KEY POINTS

FGRT attended the XRC Labs Cohort 5 Launch event in New York City on January 16. XRC Labs is an innovation accelerator that runs two 14-week programs each year. The nine emerging startups in its fifth cohort provide retail solutions designed to improve the customer experience using artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, spatial recognition and other technologies.

  • Pano Anthos, Founder and Managing Director of XRC Labs, spoke about the evolution of the program over the past two years. More than 300 companies applied to be part of the program in 2018 and 48 companies from the first four cohorts are still in business today.
  • Anthos described how the accelerator program continues to evolve and grow through partnerships and collaborations. XRC Labs partnered with the National Retail Federation (NRF) on the Innovation Lab at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show, which ran January 14–16. The space included an exhibit area dedicated to showcasing 25 startups and a stage that was home to panel discussions and sessions on retail technology.
  • The retail store format continues to evolve and retail remains in a state of change, Anthos noted. He said that stores are evolving in five key ways: they are mobilizing to serve consumers through flexible formats, offering unique experiences, operating as platforms, operating as services for consumers and operating as factories where consumers can purchase items on demand.
  • Each of the nine companies in XRC Labs’ fifth cohort presented a two-minute overview of their retail technology solution at the launch event. Standouts included Convrg, maker of an AI-powered chatbot that aims to reduce returns through upselling, and LexSet, an interior design visualization tool that uses AI.

The XRC Labs Cohort 5 Launch event was filled to capacity and it capped off a three-day collaboration between XRC Labs and the NRF, which worked together to present the Innovation Lab at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show. The Innovation Lab space at the trade show featured 25 retail technology startups and was the site of panel discussions and sessions on retail technology.

XRC Labs is evolving, and 48 companies from the first four cohorts are still in business.

Pano Anthos, Founder and Managing Director of XRC Labs, spoke about the evolution of the XRC Labs program over the past two years. More than 300 companies applied to the program in 2018 and 48 companies from the first four cohorts are still in business, he said. Anthos said that the top trends from this year’s applications included AI, manufacturing, supply chain visibility, blockchain, computer vision, self-checkout, beauty, female-focused products, augmented reality and neuro-linguistic programming.

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XRC Labs continues to grow through partnerships and collaborations.

Anthos said that the XRC Labs program continues to evolve and grow through partnerships and collaborations. XRC Labs partnered with the NRF on the Innovation Lab at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show, which ran January 14–16. The space included an exhibit area dedicated to 25 startups and a stage where panel discussions and sessions on retail technology were held. The Innovation Lab was one of the most highly trafficked areas at the show, and almost all of the panel sessions were standing room only. Anthos moderated panels on emerging retail technologies, AI, robotics and trends in retail solutions during the conference.

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The store format continues to evolve and retail remains in a state of change.

Anthos said that retail store closures hit an all-time high in 2017 because retailers are slow to change. Retail innovation is slow compared with technological innovation, he said, but the industry is indeed changing. Anthos noted that stores are evolving in five key ways: they are mobilizing to serve consumers through flexible formats, offering unique experiences, operating as platforms, operating as services for consumers and operating as factories where consumers can purchase items on demand.

The nine companies in XRC Labs’ fifth cohort each presented a two-minute overview of their retail technology solution at the launch event.

Carly-Ann Fergus, the new Program Director of XRC Labs, introduced the nine participating companies, which each presented a two-minute overview of their retail technology solution. Standouts included Convrg, maker of an AI-powered chatbot that aims to reduce returns through upselling, and LexSet, a B2B object recognition solution for interior design that aims to help consumers select furniture that will fit, both aesthetically and physically, into their home. A brief overview of the nine companies in the XRC Labs fifth cohort is presented below.

Convrg created an AI-powered chatbot and voice experience platform that helps retailers convert returns into sales by upselling. Cofounder and CEO Audrey Wu said that more than 92% of consumers polled in a 2017 survey reported that they would purchase another product from the same retailer if the return process were simple. Convrg aims to build conversational experiences through brands’ and retailers’ websites, messaging apps, and voice assistants to help consumers through the return process with personalized upselling, with the end goal of increasing the retailer’s revenue.

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Field-Test is a platform that aims to bridge the offline and online worlds by empowering shoppers to see and save purchases they discover in-store to a virtual wish list without the use of an app. CEO and Founder Melissa Gonzales described Field-Test as “the shortest and friendliest route to purchase a product.” Gonzalez said that the company has developed an intelligent shopping and checkout solution that allows consumers to transition through shopping channels without needing to download any apps. With its partner, mall owner GGP, the company went live last fall. It has provided its solution to 15 retail brands so far.

Hemster integrates basic hemming services into the sales process at brick-and-mortar clothing stores by providing consumers with self-fitting kits. Founder and CEO Allison Lee said that traditional small, medium and large sizes do not fit most consumers, so the company’s goal is to customize the shopping experience based on the shopper’s fit. Hemster is partnering with major mall owners, including Simon Property Group, Westfield and Macerich.

KiraKira3D is a mobile 3D design community that is targeted to Gen Z women. Founder and CEO Suz Somersall described KiraKira3D as a “virtual Etsy” that helps turn consumers into designers. The company provides tools for girls and women who do not have engineering backgrounds or access to software that enables them to design, share and 3D print creations. KiraKira3D is partnering with HP and Autodesk.

LexSet is an integrated B2B solution that provides AI-powered object recognition, spatial search, product assembly assistance and automated surface tiling for online furniture and home supply consumers. Founder and CEO Leslie Karpas said that LexSet is out to democratize interior design by giving consumers confidence in their decision-making process. He said that LexSet differs from other available solutions in that it uses AI to interpret, in 3D, the space of a consumer’s house, and then makes furniture recommendations based on the items that are best suited for that space. The company holds 38 patents.

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Monolith is an in-store decision-making platform that enables retailers to optimize and automate their decision making using real-time, actionable insights. CEO Martin Birac said that Monolith’s platform helps retailers determine which in-store layouts will be most inspiring. The solution helps retailers maximize revenue by focusing on the customer experience to make stores more shoppable. Monolith is working with Nike, Timberland, Foot Locker, Audi and Jaguar.

NewCoX is an in-mall logistics platform that aims to transform the mall into a cost-effective logistics hub. The company works with mall-based retailers and parcel carriers to enable them to process more volume with existing inventory, people and assets. Founder Bill Thayer said that the company focuses on in-mall logistics and aggregating demand in malls to maximize scheduling and delivery, freeing up retailers to focus on service.

Reefill provides an eco-friendly, low-cost option for hydration on the go through a network of water stations in local urban businesses. Cofounder Jason Pessel said that Americans are addicted to bottled water and that they spend $38 billion on it each year. Reefill aims to reduce that figure through a monthly subscription service through which customers can gain access to unlimited chilled and filtered water for less than $2.00 per month.

Viveat is a software-as-a-service platform that connects physical products to the web. Founder and CEO Marcello Gamberale described the company’s offering as a smart tagging solution that creates smart assets. The solution is a web-based ID that enables transparency and visibility throughout the supply chain through smart tags applied to packaging. Viveat focuses on the “Internet of everything” because physical products are still the connector between consumers and brands, Gamberale said.

 


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