Most shoppers know Kohl’s as a place for clothing, housewares, and jewelry, but robots? While the company does currently include small electronic appliances and toys among its wares, it’s minimal compared to the tech investment that’s happening far from store shelves.


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Kohl’s is aiming to foster technology that could make them competitive with corporate innovators like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.

Further, they’re not the only company taking this approach. Will the brick and mortar department chain also become a source for robotics and automation?

Credit: Phillip Pessar

From A Site Update To Billions In Tech Research
When you’re ready to start exploring the possibilities of tech, it helps to have the right neighbors. That’s why it may come as no surprise that Kohl’s new investments started by moving part of their IT team from Wisconsin to Silicon Valley.

What started as mission to boost online sales, revamp Kohl’s website, and automate some of the company’s processes, eventually became a digital hub of 200 employees working of drones, robots, self-driving vehicles, RFID tags and more.

Kohl’s has invested $1 billion over a three year period to keep their tech research and development competitive with web-based giants.

Credit: Official GDC

Customers Become Accustom To Innovation
In addition to staying competitive, Kohl’s appears to be looking ahead to the day when their average customer will be expecting a tech driven shopping experience and access to innovative products. They also join other familiar retail names that have created their own innovation labs, such as Target, Staples, Ikea, and Lowe’s.

Shoppers are not only shopping online more than ever before—and through mobile browsers and gaming systems—they may soon be making purchases through new technology like Facebook Oculus or Microsoft HoloLens.

There’s also a growing demand for automated shipping and delivery that gets the virtually purchased goods to their real-world destination. This has created a cutthroat race to be the first company to employ autonomous order fulfillment.

Customers that still prefer to do their shopping in-person haven’t been overlooked though. Retailers have already started exploring the use of robots and digital retail interfaces to assist shoppers as they browse and purchase, and to work among employees for restocking, managing inventory, and other behind the scenes tasks.

With all this is mind, perhaps it’s not so strange to hear that same store where you shop for sheets and socks could also be developing the next big breakthrough technology.

What are your thoughts on growing tech investments from companies that were once just retail?

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