- Shipt announced at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show conference in New York City the creation of its new Innovation Lab to focus on “big thinking” delivery and product experiments to meet the needs of retailers, CPGs and customers. The innovations the lab is currently prioritizing include new delivery frontiers like drones, digitizing end caps with its “Cool Finds” program and monetizing virtual experiences through platforms like Roblox.
- “Innovation is a growth opportunity because we can make people more connected to us” for both existing and new customers, Shipt Vice President of Innovation and New Ventures Jon Fahrner said in an interview.
- The Target-owned e-commerce company also announced Tuesday that applications are open for the second year of its retail business accelerator LadderUp, with double the number of participating cities from last year.
The Innovation Lab has taken what once was a “scrappy,” small team focused on innovation and made it part of Shipt’s larger growth team, Fahrner said.
The Innovation Lab consists of people with “world-class experience” with backgrounds at companies like Zappos, and eBay, Fahrner said. Being part of that bigger team now gives the innovation team more people to collaborate with as well as access to more resources.
“We’re just trying to imagine the future and then accelerate toward it,” Fahrner said.
In announcing the Innovation Lab, Shipt highlighted some of its previous experiments, including working last year with online gaming developer Voldex for a back-to-school shopping immersion in Roblox’s popular racing experience, Driving Empire. That teamwork generated more than 5 million engagements in the first two weeks.
Shipt also spotlighted its “Cool Finds” program where recommendations by its personal shoppers fuel product discovery for its customers, leading to larger baskets and greater customer visibility into new items. Fahrner said “Cool Finds” is “reimagining the end cap” in the digital space.
Shipt has long emphasized the relationship-building between its personal shoppers and customers, such as launching in 2021 the ability for consumers to designate their favorite personal shoppers, who will then get prioritized to handle future orders. The Innovation Lab continues to build on the Target-owned e-commerce company’s efforts to lean into the power of human connections through more digital tools.
“We think the human part is our differentiator,” Fahrner said.
Shipt launched LadderUp last February, describing it as an effort to help boost small retailers. The initiative stemmed from the commitments the company made at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in 2022.
For the 2023 cohort, Shipt sought local businesses in Atlanta; Detroit; Houston; Birmingham, Alabama; and Washington, D.C., ultimately picking 10 to participate after reviewing hundreds of applications.
The participants then completed an eight-week course led by retail industry leaders on how to improve sustainable growth, their financial foundations, efficiency and marketing as well as received information on how to use e-commerce with Shipt. They also received $5,000 for e-commerce investments and free access to Shopify’s platform for a limited time.
For 2024, Shipt is again seeking retailers from Birmingham, Detroit and Houston as well as ones in Boston; Minneapolis; Chicago; Charlotte, North Carolina; Miami; Tampa, Florida; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.