The other side of NRF…

…this year we exhibited at the world’s largest retail show in New York, the National Retail Federation’s Big Show.

This year’s trip to NRF’s Big Show, which is the largest retail tech conference on the planet, was a bit different for us. Instead of just going as visitors we were there exhibiting alongside IBM.

We’ve been working on a project with one of their research teams in Israel for a while now on a platform that recognises products on a shelf and feeds back whether or not they’re in the right place according to the plan, or flags them if they’re out of stock.

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It was great to hear from other retailers on what they thought of the system and how it might be able to help them too. You can see a video about it from last year here if you want to know more.

It’s not just for store colleagues though, it can also overlay nutritional information on a photo of a shelf so you can easily see, for example, which product has the lowest sugar or fat. In the future this sort of tech could be combined with wearables to enabled personalised merchandising – imagine having a peanut allergy and your glasses hiding or marking all the products with peanuts in them?

Some of the highlights of the rest of the show included HPs new Sprout concept which brings together a 3D camera, projector and large touch surface along with an all in one PC to great effect. The way it made digitising a fabric sample so it could be manipulated and shared was really quick and we’re sure there will be lots of interesting things we can do with it.

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One of the partners on Microsoft’s stand had rigged up a Kinect high above a set of Xbox game shelves. When you reached out for one of the games the trailer for it would start playing on the screen above. Really simple idea and execution – we’ve dabbled with this sort of thing in the past at a hackathon but every product had to have a switch underneath it. Using the Kinect meant there was no need to instrument everything.

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Following on from last years trends there was a continuing growth in wifi and video analytics and adding in new data sources to better understand customers behaviour and improve their shopping experience.

After the show we visited some interesting stores which we’ll save for another post…

Helping you experience the future

The journey we took in becoming the team we are today.

I thought I’d write my first blog post based around our team mission statement; to share the journey we took in becoming the team we are today and our thoughts that went into creating the statement.

Creating a Labs team represents a real shift in the way that Tesco thinks about innovation. We’re developing a culture that will allow innovation to thrive in the long-term and we’re already working collaboratively with start-ups through networking events like T-Jam and our sponsorship of the Rainmaking Loft. We are devising a series of internal events such as hackathons and invent’athons which we’ve found are a great way to harness the collective power of people at Tesco.  It’s all very exciting!

So with a new team we set about defining our core purpose and mission statement – we wanted something simple that we could all remember, that reflects the work that we do, and something that helps to keep us all aligned and united as a team and heading in the same direction.

After much debate and discussion we came up with “Tesco Labs: Helping you experience the future”. Here are our thoughts behind the words in that sentence.

Helping

This could be anything from having a chat and helping someone set off on a journey of discovery to creating something to show people so their imagination doesn’t have to do the hard work

You

You the customer, you the colleague or you the supplier

Experience

We want to create new experiences, they could be simple, lightweight prototypes to help us understand people’s thoughts and opinions or they could be fully working and integrated so that we can actively test them and learn with our colleagues and customers.

Future

We are creating hypotheses / products that we can use to demonstrate what we think the future of retail will be like in 5 – 10yrs, but as you know the future is hard to predict! The real aim here is to be ambitious, not to just to solve tomorrow’s problems but to collaborate across the business and the world of technology and solve bigger, harder problems. It’s a mindset thing….