Retail Innovation Tech Alliance (RITA), consisting of X5 Retail Group, Beeline, M.Video-Eldorado Group, and Hoff summed up the results of the first stage of the scouting program. As part of the selection of startups, 395 applications were received from 17 countries (Russia, Belarus, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Israel, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, USA, Serbia, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia). The volume of applications received 4 times exceeded the program plan. 15 startups reached the finals and participated in the online Deal Flow Session with the RITA experts. GoTech Innovation was the scouting operator in Russia and the CIS.More
What benefits do you see for HOFF from participating in RITA?
Our company is in the midst of a digital transformation. Innovation has always been in the focus of attention for us. We can distinguish two vectors of this strategy: improving customer experience through digitalization and new technologies and increasing internal efficiency through process automation.
The idea of RITA brings together companies seeking technology solutions. Separately, this is more difficult. Of course, each member of the alliance has its own needs for innovation. On the other hand, as you get deeper into the issue, you understand that many processes are the same for companies, and it is just interesting to transfer experience from one industry to another. Thus, the alliance becomes a platform not only for the search for innovative projects, but also for the exchange of interesting ideas, experiences and solutions between its members.
Have you already had experience in finding and implementing innovative projects?
In the middle of last year, we internally identified a dedicated activity for scouting innovations. It was decided to implement the innovation funnel approach: an innovation manager collects needs from business units, then based on this information searches for solutions, and the best ones are submitted to the investment committee, which selects projects for the pilots. We are looking for solutions not only among startups, but also among medium-sized and large companies.
The first funnel cycle took about three months. We summed up its results recently, in February. Four projects were selected for piloting, all in different directions: HR, e-commerce, retail and customer service. Among the solutions are visual search on websites through recognition of customer photos or images of similar products, robotic communications with the client, audio badges, gamification in employee training.
What solutions will be of your interest in the first RITA selection?
We have prioritized three areas that are relevant at the moment: online trading, remote communication with clients and automatic interior design. Solutions should allow the company to increase sales or optimize its costs.
Is there any specificity in your industry that needs to be considered for projects that would like to work with HOFF?
Specificity is determined by our business line. Selling furniture is not easy. Therefore, we have a wide variety of business processes. A boutique approach in sales, as personal consultations are important, effective but sophisticated logistics, a strong service component and after-sales service, and a powerful call center. All these are our strengths and our specificity.
What qualities of projects and their representatives will HOFF pay special attention to?
Integrity is important: a skilled team, commercial use of technology, scaling.
The technology must be mature enough so that it can be implemented and applied directly in our company. For example, there are solutions for 3D printing of furniture parts. However, for now it is not yet technologically feasible to produce those elements that we need using a 3D printer. But we do not say that we do not want to be pioneers. It is important for us to be sure that the chosen solution will bring benefits for business processes and customer experience.
Another important criterion is scalability. We are not interested in solutions for one store, they should be suitable for implementation throughout the network. Therefore, it is necessary to understand whether the project is scalable, if it has the capacity and financial capabilities for this.
It is ideal, but not essential, for the solution to be ready for implementation not only in our stores, but also among RITA partners. If it is universal, then its value and economic efficiency are noticeably increasing for everyone.
We are also ready to consider solutions that have no implementation experience yet. However, if we choose between two identical projects, then those with successful cases will have an advantage.
What will be the benefits for projects from cooperation with HOFF?
They get access to our business processes. If they successfully implement their project with us, then they will also succeed with others. The HOFF concept includes all retail formats: an advanced online store, a classic hypermarket, custom sales, and a strong service component. Innovative projects in our case have a unique opportunity to prove their capabilities in a single place on a variety of business processes.