Retail Week Hackathon – Judges Report

Our very own Nick Lansley tells us what it was like to judge at the Retail Week Hackathon.

As chairman of the Judging Panel for the inaugural Retail Week Hackathon, I can say on behalf of my fellow judges that we’ve witnessed some outstanding examples of innovation from a set of 10 inspiring teams.

We encountered so many examples of ‘thought through’ innovation where teams tested their ideas through research and refinement, checked business models and built a credible, tangible customer experience.

Our three finalists provided us with outstanding examples, and scored highly in the four judged areas of innovation, business value, customer experience and functionality.

Deloitte Digital presented us with “Fit”, an end-to-end fashion clothes choosing, trying-on and purchasing journey in-store. They had really thought through the customer journey by finding the easiest way for customers to scan product labels – not through barcodes (which can be fiddly to scan with a camera phone), or iBeacons (which cost the retailer to install and maintain) but ‘SnowShoes’, a passive tag that can be placed on the phone’s screen and presents a unique arrangement of what the phone thinks are fingers touching it.

This was quick and easy to use. Having selected the clothes, the customer could go to the changing room to try them on, and alert staff to go and get different sizes using a touch screen. They could alter the lighting in the changing room to suit different environments from ‘daylight’ to ‘at the disco’ to see how the garments looked. Finally the customer could pay there and then (for the benefit of staff, the lights go green!), and walk out of the changing room and the store. The team had really examined the business case to our satisfaction, built a real running prototype and executed a complete customer journey live as we watched their pitch.

Tesco Labs showed us ‘Quick Coffee’, a way to make it easy for customers to buy and pick up their coffee as they approached the coffee shop. By the time they arrived, the coffee would be ready and personally labelled. The team built an app used by the customer to choose their coffee type. In real-time we saw the coffee’s requirements appear in a down-projected image on the barista’s work table, along with a circle slowly growing around the description words to show the estimated countdown to the customer’s arrival.

The barista then created the coffee and placed the cup at the very spot where the description was being seen. The system detected the coffee using a Kinect sensor and alerted the customer that it was ready by a push notification to their phone, then projected the customer’s name and picture next to the cup. When the customer arrived, they picked up the cup with their name projected next to it and the system would set the transaction as complete. The team demonstrated several orders being processed in parallel. We loved the simplicity, the relatively low cost technology deployed, and its good fit with the ‘theatre’ environment found in coffee shops.

The winner, Kega Retail, was chosen because their outstanding hack created a customer journey that travelled across online and in-store channels, with each channel helping the other in an innovative ‘bi-directional’ manner. The team built most of this journey in their hack and demonstrated it to great success. It came closest to ‘the ultimate customer experience’ theme of the Hackathon.

The journey starts when the customer engages with a product online at a retail web-store but ends up not purchasing. The next day, the customer passes the shop belonging to the same retailer. As they are a loyal customer and have the retailer’s app, their phone receives a push notification inviting them into the store. Window signage and in-store screens would highlight the item.

Staff in the store would be alerted to make the item available and answer questions (thanks to staff tablet computers showing detailed information) should the customer wish. If, on the other hand, the customer continues to pass the store and keep walking, they receive a second push notification with an offer that is hopefully enticing enough for the customer to be persuaded into the store.

But the journey doesn’t end there: If a customer were to linger looking at items in a certain part of the store, ibeacons would pick this up. Next time they are at the retailer’s web-store, those items would be more prominent. The business value was clear, and the innovation was to use technology in an easy to understand customer journey that merged the in-store and online channels – and made those channels work for each another to create the nearest we’ve yet come to ‘omnichannel’.

We also gave two commendations: Clear Returns looked at how to use data to filter products by dietary requirements and envisioned how customers could highlight products by wearing a device such as Google Glass. And Ometria explored how to really engage with wish-lists that would work across multiple retailers.

We liked how both these teams took ‘the ultimate customer experience’ to mean ‘ease existing conscious customer frustrations’ – an important lesson for our retail world.

This post was first published on Retail Week

Project: Health Hackathon

Our first ever external hackathon asks the question, “how can we help people make healthier choices?”

Background and Introduction

This September, we held our first ever external hackathon in the Rainmaking Loft, London.
Over 100 entrepreneurs from start-ups and external companies competed to come up with the best new consumer health-related app or service, in just 48 hours.

