Walmart Canada Launches an Incubator and Unboxes Collaborative Engagements at Collision

Booth visitors could watch mini presentations on innovation via retro ViewFinders.

It came as a surprise to many when Walmart Canada made an appearance at the Collision conference in Toronto, North America’s fastest-growing technology event. And that’s exactly why the brand showed up.

Walmart has a solid track record when it comes to innovation, from its supercenter concepts to membership models to expanding online grocery shopping. But exposure to that side of the business has been minimal. Exhibiting at Collision, this year June 20-23, was a strategic way to amplify its story among 35,000-plus forward-thinking professionals. The event was also used as a launchpad for Walmart Canada’s new incubator, Blue Labs, and as an opportunity to offer 120 lucky retail associates an “outside-in” perspective on how other companies ideate.

The brand kicked things off with a media preview event, and a presence at Collision’s invitation-only Corporate Innovation Summit. There, Michon Williams, Walmart Canada’s vp of technology, led a roundtable on technological innovation and hiring the next generation of talent, plus a masterclass on regenerative technology. Later in the week, Suresh Kumar, cto at Walmart Global Tech, delivered an on-stage presentation at the conference that included news on the launch of a new cloud platform.

meta-cannes-2022-footprint-luke-hayes-photo-cred_teaserMore B-to-B Event Insights:

On the show floor, Walmart and Blue Labs appealed to attendees with a booth designed as a supersized version of a Walmart shipping box, opened at both ends, and accompanied by “Thinking Outside the Box” messaging. Stats on global retail problems, details on Walmart innovations and calls to action lined the footprint (think: “Each year, six billion pounds of waste goes to landfill due to returned items. Help us solve one of the biggest challenges to regeneration.”), along with presentations that could be watched on retro ViewMasters. In addition, visitors were invited to participate in daily challenges that prompted them to weigh in on what the future of retail looks like, and what kinds of innovation and tech will fuel it, through a sticky note wall where they could post their ideas.

“It wasn’t just about us being there to tell our story, but to welcome people into big Walmart and potentially give them the opportunity to partner with us on ideas or potential solutions they may have,” says Lee Jeyes, head of innovation at Walmart Canada and at Blue Labs. “It kept the booth dynamic. Every single day there was a different challenge, so it gave people reasons to come back and reengage with us.”

Walmart Canada_Collision 2022_1_by Carlos Osorio

The shipping box-inspired footprint was designed as much for collaboration as it was for education.

Another popular touchpoint: Roll-up-your-sleeves-style strategy sessions led by Walmart and Blue Labs, all powered by straightforward collaboration tools, like whiteboards. And then there was the large QR code within the booth that SMEs scanned to access a platform where they could share their solutions to the business challenges Blue Labs is currently tackling. More than 1,300 people ultimately submitted their applications for a chance to co-create with the think tank.

“The interactive nature of the booth was a big takeaway that we’ll keep doing,” says Jeyes. “As we come out of the pandemic and go back to events, a lot of times, I’m reflecting on: How much of this could I have done remotely, now? How much true value am I getting from being here in person? So the more you can make it interactive and create an experience that you just can’t do remotely, the better.” Agency: Kubik.

Photo credit: Carlos Osorio; Harry Murphy/Collision

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
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