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Staples opens innovation lab to drive mobile opportunities


Staples has opened an innovation lab to expedite the delivery of  mobile and online solutions designed to enhance the shopping experience.

The Velocity Lab office, which is located in Cambridge, MA, is already responsible for developing a mobile-only flash sales promotion offered by Staples on Black Friday. The lab will be responsible for designing and implementing innovative new ecommerce and mobile solutions across Staples global business units.

“While Staples already has a mobile Web site, smartphone app and tablet site, we continue to look for ways we can connect with customers on the go,” said Brian Tilzer, senior vice president of global ecommerce at Staples, Framingham, MA.

“We look at mobile as a way to serve up unique offers and services to customers, like our recent Black Friday mobile only flash sales, a project which was developed by a team in our Velocity Lab,” he said.

“Mobile is also a channel of innovation that allows us to explore new avenues in e-commerce, all with the end goal in mind of solving customer pain points at their time of need.”

Investing in mobile
The news comes as Staples embarks on a strategic plan to better serve the needs of its customers and accelerate growth by integrating its retail and online offerings. Additionally, Staples is increasing investment in online and mobile capabilities to provide business customers with a seamless multi-channel shopping experience.

The Velocity Lab from Staples is the latest example of how big box retailers are looking to tap into the innovative atmosphere in high-tech hot spots such as Cambridge, MA, and Silicon Valley with outposts of their own.

Walmart is doing something similar with its WalmartLabs in San Bruno, CA. This innovation and data arm of Walmart is focused on creating mobile and social solutions that support a multichannel retail strategy.

Staples’ Velocity Lab can house up to 75 associates and features an open floor plan, collaboration space, telepresence capabilities and hoteling options for visiting employees and guests.

“Staples is investing in capabilities that will let us provide a superior multi-channel shopping experience through the use of our Web sites, mobile assets and stores,” Mr. Tilzer said. “Staples Velocity Lab is vital to developing these capabilities, as it provides a space to allow our teams to not only think creatively, but cross-functionally as well.

“By opening an office in Cambridge, separate from our corporate headquarters, we can also diversify the talent we’re bringing to Staples, which is key because we’re committed to not only finding the world’s best e-commerce and IT minds, but in creating an environment for them that stimulates innovation and new ways of thinking,” he said.

Driving convenience
Staples is also using the Velocity Lab to host groups of students from top universities in the area to collaborate on research and innovation projects.

Staples has been active in the mobile space and was one of the first retailers to offer a dedicated tablet site, It also offers a smartphone app and mobile site,

“Staples understands the importance of allowing customers to shop where, when and how it’s convenient for them,” Mr. Tilzer said. “Whether in-store or on-the-go, we know that more and more customers are turning to their mobile devices.

“We also view mobile as an additional channel that lets us get that much closer to the customer and allows us to provide added value anytime and anywhere,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York