SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Old-line retailers are opening tech test labs in Silicon Valley:
WAL-MART STORES INC.
Headquarters: Bentonville, Ark.
Lab(s): 1,200 workers at its tech office in Bruno, Calif., which opened in 2011. Smaller tech labs in Carlsbad, Calif., Portland, Oregon, and Bangalore. Opening another in Sunnyvale in January.
PROJECTS: Rebuilt the web site's search engine to make it easier and faster for shoppers to find products. Developed mobile app to help guide shoppers to products and track customers' spending based on a predetermined budget.
PERKS: Pool ping pong tables.
Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minn.
Lab(s): 20 employees at a tech lab that opened in May in the historic Folgers Coffee Company building in San Francisco.
PROJECTS: Looking into how wearable gadgets like smartwatches can be used in the store.
PERKS: Free munchies and a Nerf basketball net.
Headquarters: Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Lab(s): Opened a tech office in April in Milpitas, Calif., with 40 employees.
PROJECTS: Restructuring its online business.
PERKS: A pool table and free coffee and tea.
AMERICAN EAGLE OUTFITTERS INC.
Headquarters: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Lab(s): Tech center in San Francisco opened in July with 20 people. It plans to hire 30 more by year's end.
PROJECTS: It's consolidating personal data of its shoppers from email campaigns and loyal programs to better customize offers.
PERKS: Free munchies.
Headquarters: West Chester, Pa.
Lab(s): Purchased San Mateo, Calif.-based Oodle, a social classified ads firm, in December 2012 and is developing its presence in social media around the startup.
PROJECTS: Last month, it launched a new social shopping channel, which takes its inspiration from social media site Pinterest.
PERKS: Foosball table.
Headquarters: Framingham, Mass.
Lab(s): Opening several hubs in Cambridge, Mass., Seattle, and San Mateo, Calif., each with its own particular expertise. The three combined will have about 150 employees by year's end.
PROJECTS: Last month, unveiled a new web site for smartphones that's faster.
PERKS: The Seattle office will allow employees to bring pets to work; the Mateo hub has a pool table; and there's a golf net and golf balls in the Cambridge office.