Retail Innovation: 11 Retailers That Nailed It

retail innovation

In an ever-changing consumer market and a world dominated by technology, retailers must put their best foot forward regarding innovative marketing tactics. Retail innovation is when a retailer offers consumers something new or an improvement in its technology, services, products, or business systems. More specifically, retail innovation revolves around providing added value that makes a retailer more desirable to consumers and gives it a leg up on the competition.

Retail innovation is not just for businesses that have the funding to invest in expensive, fancy technology to provide exciting experiences for their consumers. Instead, big and small retailers should focus on reaching their consumers in new, valuable ways that focus on personalizing the customer experience, providing convenience, and standing apart from the competition. In a market where 88% of consumers are willing to pay more for ease, and 48% of consumers will shop with competitors due to a poorly personalized experience, retailers should devote special attention to providing these unique, value-centric experiences for their consumers in 2023.

From establishing an omnichannel presence to offering consumers an augmented reality experience, these top retailers showed how they learned from 2021 and adjusted to meet the trends of 2022. In this piece, you will learn more about how these retailers found success in their innovation and how all retailers can prepare to make a grand entrance in 2023 by targeting upcoming trends.

Introducing Retail Innovation in a New Light

Whether it was Walmart meeting consumers’ growing interest in grocery delivery or IKEA breaking barriers with its augmented reality app, numerous successful companies demonstrated the importance of becoming an innovative retailer. As retailers prepare to take the 2023 market by storm, they should take notice of the successful tactics used by the following retail leaders, understand why they worked, and apply the inspiration to their retail innovation strategies.

1. Walmart: Addressing Ever-Changing Customer Behaviors

Walmart, like most retailers, noticed an uptick in consumers preferring delivery services over in-person shopping following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the delivery option provided consumers with the convenience and comfort they sought, many still resorted to in-person shopping or curbside pickup to avoid the added fees associated with delivery. In response, Walmart created Delivery Unlimited, which offered consumers unlimited grocery delivery for $98 per year or $12.95 per month, allowing them to avoid the $9.99 charge with each delivery.

Why it is successful:

Delivery Unlimited provides consumers with value by lowering the overall cost for those who regularly use the service, all while allowing Walmart to continue gaining traction in the market. Back in 2019, Walmart was offering unlimited delivery in just four markets, but the service expanded to 3,500 locations in 2022.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Retailers should follow suit for utilizing analytics to curate an effective business strategy. By doing so, they will gain insight into what is important to their consumers, reveals areas of opportunity, and helps guide them in providing innovative value. All retailers should acknowledge what their consumers are responding to and find a way to make their offerings more convenient, valuable, and unique

2. Intersport: The Pilot-Testing Guru

Intersport recognized the adventurous spirit in its consumers, as well as their desire to know that they indeed choosing the best product for them. Taking this information, Intersport made it a point to implement digital tools with its in-person shopping experience, offering experiences like virtual reality tours of products and a 3D foot analysis for product matching. As Intersport noticed consumers responding to these digital tools, it continued pilot-testing more and analyzing the feedback.

Why it is successful: 

Intersport is taking positive feedback on its tools and letting that feedback guide the company’s digital retail innovation strategy. With this pilot testing, Intersport is continuously providing a unique shopping experience for its consumers, as well as gathering information on more digital tools that consumers would like to see across the company’s locations.

Retail innovation tip to adopt: 

Oftentimes, retailers need to test products, services, and strategies to get a feel of their effectiveness with consumers. While pilot-testing, retailers can run live analytics on how consumers respond to their efforts. These live analytics can then be used to adjust a retailer’s strategy, as they give the company insight into what its consumers consider valuable. 

3. Casper: Harmony Between the Online and Offline Presence

Casper has mastered the seamless omnichannel experience, offering humanized online shopping and convenient in-person shopping options. Casper’s online store provides consumers with options to chat with a live agent, meet with a sleep specialist, and easily contact the company. Its in-person shopping experience offers convenient services like same-day in-store pickup, and partnerships with popular retailers like Target make it even easier for customers to purchase mattresses. 

