London Tech Week: Innovation with a view

Georgina Greenspan

21 Jun 2016

Yesterday saw London Tech Week kick-off with a bang. With hundreds of events expected to take place across a wealth of London venues, it’s the perfect opportunity to go learn something new. And that’s exactly what we did at last night’s John Lewis ‘Up on the Roof’ bash. Firstly, let’s get this over with, if, like us it would seem, you’ve been living under a rock and you don’t realise, anyone can pop up to the rooftop at John Lewis. And boy, is it a delight. You’re in the middle of a busy metropolis, yet, there you are sitting on grass (we’re going to guess, not real), spotting famous tennis players on photoshoots across the way. But, on to the good stuff – the innovation. We spoke to a few people on the John Lewis team about how they embrace innovation and one thing is clear – for them at least, there’s no longer a line between on and offline. And perhaps that is what is helping them do so much more in the market. Instead of viewing both as very separate channels, John Lewis is working hard on bringing the seamless shopping experience to life. Allowing you to walk around the store and be inspired and interact with digital offerings and experiences, their aim is to bring you into a new world; one in which there is no friction and a wealth of imagination. From allowing you to dance with your teddy bear (I am devastated I missed this!) to its ‘head of design’, it’s clear that John Lewis is all about exploring what customers want – and what’s going to help them make the purchase. And how do they do all this? A small, dedicated innovation team, based in John Lewis’ flagship store who come up with ideas, build them all (from the software up) and implement them in-store. John Vary, Innovation Manager at John Lewis, told us about some of the products they’ve created, from the 3D printed furniture that you can move around and change the colour of, through to a full-on immersive Smart Home experience currently open for all to see on the fifth floor of the Oxford Circus branch. So, what did we take away from the evening? We’ve known for a long time that the emergence of digital technologies has entirely changed the shopping experience; with John Lewis’ vision we are seeing a deliberate (and we have to say sensible) shift from the lauding of technology as the high street killer, to one in which the customers immersive shopping experience is the most important factor. Many brands and retailers are similarly working on integrating technology into their retail stores, so have the tables turned and is it now up to the online players like Amazon to catch-up and invest in bricks and mortar? Time will tell.