Minnesota is becoming the center of the Midwest’s retail tech universe

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Minnesota is home to a number of Fortune 500 retail companies like Target, Best Buy, and Supervalu. It also boasts a number of Fortune 500 companies that build out the entire retail ecosystem, including supply chain companies such as CH Robinson and CPG manufacturers such as General Mills and 3M. These companies are all within a 30-minute radius of each other, which has created a very exciting opportunity for startups looking to innovate in the retail environment.

Techstars, for example, chose to locate its now two-year-old retail accelerator in Minnesota for this very reason. And they have found that at least in some cases, incumbent retailers have proven receptive to working with retail startups.

Best Buy, headquartered just outside of Minneapolis, realized that consumers want the ability to search using natural language and by voice. So Best Buy teamed up with AddStructure, a Chicago-based startup that leverages a retailer’s product reviews to enable complex natural language and voice search. You can now say, “OK Google, search for an easy-to-clean waffle maker” and your Google Home will respond, “Here’s a summary from the website bestbuy.com.” In addition to optimizing their site to capture voice queries, Best Buy also built a skill for Amazon’s Alexa that can help you shop through natural language. The skill helps consumers conduct research, hear the deal of the day, and purchase products. Try it for yourself by saying “Alexa, talk to Best Buy.”

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