The retail industry is constantly evolving. Most game-changing advances relate to logistics, automation, and management and remain hidden from the public eye. Others, however, such as improving customer experience and the introduction of autonomous stores, have garnered much media fanfare and given a rare insight into the perpetual innovation that happens behind the scenes of your local convenience store.
Among the most proactive innovators in the industry is the Żabka Group – the ultimate convenience ecosystem in Poland, with over 9,000 brick-and-mortar stores and an app that boasts more than 10 million downloads and 6 million users. With more than 50 Żabka Nano stores, Żabka Group is also Europe's largest autonomous store chain and is on track to leapfrog Amazon as the leader in autonomous convenience.
Żabka Group's ambition is to develop the ultimate convenience ecosystem of the future and become a leading global retailer. This has led the Group to the very frontier of the startup world. Here, it seeks to tap into nascent innovations through its Venture Studio and various accelerator programs, including the 2nd edition of its flagship Żabka Future Lab, which is currently open for applications.
A prime example of startup-corporate collaboration
Employing the latest public technologies is no longer sufficient to gain a competitive edge in the retail industry – it's become a baseline. Instead, to push the boundaries and be the first to reap the rewards of a blossoming tech scene, companies such as Żabka Group are injecting support as early as the development stage by taking the brightest ideas and testing their worth.
Take Omniaz, for example. Omniaz is an end-to-end augmented reality solution for retail, that uses AR to merge online and offline shopping experience. For Żabka Group, working with Omniaz was an opportunity to enhance the customer experience in Żabka Nano autonomous stores, by offering them personalized in-store gaming experiences, like collecting coins, available on their phones thanks to augmented reality.
For Omniaz, on the other hand, the opportunity to be at the forefront of a developing trend is priceless – autonomous stores are steadily rising in numbers, albeit slowly. And by collaborating with a leader in the field, the accelerator program offered a unique and exciting use case for their technology. Both companies conducted their first pilot in 2022, which resulted in an NPS of 90%. In 2023 they will continue with the second pilot, with a larger customer base.
“Żabka is a great partner for driving cutting-edge retail solutions and making them a reality in the actual store - the cooperation has accelerated the time from test to full store integration by 10 times. As part of the acceleration program in autumn 2021, Żabka chose us as a partner and from the start worked with us towards a long-term collaboration in line with their business KPIs and our product vision. The team at Venture Studio are both hands-on but also give you a lot of room for decision making and know exactly how to support and shape your product along the way”, says Łukasz Piotrowski, CEO & Founder of Omniaz.
Working with a corporate partner unlocks a lot of doors for startups, particularly early-stage ones whose biggest concern is validating their ideas and securing the funding to do so. By offering massive reach and access to industry experts, corporate accelerators let founders fast-track the more tedious parts of product development, speeding things up in a way that non-corporate accelerators rarely can.
For instance, the Żabka Future Lab accelerator allows tech companies to not only test their products at scale with nearly 3 million consumers using Żabka Group’s services daily, but also offer R&D support, decades of expertise, access to an established network, investment, and, last but not least, publicity – all key necessities for startups looking to take their ideas to the next stage.
Żabka Future Lab: applications are open
Żabka Future Lab is the flagship acceleration program of Żabka Group, looking for innovative tech companies that can contribute to the company's global aspirations.
The 2nd edition of the accelerator has five main areas of focus: retail logistics & supply chain, the future of work, transforming Żabka Group into a worldwide retailer, consumer of tomorrow, and omnichannel retail experience. Ambitious teams with solutions in these areas are invited to apply by March 15, 2023, and can do so, as well as learn more about the program, here.
To qualify for consideration, your startup should:
- Have a working prototype
- Be ready to validate your tech and your business
- Have a team located in Europe or the Middle East
- Have a defined target group of recipients, aligned with the Żabka Group’s stakeholders
Notably, existing traction for your product isn't a prerequisite.
Of the applicants, up to 10 will be shortlisted for a Pitch Day, where they will present their ideas to a panel of experts. These experts will then select up to five ideas with the highest potential to enter the accelerator program, which starts in April and lasts two and a half months.
On a constant lookout
Venture Studio, the Żabka Group's main vehicle for seeking innovations, is constantly looking for other startups and tech companies that could contribute to expanding the Group’s convenience ecosystem. Be it optimising operations or enhancing the offer for consumers, partnerships aren't limited to the Group's accelerator programs.
"We work closely with startups to bring innovative solutions to retail. We support companies that are designing unconventional solutions for e-commerce, q-commerce, and D2C. We share our expertise to help young entrepreneurs test their ideas, reduce the risk of failure, and bring their products to market. Our Venture Studio is all about supporting innovators, searching for new business opportunities, and building relationships within the startup community. We aim to contribute to Żabka Group's strategy of sustainable growth and drive innovation in retail", said Karol Gajewicz, Head of Venture Studio.
Moreover, when it comes to innovation, the opportunities are endless, as evidenced by Żappka, the chain's mobile app that was launched in 2019. Its multifaceted set of features – a loyalty program, personalised offers, an in-built payment system, parcel management, a tamagotchi-like frog that gamifies interaction with the brand, and more – all point to the company's determination to lay claim to the title of the ultimate convenience ecosystem and serve as a testament to its innovative spirit.
That is all to say – if you're a founder or tech entrepreneur with an idea for improving retail, Żabka Group will welcome you with open arms. Because unlike most companies touting their love for innovation, Żabka Group has the track record to prove it.
Don't miss the opportunity to participate in the Żabka Future Lab accelerator – apply here by March 15, 2023.