TECHNOLOGY

H-E-B to open digital tech lab

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

H-E-B, the Texas grocery powerhouse, made a new move to strengthen its position in the digital retail space.

The supermarket retailer is developing a “world-class” tech facility and innovation lab in East Austin, Texas. The 81,000-sq.-ft. facility, expected to open next spring, will house the company’s growing H-E-B Digital team and Favor, the Austin-based on-demand delivery service that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company. (The grocer acquired Favor Delivery in February.)

H-E-B is converting an industrial warehouse into a creative and collaborative workspace for Austin-based employees of the H-E-B Digital team and Favor’s corporate headquarters. Architecture firm, IA Interior Architects, is fully customizing the two-story space.

The lab is also on the hunt for talent that will bolster the digital and Favor teams. The company plans to add several hundred jobs, and is hiring across all areas of expertise, including product management, product design, and software engineering, according to H-E-B.

The new facility coincides with the company’s other strategic moves designed to enhance H-E-B’s digital and delivery offerings. In addition to acquiring Favor Delivery, the grocer also offers home grocery delivery through its HEBtoYou program, as well as curbside pickup — a service that enables customers to order online and have their groceries delivered right to their cars. The service is available in more than 145 locations across Texas, and is on track to reach 165 stores in 2018.

The company has also named Jag Bath, Favor’s CEO and president, as its chief digital officer, and Mike Georgoff as chief product officer for H-E-B Digital. Georgoff was previously chief product officer at Main Street Hub, an Austin-based digital marketing firm that was acquired by GoDaddy earlier this year.

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TECHNOLOGY

RILA goes all out for tech in September

BY Marianne Wilson

The Retail Industry Leaders Association has kicked off its month-long initiative “September is for (R)Tech.” Throughout the month, RILA will showcase news, initiatives and research focused on the future of retail and shopping experience.

RILA launched the (R)Tech Center for Innovation in 2017 to help retailers navigate the industry’s transformation through research, insights, collaboration, and exposure to new technologies. Now in its second year, the center will mark September with a release of new research, launch its (R)Tech Innovation Network, host a retail-focused challenge at MIT’s annual HACKMIT event, and announce its collaborative (R)Tech Open Innovation (ROI) Engine initiative.

“We are excited to continue helping America’s most recognized brands connect with cutting-edge startups, access a growing talent pipeline, and find new ways to accelerate their business,” said Adam Siegel, senior VP of innovation for RILA. “The industry has seen tremendous growth, which shows that a focus on innovating the consumer experience has only furthered retail’s transformation.”

Later this month, RILA will launch two key pieces of research that will help the industry focus on the wants and needs of the 21st century shopper. In partnership with Accenture, RILA will release “Delivering for a New Consumer,” a look into the wants of a today’s consumer and the ways in which retailers are meeting demands.

In addition, RILA will also release additional research on “Shopping Styles in the (R)Tech Age,” which defines the 10 distinct shopping styles of Millennial and Gen Z shoppers.

On Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, RILA will team up with Qurate Retail Group and head to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to host a retail-focused challenge at HACKMIT 2018. (Qurate is comprised of eight leading retail brands, including QVC, HSN, Zulily, Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Grandin Road.) At the event, students will reimagine the way consumers shop alongside software engineering and retail mentors — creating innovations that will enhance the shopping experience using 3D product technologies.

This month, the center will formally launch its (R)Tech Innovation Network, which convenes incubators, accelerators, and venture capitalists with a focus on retail technologies and innovations.

Now in its second year, RILA will announce a call for participants for its annual (R)Tech CEO Innovation Awards, which highlight innovations that enable retail’s future. Winners are hand-picked by retail executives and invited to showcase, pitch and network with the most recognized retail CEOs at RILA’s annual Retail CEO Forum January 20-22 in Amelia Island, Florida.

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TECHNOLOGY

Walmart takes on Amazon with crowdsourced delivery pilot

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart has a new online delivery team — but they aren’t employees and they don’t work for a major delivery company.

The discount giant announced Wednesday that it is testing a crowd-sourced delivery platform service, called Spark Delivery, to get online grocery orders to customers faster. Walmart is piloting the program through a partnership with Bringg, a delivery logistics technology platform. The service is currently being piloted in Nashville and New Orleans, and will debut in “a few more metro areas” this year, according to Walmart.

Spark Delivery utilizes independent drivers who partner with Delivery Drivers, a nationwide firm that specializes in last-mile contractor management, to complete deliveries. The drivers use the Spark platform to sign up for slots that work best for their schedule, as well as access order details and navigation assistance, among other details. The program takes a direct swipe at a similar program at Amazon, called Amazon Flex, that hires individual drivers to deliver packages.

“We’re always looking for the best ways to serve them, so we’re exploring a number of different options for getting groceries from our stores to the customer’s front door – some in-house, some third-party,” said Tom Ward, VP, digital operations, Walmart U.S.

Spark Delivery, which can distribute orders to customers the same day, has a $9.95 fee for orders with a $30 minimum. Customers can get their first order over $50 delivered for free using a dedicated promotion code. (Walmart’s internal team of personal shoppers still pick and pack customers’ orders.)

Drivers are paid by the delivery. However, since Spark Delivery is a third party program, salaries are processed by Delivery Drivers. In addition to compensation, DDI manages recruiting, screening and background checks, and accounting, among other services for drivers.

Spark Delivery is not Walmart’s first delivery partnership, however. In April, the discounter teamed up with on-demand delivery service Postmates to streamline its grocery deliveries. Uber and Deliv have also been helping Walmart test deliveries in select markets, including Dallas, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa and San Jose.

All shipping programs coincide with Walmart’s goal to provide online grocery delivery to 100 metro areas covering 40% of U.S. households. Currently, the service is available in nearly 50 markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Miami and Seattle.

In addition to the delivery services, Walmart also offers its Online Grocery Pickup program that allows customers to pick up their grocery orders at local stores without getting out of their cars. The service, which is supported by more than 25,000 personal shoppers (up from 18,000 earlier this year), is now available in 1,800 stores. A total of 2,100 are expected to be open by the end of the year, according to the company.

“We’re saving customers time by leveraging new technology, and connecting all the parts of our business into a single seamless shopping experience: great stores, easy pickup, fast delivery, and apps and websites that are simple to use,” Greg Foran, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. “Using our size and scale, we’re bringing the best of Walmart to customers across the country.”

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