Marks & Spencer has created a ‘digital lab’ in order to address the fast pace of technological change happening in retail stores, enabling a more agile development process.
The high street retailer is adopting a start-up style approach for prototyping and developing a range of e-commerce and in-store technologies, as well as digital marketing platforms for employees to use within the organisation.
Former Reevoo.com chief technology and product officer Kyle McGinn has been appointed to lead a small team of fewer than 10 employees. McGinn has previously been involved with startup communities such as Seedcamp and Eden Ventures.
The digital lab employees will work closely with Marks & Spencer's in-house software engineering team, hired last year. This will allow M&S to bring concepts to trial with customers, and in some cases to large scale implementation, at a quicker pace than before.
A spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said that the project came as the company had been “stepping up” digital activity over the past 18 months, including the introduction of the Aurasma augmented reality technology. The digital lab will now boost the company's ability to react to the fast pace of technological change affecting high street retailers, as many adopt multi-channel sales approaches.
“Customers are changing and we have to have the capacity to change with them, and be able to trial these things and see if they are going to be right for our business,” the spokesperson said.
“Customer expectations of brands and businesses certainly changes with technology. They expect more access to your branding, they expect to be able to shop when they want, and they want the same experience across any channel. There is certainly an expectation shift.”
Multi-channel e-commerce executive director Laura Wade-Gery said that the company has recognised the importance of “digital experimentation” in meeting the evolving demands of consumers.
“By strengthening our in-house expertise with a dedicated digital lab, we can move with even greater pace and deliver first to market technology and experiences for our customers,” Wade-Gery said.
Another high street retailer, Tesco, revealed some of the in-store innovations it has been developing along with Cisco, with augmented reality mirrors and digital mannequins being trialled in stores.