R/GA announced the R/GA Commerce Accelerator in partnership with Westfield Labs, the global digital lab that is an entity of Westfield Corp. The accelerator is accepting through May 23 applications from growth-stage and early-stage start-ups that could propel the retail industry squarely into the digital age.
R/GA and Westfield are hoping to discover up to 10 start-ups that will help redefine the mall/in-store experience and enhance consumers’ engagement with brands at any stage of the transaction process, among other things.
Westfield said the start-ups could help power its $10.5 billion development pipeline, which includes projects such as the World Trade Center in Manhattan and centers in Los Angeles, Milan and London.
Start-ups selected to participate in the 90-day accelerator program will receive $120,000 in exchange for up to 5 percent equity. They’ll also get input from program partners, including Macy’s, Shopify Plus, Bank of America Merchant Services and Verizon. A series of four roundtable discussions will be held with the program partners and third-party experts from around the world.
The start-ups will also have access to Bespoke, a 40,000-square-foot space at Westfield San Francisco that combines co-working areas, demonstration areas and pop-up shops “where [companies] can collect feedback from consumers and fine-tune their products,” said Kevin McKenzie, global chief digital officer of Westfield Corp.
Jonathan Bradley, director of R/GA Accelerators and a partner in R/GA Ventures, said the commerce accelerator differs from traditional accelerator funds because it can partner with later-stage and growth-stage companies. “We’re going for companies that are prepared and have the ability to begin piloting,” he said. “We’re still looking at early stage companies, but we want companies that have traction and have businesses.”
Other areas Westfield is seeking to innovate include mobile commerce, payments, merchandising, customer service, analytics, CRM and loyalty, block chain, point-of-sale and delivery and distribution. “Virtual reality is starting to become really interesting,” McKenzie said.
Bradley cited conversational commerce and social commerce and how applications like WeChat, which has partnered with retailers and other applications to embed commerce opportunities within social conversations. For example if two friends are texting about going out to dinner, the WeChat app would pop up and suggest a restaurant where a reservation has been made for two. “It involves all technologies, natural language detection and artificial intelligence is represented,” Bradley said.
The accelerator program will start on Aug. 1 and end in late October with an invitation-only “demo day” where start-ups will present their ideas to investors and industry leaders from across the retail, e-commerce and technology industries.