After the dust has settled, the coffee cups have been cleared away and the laptop lids have been folded back down, its time to reflect on our latest 24 hour hackathon.
The Retail Week Hackathon is part of the 2 day Retail Week Tech & Ecomm Event which attracts leaders from the retail sector and beyond. As the way people shop changes at pace, retailers need to deliver digital change and technology as a key enabler. Localz was one of nine teams to win its way through to the live final which was refreshingly hosted right next to the exhibition and conference room – providing the perfect backdrop to this technology event.
The agility of retailers and their leadership culture will ultimately determine how quickly they can deliver this change. Learning and failing fast are the hard and fast rules that the most sophisticated retailers live by for delivering change: they need look no further than a hackathon for agility.
Localz was selected for the live final as we have a track record for extreme innovation during hackathons, where we can focus the efforts of our busy team. Our business has been created and driven by our innovation at hackathons. In the last 24 months we have participated in three hackathons, which have all resulted in sustainable enterprise solutions. The first was a Samsung hackathon, where are our company and platform was formed. Secondly, we participated and won the first John Lewis technology incubator, JLAB, which resulted in our time-saving Click and Collect solution. At our most recent hackathon we created MediPass, which is about to be rolled out across Australia.
The brief for this hackathon was to spend 24 hours simplifying the multi-channel shopping experience for shoppers. Why is this important for retailers? Well, to meet the needs of customers who buy and browse at their convenience, with no differentiation between online and offline channels, retailers need to find a simple way to bridge the gap. It needs wide appeal – something that even your granny could use.
We considered our solution carefully, basing it on an issue that many retailers we have talked to face everyday. How can I enhance staff efficiency & customer experience in-store by connecting the right staff with customers seeking help in real-time? Providing a responsive service in-store can help retailers to retain their customers and encourage them to shop with them across all channels. Andy Harding, Chief Customer Officer at House of Fraser, stated in his keynote speech that these customers are worth six times more than single channel shoppers. This grows to eight times more on mobile.
Our hand picked team included Localz co-founders Pete & Melvin, iOS developer Martin Nygren from our partners Chelsea Apps Factory, Mike Elsmore of IBM and Mani Singh of Major League Hackers. Mike and Mani have almost 40 hackathons to their names this year and had both attended one the previous weekend, so we approached the event full of confidence. They hacked together a solution that enables customers to request help using a smart button and get acknowledgment that a staff member is on their way. The idea was to send the staff member most able to help in that department, but if they were busy to send staff from adjoining departments. Location-relevant help could also be requested through the company app, and also included a kiosk for customers to announce their arrival to collect an order. The team even found a way to detect if too many customers were gathering in a certain location so that help could be dispatched. The team created a dashboard with a real-time help status so that no customers were left unattended and the business could learn to improve their responsiveness.
The reality is, they had achieved too much to present everything in the 3-minute allotted time. This is taking nothing away from Tesco Labs who pipped us to win the event – congratulations to their team.
The result extends beyond the hackathon - we have another scalable enterprise solution and have already had interest from some of the retailers at the event. This hackathon has been fun and hugely rewarding. The philosophy of starting with the problem then using technology to solve it is part of Localz culture – and long may it continue – at pace!