RILA, Accenture launch tech innovation center

Dive Brief:

  • The Retail Industry Leaders Association and professional services company Accenture have teamed up to launch the (R)Tech Center for Innovation, an initiative that aims to bridge the gap between retailers and startups as well as provide guidance for how retailers can drive tech innovation.
  • The center will be guided by an advisory council, which includes retail executives from Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lowe’s, Target, Walgreens, VF Corporation, Westfield, Foot Locker, GameStop, QVC, Unilever, Energizer, AutoZone and Coca-Cola.
  • The (R)Tech Center initiative also includes an innovation network comprised of tech and startup incubators along with venture capital firms. Members include Andreessen Horowitz, Bain Capital Ventures, Commerce Ventures, Facebook, Greylock Partners, Google, GSVlabs, Shoptalk, Techstars and XRC Labs.

Dive Insight:

“Innovative” probably isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking about the retail industry (of course leaving out Amazon, which has patented everything from floating warehouses to a network of tunnels for underground delivery). Retailers today are facing tremendous challenges to adapt to meet modern consumer demands for convenience and experience, and pivoting quickly to meet such needs can be especially difficult for legacy players. That said, innovation has not been stagnant: Many retailers have devised their own innovation labs and are consistently experimenting with new store concepts, omnichannel offerings and in-store technologies. The problem, however, is that they’re still struggling to catch up to the rapid rate of innovation happening in the tech space. But Silicon Valley says it can help.

With the launch of (R)Tech Center for Innovation, industry leaders are collectively acknowledging the value of dipping retail’s toes deeper into the “move fast and break things” startup culture. Doing so is certainly no easy task for retailers, which are often accustomed to making long-term business decisions that generally have a clear return on investment. Tech innovation, on the other hand, often involves embracing failure, and owning innovation in retail requires a shift in mindset, says Ryan Broshar, managing director of Techstars Retail, a startup accelerator and Target partner that will participate in the initiative.

“The retail industry needs a change of mindset of uncertainty and risk taking, so a little shakeup there is painful to begin with, but it should be embraced to some extent,” Broshar told Retail Dive. “That thought process is needed in the retail industry.”

To help guide retailers into innovation, the (R)Tech Center initiative will assist retailers in change management, help foster innovation and create connections between retailers and startups. To start, the center has also released a “blueprint” to highlight how technology has disrupted the industry.

Jumping into innovation can be tricky, and requires a culture shift, says Pano Anthos, founder and managing director of XRC Labs, which will also participate in the initiative. “The [retail] experience hasn’t changed. Tech has changed dramatically. Retail innovation hasn’t changed. So, what’s going on? Why is this pace of innovation so different? It’s cultural. Technology fails fast and often. Retail never fails,” he recently told Retail Dive. “That attitude of built to last is really broken — it should be ‘Build to change, build to learn.'”


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