The incubator will partner with startups, venture capitalists and academics to promote innovation in robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to Wal-Mart. The goal is to have a fast-moving, separate entity to identify emerging technologies that can be developed and used across Wal-Mart.
As I've written about extensively, retailers need to figure out what makes physical stores unique and different and play those strengths. In this original post from 2012, Walmart execs then were talking about upgrading their stores to take advantage of new mobile tools that were being developed. It makes sense to continue looking at new technologies that will impact the in-store experience today as well.
It's a huge challenge for retailers and there will be a great many closings in the near future. The news from Sears/Kmart doesn't look good these days, but all you have to do is go to most of their stores to see why they're failing. Hard to find both merchandise and employees, who wants to shop there?
As I wrote in Shouldn't We Make Place Special, retailers have spent billions of dollars to create physical environments that today they all too often ignore. It's hard to find merchandise, pricing and usually even staff. In today's economy, can you afford to have hundreds of thousands (or millions) of square feet of retail space and all of the expenses that go with it, and just have it act like windows for people to do online shopping -- and they may not even shop online at your store! Can you continue to support social media efforts while creating physical spaces that are almost anti-social?
Are you treating your stores as an asset or a liability? Is the physical plant of your store up to current standards of both practicality and design? Do you treat your employees as an important part of the retail experience or simply one more line item on your P&L?
Without a doubt, technology will be critical in creating the next phase of retail experiences. However, if you're putting more effort into turning your stores into a web site, rather then capitalizing on what makes place unique, you might want to start looking for a great real estate broker to help you sell off your stores.
AUSTIN, TX – A Walmart executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit said that although the brand initially focused its mobile strategy around optimizing its dot-com experience, the company is now eyeing the in-store service as the best way to take advantage of the medium. “Our biggest asset is the 4,000 stores that we have across the nation." Wendy Bergh, senior director of mobile and digital strategy at Walmart.