Why it is successful:

An omnichannel experience that is easy to navigate and provides numerous shopping options enables consumers to feel like they are in control of their shopping experience. With 80% of consumers preferring to shop with retailers that have omnichannel strategies, more retailers are creating an in-person presence and an online presence that work together to help consumers effortlessly and efficiently shop for their products. When there is an effortless bridge between online and in-person shopping, consumers will be encouraged to continue moving down the conversion funnel with that retailer.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Omnichannel retailers should aim to find ways to create a seamless connection between their online and in-person presence. Two-way QR codes are a quick and easy way to build a bridge between multiple channels.

4. Marks & Spencer: The Novel Simulation of a Real-Life Clothing Rail

Marks & Spencer is a fashion retailer that understands its consumers’ desire to stay on top of the newest fashion trends. In addition to its physical clothing rails, M&S offers clothing rail simulations that feature 50 clothing samples of the latest fashion trends, which are updated every six weeks. Consumers can shop directly from this screen and order the fashion items that are displayed, directly for delivery. These rail simulations allow consumers to stay on top of trends while also limiting the footprint of the company’s physical store locations.

Why it is successful:

M&S successfully centered its retail innovation strategy around providing value to its consumers by responding to their desire to be up-to-date on fashion trends while providing a convenient way to shop “online” within the physical store. This tactic also provided M&S with the opportunity to maintain a smaller footprint, avoid added costs for clothing items that might not end up selling, and set itself apart from the competition.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Retailers who establish both online and in-person shopping experiences should find ways to connect their eCommerce stores with their brick-and-mortar locations. Retailers can use this tactic to promote new products and monitor their success.

Bonus Tip: Read our full Marks & Spencer case study to get in-depth knowledge about its marketing strategy.

5. Rebecca Minkoff’s Interactive Dressing Room

Rebecca Minkoff identified a common concern and created an innovative solution that stands out among the competition. The brand’s dressing room innovation displays tagged clothing items on the mirror as soon as someone walks in. The touch-screen mirror then allows the customer to request help, explore different sizes and colors, browse suggested clothing items, toggle the lighting, and even ask for a free beverage. By the end of the experience, the customer can check out in the dressing room using PayPal or a traditional payment method.

Why it is successful:

This innovation tackles several consumer concerns, including the hassle of needing to go back and forth for different sizes, the difficulty of getting help from an associate, the inability to see outfits in different lighting, and the need to stand in line to check out after trying on items. At the same time that this innovation is providing value to customers, it is also providing Rebecca Minkoff with consumer data, lowering the return rate for clothing, and helping the brand stand apart from the competition.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Retailers should include data collection within their innovation strategies. Data collection allows retailers to tailor their strategies by providing insight into what is important to their consumers.

Tommy Hilfiger Banner

6. John Lewis and Partners’ Augmented Reality Experience

John Lewis & Partners showed that it was paying close attention to digital trends when it launched an augmented reality experience that allows consumers to virtually place products in their homes. This app allows customers to get up close and personal with the products, giving them a detailed look into the fabric, sizing, and colors. This experience is offered through the retailer’s app and is easy to navigate and personalize.

Why it is successful:

Augmented reality gives consumers peace of mind when it comes to shopping, as it gives them a better idea of what the products they are interested in would look like in their own space. This innovation tackles consumers’ concerns and provides them with a personalized experience that competitors may not offer.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Giving consumers the option to test products in their own space before purchasing allows them to explore the best options and provides them with a unique experience that they may not be able to find with the competition. This also provides value to retailers, as it lowers return rates and helps build consumer loyalty.

Bonus Tip: Read our full John Lewis case study to get in-depth knowledge about its marketing strategy.

7. Bloomingdale’s Clothing To-Go Window

A Bloomingdale’s location in Manhattan used a six-window display to take window shopping to the next level. This interactive display allowed on-the-go shoppers to browse Ralph Lauren clothing. Once chosen, the clothing would materialize behind the window, and consumers could text “POLO” to receive a link to the checkout page. They could then opt to have the clothing hand-delivered to the sidewalk.

Why it is successful:

This technological innovation stopped consumers in their tracks and provided them with the value of shopping on the go. At the same time, it benefited Bloomingdale’s by drawing consumers into an experience that led to more conversions.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Retailers should innovate in a way that allows them to meet consumers where they are. Finding ways to interact with consumers as they go about their daily lives will not only drive new traffic and build brand awareness but also create customer loyalty as the company stands out from the competition. 

