The Buzz: Interns to Innovators
The opening of innovation labs and technology centers has been a trend in the retail industry for a few years now. Leading brands such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Nordstrom, CVS and others have all opened digital innovation labs within the last few years — most of them in Silicon Valley to take advantage of the abundant tech talent in that area. Kohl’s is no exception, having opened its digital center in Milpitas, Calif., in April 2013. All of these retailers are trying to be at the forefront of digital technology so they can better engage today’s tech-savvy consumers.
In that quest, Kohl’s is turning to an unlikely source to find inspiration: interns. This past summer, 20 college interns specializing in various technology fields worked at Kohl’s digital center to learn first-hand about the increasingly important role technology plays in retail. It’s a win-win situation: the interns get valuable on-the-job training, while Kohl’s gets an up-close-and-personal look at potential job candidates. The retailer plans to double the size of its digital center staff this year, from 100 full-time associates to 200.
“Kohl’s is looking for candidates who are excited to work in a fast-paced, innovative space,” says Jen Johnson, vice president, corporate communications at the department store chain. “Innovative ideas are possible in many aspects of developing the customer experience, from cutting-edge, customer-facing technologies to operational systems. We’re looking for candidates who bring ideas and energy into making all aspects of digital shopping with Kohl’s a fun and engaging experience.”
On July 23, Kohl’s digital technology interns took part in the retailer’s Intern Innovate-a-Thon. The students were divided into teams and given an open-ended retail challenge. Finalists had a chance to present their ideas to Kohl’s technology executives.
“The Innovate-a-Thon provided an opportunity for Kohl’s interns to flex their innovative muscles and demonstrate their best ideas to make the customer interaction on Kohl’s digital channels engaging and exciting,” Johnson says.
What emerged from the Innovate-a-Thon were creative ideas on how to improve upon and leverage augmented reality, crowdsourcing and digital wallets. The working prototypes were presented to a senior leadership panel for review and further consideration.
Kohl’s digital center, its summer internship program and Innovate-a-Thon are poised to play an important role in the retailer’s future.
“Technology and innovation play important roles at Kohl’s and support our commitment to inspiring our customers with incredible savings, personalized connections and an easy shopping experience that allows them to shop the way they want,” says Johnson.