Eye on Retail: Walmart’s virtual reality vision
Virtual reality was the star of Walmart’s Store No. 8 inaugural innovation gala — an event that exhibited how the technology will shape retail shopping.
Store No. 8, Walmart’s technology incubator focused on ideas that will transform the future of commerce, held its first innovation gala on Wednesday. Store No. 8 works with startups that specialize in areas that include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence. However, this event put the spotlight on the value of VR.
The gala, which took place at a private residence in Hollywood Hills, Calif., invited top brands, technology companies and venture capitalists to see how VR will impact how customers shop in the future. Each exhibit encompassed Store No. 8, Thrive Global and Accenture’s vision for the future of VR.
The concepts came from five early-stage VR developers that Store No. 8 chose from an open call it hosted over the summer. These winners received funding to develop a proof of concept for an immersive retail experience. Guided by executives from Store No. 8, and brands like Modcloth, Bonobos and Rebecca Minkoff, their ideas were brought to life at the gala.
“Innov8 is our opportunity to support and elevate the incredible pioneers of virtual reality who share our mission to explore nascent innovations that will emerge not in coming years but over the next decade,” said Katie Finnegan, principal of Store No 8. “During this process, our five Innov8ers have uncovered radical new technologies, approaches and applications across the virtual retail experience, that we know will play a major role in driving commerce forward at a time when technology influences all aspects of consumers’ lives.”
Among the winners highlighted at the event were a 3-D image solution from 8i that enables customers to interact with a Bonobos Guide, select virtual shirts from a rack and understand fit on a hologram model. A 3-D image solution from Fyusion created curated Modcloth products in a manner that gives shoppers more insight into merchandise before they make a purchase. A company called Obsess recreated a virtual Rebecca Minkoff store.
Innov8’s board of judges included Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global; Marc Carrel-Billiard, senior managing director of Accenture Labs; Jason Welsh, managing director of Accenture Interactive; Kirsten Green, general partner of Forerunner Ventures; Tipatat Chennavasin, general partner of the Virtual Reality Fund; Jeremy Welt, president of Invisible Robot Corp.; Store No 8’s Finnegan; and Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce and founder of Jet.com.
The event was sponsored by key brands and organizations in the technology and retail industries, including HP, Silicon Valley Bank and Microsoft.
To read more details about the highlighted VR innovations, click here.
Poll Results: touched by disaster impact
A minority of respondents to a recent HBSDealer poll question report they their business was completely unscathed by recent natural disasters. The rest were either hit, their communities were hit, or they know someone who was hit.
The recent weeks have seen devastating natural disasters in the form of hurricanes Havey, Irma and Maria, in the South and deadly wildfires in the West.
We asked: “Fires, floods, hurricanes: How has your business been affected by recent natural disasters.” Here are the results:
• 34% — “Completely unscathed.”
• 32% — “Unscathed. But we know others who suffered losses.”
• 21% — “Indirect hit. Our facilities were OK, but our community was hit.”
• 13% — “Direct hit. Our facilities were damaged.”
The total vote count for the poll was 38. Readers can continue to take the poll here.
Also, tell us about your businesses disaster experience here.
New leaders step up for NLBMDA
Phoenix — The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association elected its new leadership team yesterday at the ProDealer Industry Summit. At the association's annual meeting, the NLBMDA board of directors elected Rick Lierz as the new chair of the association. Rick is president and CEO at Franklin Building Supply in Boise, Idaho, and is replacing outgoing chair George Lester II, chair and CEO at The Lester Group in Martinsville, Va.
"I am deeply honored to become the next chair of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA). I have the privilege of following in the footsteps of many incredible industry leaders and I promise to honor those that have come before me with strong leadership and vision of a stronger NLBMDA," Lierz said. "Lumberyards and building material dealers are a core part of every community in America.
"We employ many thousands of people and our companies help build our communities. NLBMDA has a long and rich history of being the voice in Washington D.C. for LBM dealers across America. Working together we can make a positive impact for our respective companies and the industry as a whole. I look forward to my chairmanship and working closely with fellow LBM dealers to advance our industry."
Founded in 1976 in Boise, Franklin Building Supply's operations still reflect the personal philosophies and values of its founders. Understanding that customers have a choice when selecting a source for building materials, the founders endeavored to make that choice easier by providing the highest quality materials and customer service in the industry. They focused on teaching their employees to think of the customers first.
"Rick has been an active NLBMDA member for decades and has a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise in the LBM industry. He has consistently shown an unwavering commitment and passion to serving others. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to continue to work with Rick as we are both committed to moving the association forward as he becomes NLBMDA Chair," NLBMDA president and CEO Jonathan Paine said. "I also want to thank George for his time, effort and the advances we've made over the last year to give the association and our members a better foundation as we build on the improving economy around the country."
In addition to Rick, the other members of the 2017-18 NLBMDA Executive Committee are:
- Chair-elect: Bob Sanford, Sanford & Hawley Inc., Unionville, Conn.
- First vice chair: Michael Cassidy, Kodiak Building Partners, Denver, Colo.
- Treasurer: Scott Engquist, Engquist Lumber, Harcourt, Iowa
- Manufacturers and services council chair: Clarence Wilkerson, Weyerhaeuser, Federal Way, Wash.
- Federated association executive chair: Cody Nuernberg, Northwestern Lumber Association, Dakota, Wis.
- Immediate past chair: George W. Lester II, The Lester Group, Martinsville, Va.
- President and CEO: Jonathan Paine, NLBMDA, Washington, D.C.