Shopping centre group Intu has linked with seven start-ups to try new ways of complementing bricks and mortar with digital technology.
Intu, which owns shopping centres such as Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Gateshead’s Metrocentre, will test and develop products and services ranging from secure delivery of shoppers’ purchases to their cars, to customer insight and multiplayer games.
The start-ups were chosen from 97 entrants to Intu’s Accelerate incubator programme, which is now in its second year and run in partnership with specialist investor L Marks.
The project is running in Intu’s 14 shopping centres over 10 weeks.
The rise of online and multichannel shopping, combined with the cost pressures associated with trading from bricks and mortar, are revolutionising retail and have contributed to a raft of CVAs.
By forging relationships with tech innovators, Intu aims to find new ways of bridging the online and offline worlds.
Intu Digital managing director Karen Harris said the scheme allowed the mall owner to identify technology that enables it and retail occupiers to better cater for shoppers.
She said: “You need to test as quickly as you can with a live audience. When you’ve done that you really know where, or where not, to invest.
“The ideal is that something gets traction and you invest in them or bring them on board.”
Intu invited entries for categories such as ‘events with a difference’, ‘virtual shopping assistants’ and a ‘wildcard’ category designed to bring in unexpected innovations.
Intu chief executive David Fischel said: “Together with these creative businesses, we’re developing answers to many of the questions facing our customers and retailers today.”
CarTap, which provides secure access to vehicles to deliver shoppers’ bags straight to their cars
Grid Edge, which saves money and reduces carbon emissions by using artificial intelligence to control energy usage
Rhythm, which creates multiplayer games for big screens that connect companies with crowds
WeFiFo, an online marketplace that connects amateur and professional chefs with paying guests
Greendeck, which uses AI to help fashion brands and retailers automatically classify products into categories and attributes
Yosh.Ai, a virtual assistant that provides a personal shopping service
Roialty, a marketing platform that turns anonymous social media data into customer insight