retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Re/code reports that Walmart's investment boutique, Store No. 8, is working on what it has dubbed “Project Kepler,” which “aims to reimagine the in-store shopping experience with the help of technologies like computer vision … one goal of the initiative is the creation of physical stores that would operate without checkout lines or cashiers.

In other words, like the Amazon Go project that has been in beta testing in Seattle for almost a year.

At the same time, Re/code reports, one of the startups created by Store No. 8 is working on the development of a personal shopping service for time constrained customers.

The story says that the startup, Code Eight, “has recently started testing a personal shopping service for ‘busy NYC moms,’ according to multiple sources, with the goal of letting them get product recommendations and make purchases simply through text messaging … The target customer of Code Eight is described in an online job listing as a ‘high net worth urban consumer’ — translation: A rich city dweller — certainly not the historical sweet spot for Walmart's main business.”

Code Eight “plans to eventually charge a membership fee, but current testers are using it for free,” the story says. “The personal-shopping service is currently focused on items in ‘health & beauty, household essentials and apparel/accessories’ categories.”

Re/code writes that “taken together, these Walmart initiatives mark a major leap in the vision for the type of businesses Walmart will operate, and customers it will serve, five or 10 years down the line. But since both business strategies are in early stages, there is no guarantee that either will develop into a long-term business or launch widely.”
KC's View:
It seems to me that these are the kinds of innovations that every business needs to be exploring to varying degrees.

If we agree that consumers are evolving to an almost unprecedented extent, then it is critical that companies create skunkworks-style incubators to come up with concepts that challenge orthodoxy and can disrupt traditional business models from within. I think this is true no matter how big or small a business is … there is no such thing as an unassailable business model.