Retailers’ Holiday Wishlist? More Sales Powered By New Technologies

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Walmart has made introducing new technologies a priority, Dvorak says, using a strategy to acquire innovative tools rather than building them in house.

In the last year, Walmart has also picked up tech companies such as Bonobos, a men’s retailer, for $310 million, and Parcel, a tech-enabled delivery service, for an undisclosed amount. Last year, the retailer made headlines with its $3.3 billion cash-and-stock deal to buy Internet retailer Jet.com, a move designed to help the Bentonville, AR, company compete with Amazon.

“They are really good at it,” she says, pointing to the purchase of online retailer ModCloth earlier this year. “Rather than creating [the tools] from scratch, Walmart acquires them and then it becomes a much larger part of the overall culture.”

Retailers are finding new technologies useful for both streamlining supply chains and operations as well as interacting with customers. A recent report by Aruba Networks, which is a unit of Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ), found that 88 percent of retailers reported cost-savings from using Internet of Things technology, with eight in 10 saying the technology has improved the overall customer experience.

Established retailers “are looking to smaller, outside companies like startups to figure out how to use those technologies,” says Genevieve Gilbreath, SKU’s managing director.

For example, the six-year-old SKU is working with San Antonio-based grocery HEB and Land O’ Lakes in Minneapolis to help connect those companies to innovative startups working on new retail technologies.

In addition, Gilbreath says SKU had been working with Land O’ Lakes and the greater Minneapolis tech ecosystem to set up a second SKU accelerator program there, but now says that those plans are currently on hold.

The Minnesota state capital is home to well-known retail chains including Target (NYSE: TGT), Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), and General Mills (NYSE: GIS). (Last week, Target announced it was buying Shipt, a delivery startup based in Birmingham, AL.) On Monday, Techstars announced a new accelerator focused on food and agriculture innovation that will be based in Minneapolis.

Another example of retailers embracing new technologies is Ikea. Around the … Next Page »

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