But no Lab is an island! Our friends at Intel, Motorola, Verizon, P&G, Johnson + Johnson, and The Food Doctor mentored the teams throughout the weekend, and the Rainmaking Loft crew helped with the facilitation of the event too.
We had real customers in to give brutally honest opinions on the teams’ ideas; sushi and lots of healthy goodies from The Food Doctor (as well as the obligatory pizza!), and lots of breakout sessions and checkpoints along the way, to make sure all teams were on track for the final pitches.

Around 130 entrepreneurs from start-ups and external companies will compete to come up with the best new consumer health-related app or service, and they’ll be given 48 hours to do so.

Our friends at the Rainmaking Loft, a space we own whose workspace we rent out to start-ups at a subsidised rate, are helping to facilitate on the day, and are letting us take over the venue for the competition.

This hackathon has generated a lot of interest, and many of our partners and suppliers are supporting in one way or another – be it providing mentors, judges, or donating prizes or delicious goodies for the hackers.

Improving health is one of the world’s biggest – and growing – challenges. Tesco, as one of the world’s largest food retailers, is super keen to create strategies that can improve health for the long term, and to play a major role in addressing this problem.

Goals and Objectives

Improving health is one of the world’s biggest – and growing – challenges. Most of us will say we know what it takes to be healthy, but there remains a yawning chasm between what we know to be important, and what we actually do. I for one have often fallen victim to the siren call of ‘just one more Jaffa Cake’.*

As a major retailer, we at Tesco have a responsibility to help people make healthier choices… so much so, that we have publicly pledged to help tackle the global obesity crisis by encouraging our colleagues and customers to live healthily.

And it seems there’s the potential for us to make a massive difference: 54% of UK consumers say they want supermarkets to be doing more to improve the health of the nation, ahead of Government (51%), Doctors (47%) and local Councils (35%).

So that’s why we’ve decided that the focus of this hackathon will be on helping customers to easily make healthier food choices in store and online, and to feel inspired to change for the better.

Another key goal for us is to bring together lots of talented people, and give them an opportunity to meet new people, network, create something fantastic, and have fun!

So who won?

The overall winners were the Barcode Monsters. They came up with a tamagotchi-inspired app to encourage healthy eating in children. When the child is in a supermarket with his mother, he can scan products’ barcodes, and depending on the nutritional content of the product, the monster in the app gets happier or sadder, fatter or thinner…and maybe even more hyper! A simple yet brilliant idea, which lets children learn about nutrition and its impact on their health, rather than piling sweeties into the trolley.

* Disclaimer: other brands of cake (or is it a biscuit?) are available.

Peer-ing into the future

Understanding what peer-to-peer economies mean for retail.

So… here we are… welcome to my first Labs blog.

I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss my first project in the lab. A small team of us have just completed an intensive 5-week product discovery sprint, during which we focused on the theme of peer-to-peer economies.

As themes go, they don’t come much more interesting than peer to peer. I use this term fairly loosely, to refer to communities in which individuals interact with one another for mutual benefit, thus decreasing their reliance on large corporations. Such systems come with many benefits to those involved.

One benefit is that they give people the opportunity to earn money by participating in a community. For example, TaskRabbit allows users to outsource a wide variety of household chores and skilled tasks to people in their local community, who in turn earn an hourly fee for their services. Similarly, Uber connects users who need a ride with nearby drivers, who can earn fares from this.

Another major advantage is the responsiveness of these systems, due to both their scale and the fact that service providers are often geographically spread out across the community – an advantage over many more centralised services. Uber claims to have tens of thousands of drivers signed up worldwide, meaning that in its main cities users can usually find a nearby driver pretty quickly. Furthermore, Instacart, which connects people with personal shoppers in their community, claims that its fastest delivery was just 12 minutes!

It would also seem that there is something intrinsically rewarding about supporting an individual, who may not have the backing of a large corporation. The success of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter support this notion, as there is often no financial incentive for making donations to support projects. It just feels good!

So… what does all of this mean for us at Tesco? Could we and should we be getting involved to help create and support such communities?

These are just a couple of the questions we’ve been looking into. We’ve come out of our discovery sprint with some concepts that we could trial, to see the impact of empowering local communities to connect with each other to solve everyday problems. But that’s probably for a whole other blog post…