is trialling an API which will allow third-party developers to hook into the supermarket's databases to develop new ways of selling Tesco merchandise. Developers will be able to join an affiliate scheme and take a commision on sales for the lifetime of the applications they generate.
The move is significant as it is the first time a major retailer has thrown open the doors to third parties to develop the platforms and channels of the future, offerings that the supermarket would otherwise have to invest in itself.
In an email to the 150 developers
who have already registered to try out Tesco.com's API, Nick Lansley, Tesco's head of R&D, said "A great new Tesco.com Grocery API is coming which will offer extended facilities and faster performance, enable you to obtain an affiliate income from the customers who use your application, and find out what customers are asking for at our T-Jam event coming soon."
The email goes on to explain how open the retailer's approach will be: "You'll be pleasantly surprised about what we will be letting you do! Price comparison? Selling your apps? Getting your users to rely on your apps? Yes, yes, yes, do whatever you like."
But there are some caveats: "All we won't let you do is portray Tesco in a bad way politically, nor store private info without customers permission, nor sell insight on to competitors from customers using your applications, nor use Tesco branded images other than those that will be provided to you, nor attempt any form of denial of service. Apart from that you can do what you like using our API."
T-Jam is an innovation day, to be held in London on 5 August, which will allow invited developers to work with other Tesco customers and creative thinkers to drive ideas and innovation, and then go on to play a part in developing those ideas and making them a success.
"This isn't a session about simply pondering the future, or giving Tesco ideas, it's about designing the future, and then getting it done, fast, to make your lives and our easier and better," says the firm. "We expect to see ideas developed at T-Jam starting to come out for real in a matter of months, or even weeks."
Anyone interested in attending T-Jam can find out more about how to get an invitation here