Coles takes notes from startups, trials hiku

Coles has launched a trial of hiku, a digital device that can help customers create a digital shopping list, as part of an experimental approach the company is taking to introduce new products.

Australian supermarket giant Coles has recognised that in order to keep up with the demand of customers, it needs to be as agile as startups are when it comes to releasing new products on the market.

Coles online general manager Mark Cripsey told ZDNet that the methodology the business is adopting is experimental, as he believes that in order to get an idea out into the market, it needs to happen quickly to see if it works.

"We're at a time now where we're trying to learn from startups. We're looking at lots of different ways to generate value for our customers. In digital, we can't wait one or two years. Our customers are changing, and we have to try things out quickly," he said.

In light of this, Coles has begun a two-month trial of hiku, a digital device that can help customers create a digital shopping list. Developed by a California-based startup, hiku has in-built voice recognition and a barcode scanner, and it is being trialled by 50 Coles Online customers. The digital shopping lists that are created can then be brought in-store with items classified by aisles for easier navigation, or the items can be transferred into a customer's Coles Online shopping cart.

Cripsey believes that trials such as hiku are about helping customers find value in a quick way.

"If it works, we'll invest more, and maybe take it to market. But to be frank, if it doesn't resonate with our customers, we'll stop it and do something else. That's quite a different approach for typically big companies.

"We had one or two really passionate team members who would have after-work projects that they were really passionate about. So what I've done is coupled some passion with a startup, with some executive backing, with working some of our partners such as Accenture -- where we're tapping into their technology labs in Silicon Valley -- and we've done this very quickly.

"We've got something good enough to get to put into the hands of our customers and team members, and we'll learn from it over the next few weeks and months."

According to Cripsey, other trials that have been successful in the past for Coles were its recipe-to-cart function as part of a partnership with, and Click and Collect.