Thursday, December 20, 2012

Staples: Innovating The Multi-Channel Experience

Staples ranks as the second largest online merchant  behind Amazon.  Now it hopes to expand upon its prior success on-line.  The company hopes to provide an improved multi-channel experience for its customers.  In other words, the firm wants to meet the needs of customers no matter how they shop, while providing a seamless experience across multiple platforms and channels.   To move forward in this regard, the company has opened a new Velocity innovation lab in Cambridge, MA.  Senior Vice President Brian Tilzer explains to the purpose of the new lab:

"The vision for this center is to create a place where we can test, learn and iterate as rapidly as possible around new technologies," says Tilzer. As examples, he cited "thinking about how to leverage big data to deliver personalized experiences" and "helping consumers understand what services are available related to a particular product, like a laptop." But there will also be some blue-sky brainstorming, too, to "produce really cool stuff that's meaningful to our customers."

 The lab concept sounds very interesting, particularly when you note the location.  Staples is headquartered in Framingham, MA - in the suburbs about 15 miles west of Boston.  The lab is located in Cambridge, MA - right near where innovative partners have chosen to set up shop, including Endeca, Akamai, and Google.   The location is key to the concept in my view, because Staples understands that the cross-fertilization of ideas skyrockets when you put folks in close proximity to a number of other firms working on related issues and concepts.  It also moves these employees away from the "mother ship" so that they can think more freely, and not be trapped by the conventional wisdom and ingrained processes of the corporate center. 

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