Merchant Innovation

Kohl's Is Betting Big On In-Store Tech

Kohl's to open new locations

When you think of tech-savvy retailers, there are a few dozen names on the list before you arrive at Kohl's. The no-frills retailer knows this as much as anyone, which is why it's investing heavily into tech-centric store redesigns.

Kohl's Chief Technology Officer Ratnakar Lavu recently gave Fortune a tour of its Milpitas, California, "Digital Center" — or the top-secret location where all of the soon-to-be revealed tech innovations are being tested behind closed doors. The name of Kohl's game is digital updates to traditional in-store standards, like hologram displays instead of mannequins and social media walls instead of reviews.

Lavu didn't hint at when Kohl's locations around the country would be outfitted with such a dazzling array of tech upgrades, though he did note that it'll likely come after the retailer irons out the kinks in its eCommerce operations at the moment.

“We are really trying to optimize the use of stores in eCommerce,” Lavu told Fortune. “Once we have that, then it’s about driving the right in-store experiences.”

What specifics Lavu did have were anchored around Kohl's Pay, a digital wallet exclusive to the retailer that should see the light of the market around the 2016 holiday season. While it'll be a tough slog to really compete against some of the more established payment platforms out there, the existence of such a wallet lets Kohl's further drive traffic to and gain insights from its loyalty program, now made entirely digital.

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