses chosen for Jlab

The businesses and startups that will take part in John Lewis’ 2019 Jlab programme have seen selected following a pitch day

John Lewis and Partners’ retail incubator programme has chosen the six businesses that will make up the 2019 Jlab cohort.

Applicants were asked to demonstrate ideas that could create immersive or personalised shopping experiences, in order to make customer visits to stores more relevant, create emotional customer engagement, and help deliver results for John Lewis and Partners.

Following a pitch day that saw 11 businesses present their ideas, six were chosen, each focused on developing something that could contribute to a good customer experience.

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis and Partners, said the chosen businesses needed to help address the “seismic changes” in the retail sector caused by technology adoption and its impact on customer expectation.

“Our search was for those entrepreneurs who might dare to think differently about the future of retail,” he said. “Shops simply have no option but to inspire and delight customers – offering both fantastic products and personalised seamless experiences. We believe the dynamic new businesses selected for further discussions with Jlab will help us continue to stretch, shape and deliver together for our customers in the future.”

A total of 160 businesses applied to join the accelerator, which this year is focused on developing “experiential retail” – improving customer experience and developing projects that could define the way people shop in the future.

Late last year, it was announced that the next Jlab would focus on finding partner businesses that could work on developing a better in-store experience for customers, highlighting the need for stores to become locations for experiences rather than just places for purchases.

The businesses taking part in the 2019 Jlab incubator are:

SeloyLive – augmented reality and interactive displays that can be used for shop windows, encouraging customers to participate and engage.

Oriient – smartphone software allowing customers to find products they want in store within 3ft of accuracy.

Ruuby – smartphone booking system that allows customers to book beauty treatments wherever they are.

MemoMi – digital mirror that uses cameras, facial recognition and augmented reality to allow customers to virtually test products and gain personalised recommendations.

MakersCAFE – 3D printing and laser cutting service that allows customers to make and customise products.

LettUs Grow – sensors and custom software for controlling the irrigation and watering aspects of indoor, vertical farms.

Part of the pitch for Jlab involves explaining how the product may fit into John Lewis or Waitrose stores in the future. This year, the judges, comprising John Lewis employees and customers, among others, saw the potential for the possible development of “urban allotments” and the use of smartphones to navigate around some larger stores.

The John Lewis Partnership has also been working on developing its beauty offering recently, having launched a new training plan for its personal styling employees, as well as new suites and fashion event spaces.

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Those taking part in Jlab will be provided with a space to test their products, both in store and online, and have access to mentors and other relevant parties, John Lewis data, the chance to launch a product trial in John Lewis stores, and the possibility of a long-term commercial relationship with the organisation in the future.

In the past, participants in Jlab have said the most valuable part of the programme was the advice they gained from having access to relevant people.

As technology adoption is driving up customers’ expectations of a personalised experience from retailers, stores must adapt to become more relevant and offer a specific reason for people to visit – hence the focus on experiential retail in the 2019 Jlab.

The 2018 Jlab was focused on developing technology that could help health and wellbeing and reduce waste.

Previous labs were focused on startups, but John Lewis announced in 2018 that it would include both startups and more established businesses, and in recent years has moved away from having a defined “winner” of the programme to developing participating businesses based on how a particular cohort performs.

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