U.K. retailer John Lewis, best known for its nostalgic Christmas commercials, is also investing in the future, by selecting micro-location specialist Localz as the winner of its first JLAB incubator contest.
Localz, founded nine months ago in Australia, will spend the $162,000 prize money on developing its European presence.
Working with John Lewis, Localz will use Apple's iBeacons – as well as more traditional location technologies like WiFi, GPS and Near Field Communication – to pinpoint shoppers' exact locations. The first application is set to be a technology that triggers a customer's "click and collect" order to be brought to the collection point as soon as the shopper walks into a store.
Stuart Marks, a technology entrepreneur and partner in JLAB, said in a statement, "We felt that Localz has the potential to become a long-term partner to John Lewis and to provide continuous innovation for their customers. We were fortunate to have an exceptional mentoring team who allowed all the companies to achieve their true potential during the time they were at JLAB."
One of the reasons Localz won, he said, was because the team has experience in big integration projects. Some of them come from banking organizations, where they worked on integrating technology with large legacy systems. That's appropriate for John Lewis; the U.K. retailer celebrates its 150th birthday this year.
Tim Andrew, commercial director and co-founder of Localz, said in a statement, "The support and guidance that John Lewis provided throughout the incubation period helped us refine our offering for the European market. They also gave us access to successful entrepreneurs and mentors from diverse backgrounds and industries, which allowed us to accelerate our development. The fact that my father was a partner with John Lewis for over 30 years gave me a very personal reason to want to be a part of it, in order to try and help the company that supported me and my family when I was growing up."
Another idea that the team came up with during the JLAB contest – and hopes to implement -- is to help navigate shoppers to the relevant departments so that they can check out items from their online wish lists.
Steve Mattey, COO of direct marketing agency VCCPme, said, "With iBeacon technology, the brand knows exactly where you are. Retailers and brands can start tracking people very closely. The watch-out here is that it can become extremely intrusive, so brands will need to use this technology responsibly."
John Lewis, which operates 42 John Lewis department stores across the U.K. and makes all 30,000 staff partners in the business, announced the JLAB incubator scheme in March. A John Lewis spokeswoman confirmed that the retailer is planning to do "something similar" again next year. Localz was chosen from 5 finalists, out of 163 entries.
Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said in a statement, "JLAB… has given us a new way to explore the technologies that will change how we all shop in the future. It's been a hugely rewarding and educational experience."