An Inside Look at the Leading Role of Research in our Incubation Process
(Part 2 of our 'How We Do Research' series)
At Store No. 8, we’re in the business of incubating companies in order to develop leapfrog capabilities which we believe will be critical to the future of retail, and therefore the future of Walmart. To do so, we leverage a six step incubation process but with research at its core. Research helps us create a proprietary point of view as to where the world is going, motivated by our vision to be the force driving commerce forward.
So how do we start? We begin with a hypothesis, a vision or idea of a long term strategic asset that will benefit our customers and the Walmart ecosystem, in the future. We have a unique opportunity to make a positive impact on a massive scale for the 160 million Americans who shop Walmart every week. We want to be ready for all the new ways and new touchpoints that customers will engage with brands and shop in the future. That vision involves imagining what success will look like on that scale, and then working backwards to create it. It’s not the ‘now’ that drives us forward, but the potential of what a capability could be, allowing us to envision the white space...the leapfrog.
Our research process is not traditional. We don’t just hit the books and sit behind a screen and read; we get into the wild to learn! We study the market: attending conferences, talking to other industry experts, and continuously evaluating how a capability could manifest. We also make a concerted effort to spend time with a diverse mix of people together in a room saying ‘what if.’ We push the boundaries of our imaginations and bounce ideas off each other. Applied research helps us create this vision. We think about where commerce is going and what the future of retail will look like 5-10+ years out. From there, we go back to the beginning. The research strategy that Store No. 8 executes allows us to go deeper into understanding the capabilities of the now so we can better color outside the lines for the future. Our goal is to fully understand where a technology is from a development standpoint, when it will be ready for prime time, and gauge how that capability meshes with our corporate strategy and our core competencies. With our obligation to understand the true potential of a next-gen capability and to have a vision for what it can be, research plays a vital role in our approach to incubation.
Store No. 8 has a unique point of view on time; in our world, today is so yesterday. The research we do helps lay a foundation and serves as the building blocks that get us to a future state. It helps us understand nuances of a certain technology so we can form an opinion on whether we need to build, buy or partner. The critical importance placed on the what, why and how keeps us clear-headed and focused— poised for success and transforming the retail experience of the future.
Look out for the third and final part of our ‘Incubation and the Role of Research’ series, A candid conversation with Anna Harman, Director of New Ventures and Rachel Reid, Associate, New Ventures. We’ll really dive deeper into our research process: the who, what, where, and how of how Store No. 8 researches “out in the wild.”