John Lewis Partnership: JLAB
In 2014, L Marks and John Lewis created JLAB, the UK's first retail innovation labRead more
L Brands, parent company of Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and Pink, is a global vertically integrated specialty retailer operating more than 2,900 company-owned specialty stores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Greater China.
For over 50 years, L Brands has been leading and shaping the retail sector through three three world-renowned brands known for their iconic lines of lingerie, personal care, and beauty products. In 2020, L Brands partnered with L Marks to create Retail Innovation Discovery to ensure that this landmark specialty retailer will continue to thrive in years to come while also providing some of retail’s most exciting disruptors with a path to growth.
Retail Innovation Discovery set the tone for the next era of their three iconic brands, merging their large-scale efficiencies with the technology of the new age and those creating it. The nature of L Brands vertically-integrated structure presented a unique opportunity for L Marks to work with the retailer to identify a diverse set of challenge statements that united functions across the organisation.
The intial focal areas for the programme were Customer Experience of the New Decade – to provide more meaningful experiences and added utility to customers, and to engage their consumers in ways like never before – and Predictive Modeling and Validation – using emerging technologies like AI and predictive modeling to inform the retailer of future trends and validate key decisions across the business.
“Working with L Marks on Retail Innovation Discovery has been the best experience I have had in 15 years of working in the Retail Innovation space”
Murali Sundararajan, SVP Digital, Enterprise Architecture and Innovation, L Brands
Midway through the programme, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, presenting a whole new set of challenges. As the operations of the programme was transformed completely virtual overnight, both the L Brands and L Marks teams quickly embraced the situation and soon challenges were transformed into opportunities. As the implications of COVID-19 began to reveal themselves to the world, the L Marks scouting team was already identifying potential solutions.
This pandemic has not only introduced brand new problems that retailers could not have , but it has forced them into a future we thought theyhad much more time to prepare for. Whilst the majority of US corporations were thrown into survival and stabilisation mode, theough Retail Innovation Discovery, L Brands were able to identify technologies and companies that could help them embrace the new reality including store sanitation, queue management, touchless delivery and other crucial solutions.
Over 1,200 startups were scouted from 28 countries across the world. Ultimately, 17 were selected to present their solutions to L Brands at Pitch Day.
Startup engagement levels for Retail Innovation Discovery were among the highest we have seen leading up to a Pitch Day. The teams worked extremely hard to tailor their pitches to the needs of L Brands, eager to make a tangible difference and motivated by L Brands’ willingness to stand for innovation in the face of such an uncertain time for the retail industry.
Retail has always been a volatile industry, however, in today’s day and age it seems that rapid change is the biggest, if not the only dependable constant. Countless forces of the digital age have made retail giants re-write their playbook. Winning brands are the ones driving the disruption, not following it. So, although it is a challenging time, it is also an exciting one for those who are not only willing to embrace the change, but also actively work to make change happen within their own organisations and in the industry.
“Pitch Day was by every measurement a success, it brought a level of energy I haven’t ever seen before.”
Sestra Systems is an award-winning technology company with the mission of bringing IoT to dispensing of beverages and other liquids.
Sestra Systems viewed Retail Innovation Discovery as an opportunity to pivot their current core offering for food and beverage into retail. L Brands echoed Sestra’s belief that retail is soon to experience the same shift that the food and beverage industry has in terms of creating holistic guest experiences through sampling. This trend was only accelerated with the emergence of COVID-19 as all industries were forced to adapt to safety guidelines.
Sestra Systems applied through the COVID-19 Wildcard Category but found that their solution also fit important aspects of both the Customer Experience and Predictive Modelling categories. At Pitch Day, the Sestra team proposed an initial implementation of their cloud-connected touchless sampling stations in the retailer’s home & body fragrance stores.
Their solution would not only puts the brand ahead of the curve in terms of accommodating changed consumer preferences in the post-COVID-19 future, but it would also free up merchandising space, connect sampling with loyalty apps, as well as uniquely merge customer sampling activity with POS data in an easy-to-use dashboard. Sestra took 1st place on Pitch Day and is currently exploring pilot opportunities.
Cliff.ai from Greendeck is an automated business monitoring and forecasting platform that helps businesses automatically analyse and correlate every business metric, providing contextual real-time alerts and forecasts and enabling precautionary action instead of future reaction.
Cliff.ai was championed by Supply Chain leaders across the L Brands organisation who were particularly interested in identifying technologies that would allow them to integrate specific external data such as news, weather, and events into their forecasting and planning systems. Cliff.ai’s solution could not only deliver this use case, but also showed how their technology could identify many anomalies in the supply chain that would otherwise go unnoticed and propose solutions for corrective action.
Vengo Labs’ digital kiosks serve both consumer packaged goods and place-based digital out-of-home media, marrying the convenience of online shopping with instant access to products via brick-and-mortar retail. Today, over 1,400 Vengo digital kiosks meet consumers in the places they spend time to provide the right product at the right moment — at gyms, hotels, public transit systems, campuses and more.
Vengo Labs has recently secured major contracts for PPE distribution in large transit systems across the world – including the NYC Subway and airports. The Vengo team presented this as a great opportunity for Bath & Body Works hand sanitising products.
“I wish all major corporates had programs like this! Great for an early stage business to get an opportunity to pitch to various levels across organizations. Well done!”
See our full set of innovation case studies.