Target moves into robotics with Techstars
Target created an Innovations Lab in 2012, its main aim being to forge closer ties with the Silicon Valley’s start-up ecosystem.
Currently Target’s lab goes as far as creating and deploying prototypes addressing the new behaviour patterns of connected American consumers.
To take this even further, Target has formed a partnership with business accelerator Techstars, which has more than 500 innovative companies in its ecosystem. Techstars is particularly well-known for its robotics programme, which it runs jointly with Qualcomm. This partnership aims to set up a start-ups acceleration programme devoted to the world of retail in Minneapolis from 2016.
For Carl Casey, Target’s director of innovation, this partnership will determine the future of the chain: “We know that technology will continue to revolutionize the retail industry and we are building the future of Target around innovation. That is why our partnership with Techstars is essential”.
Whereas most of the big names in the American retail industry have their own lab (Walmart, Sears, Staples, Nordstrom, Amazon, etc.), Target’s approach with this partnership adds a new dimension to the innovation policy of these giants. Because Target literally wants to create an ecosystem of start-ups dedicated to the retail market in and around Minneapolis, where the retailer is based.
With this ecosystem, Target is attempting to pre-empt start-ups offering solutions to the world of retail, thereby bypassing its retailer competitors. Target is banking on the fact that the reputation of the very selective start-up accelerator Techstars (which only accepts 1% of companies wishing to join it) will help it access the best there is in new technologies and more specifically in robotics.
Robotics is riding high in the world of retail after the success of Amazon’s robotic pods, Lowe’s sales assistant robot, Pepper, Softbank’s sales assistant robot in Japan or even the telepresence robot project in Leroy Merlin stores. Target plans to open its future concept store within 18 to 24 months, and it will features robots and robotics solutions.
And what if robotics were the most appropriate technological solution to offer new services and improve the customer experience in bricks-and-mortar stores?