Westfield Corporation, which operates 32 gigantic shopping malls across America, has announced a partnership with advertising giant R/GA and 10 startups in hopes they will “grow innovative commerce and retail ideas.”
The partnership, part of the Westfield Labs division, is a startup accelerator dubbed the Connected Commerce Accelerator that provides the 10 startups with $120,000 in funding (in exchange for up to a 5 percent equity stake in the company) and access to research, insight, data and resources from all partners of the program, which includes Macy’s, Shopify Plus, Bank of America Merchant Services and Verizon.
Westfield, R/GA and the other participating partners hope that the accelerator results in pilot tests between the startups’ new product offerings and retailers, which might help revitalize the sputtering shopping mall industry.
“Westfield Labs is thrilled to bring its leading industry expertise on the convergence of digital shopping with physical retail to this program,” Kevin McKenzie, Westfield’s global chief digital officer, said in a statement in March announcing the accelerator. “As we continue to expand on our commitment to building digital experiences that connect consumers with our retailer partners, we’re excited to enable new companies and fresh thinking to thrive as well.”
According to Recode, the startups participating in the accelerator, which is based in San Francisco, include Happy Returns, basically a company that wants to make it easier for customers to return items they purchased online at nearby malls, thus increasing the mall’s foot traffic at the same time; Oak, a company that is building interactive mirrors for fitting rooms; and a pair of startups focused on chatbots.
“Part of the goals of the program is a little bit different from an average accelerator,” Stephen Plumlee, R/GA’s managing director of ventures, told Recode. “It’s focused on actual business development and pilots.”