8. IKEA’s Place App

IKEA’s Place app allows consumers to choose a product and test it in their own space through augmented reality. The app will automatically scale a product to match a consumer’s space, as well as allow them to save a photo of it so that they can share it with their family and friends. If they decide that they like the product, they can then order it directly from the Ikea website and choose to pick it up or have it delivered.

Why it is successful:

When a retailer offers things like furniture and decor, it is crucial for consumers to feel that their purchase will be a good fit for their home. Augmented reality apps give consumers confidence in their decision-making and lead them further down the conversion funnel by allowing them to purchase through the website.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Retailers that offer products that consumers prefer testing first, like home decor or clothing, can use augmented reality to give those consumers both confidence and convenience, all while lowering return rates and connecting consumers to their website or in-store experience.

Bonus Tip: Read our full IKEA case study to get in-depth knowledge about its marketing strategy.

9. L’Oreal’s Personalized Lip Colors

L’Oreal has mastered the use of technology to get ahead of the competition with AI that helps curate the perfect makeup and skin care products for consumers. Consumers can take a photo with their smartphone and transfer the image to L’Oreal’s app, which will then match them up with makeup shades and skin care products that fit their needs. If a consumer is pleased with the suggestions, they can proceed with purchasing the personalized makeup through the app.

Why it is successful:

Forty-eight percent of consumers have left a business to shop with a competitor due to a lack of personalization, showcasing the true value of personalized products and services. This innovation gives L’Oreal a leg up on the competition by offering consumers exactly what they need so that they do not seek out competitors. It then makes it simple for the consumer to purchase the products they want.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Retailers should find areas of their business where they can offer personalization to their consumers. Whether it’s personalized online content or lip shades for every skin tone, retailers can create connections with their consumers through personalization, which will give them a leg up on the competition.

10. JCPenney’s Partnership With DoorDash for Same-Day Delivery

Source: Reddit

During the holidays, JCPenney continued its partnership with DoorDash, offering same-day delivery on all of its products. Consumers could find JCPenney on the DoorDash app, browse and select products, and place their orders for delivery. The partnership also added the option for customers to send products to their loved ones as gifts, making it the perfect innovation for the holiday season.

Why it is successful:

This innovation proved successful because it was timely and provided consumers with the value of convenience and comfort. Frequently, consumers find themselves needing last-minute gifts, but they want to avoid overcrowded stores at all costs. This innovation gave consumers a solution to both of these concerns while securing additional conversions for both JCPenney and DoorDash.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Retailers should consider partnering with other businesses that can help them provide solutions to their consumers’ problems. Launching an innovative retail strategy at the perfect time is also the key to ensuring its success.

11. Nike Lets You Create Your Own Shoes

Source: Nike

Nike offers one of the more innovative eCommerce bot examples. It offers customers a tool they can use to design their own shoes. Customers can upload various images that highlight their personality, and the bot will design a pair of custom shoes. This type of innovation offers value to customers and makes the Nike brand memorable.

Why is it successful:

As always, Nike’s innovative ideas bring the brand closer to its loyal customers. This time, the famous company is allowing us to be a part of the creative process and create our very own, super-personalized pair of shoes. This new initiative is successful because it gives freedom to consumers and highlights the importance of a personalized shopping experience.

Retail innovation tip to adopt:

Let your customers be part of your brand, and reward them for their loyalty. Retailers should always find new ways to engage meaningfully with their customers and increase CLV.

Keep Up With the Latest Retail Innovation Trends and News

  • Forbes: Social media is becoming a retail experience, with two-thirds of consumers using them in their shopping strategies.
  • GlobeNewswire: Buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) orders have increased since the onset of COVID-19, and the industry is expected to reach $703 billion by 2027. 
  • MobiDev: Augmented reality bridges the gap between digital eCommerce storefronts and brick-and-mortar shopping. 

5 Insightful Retail Innovation Statistics

Get Inspired and Execute

Every year, innovative retailers find new ways to connect with their consumers and drive traffic to their businesses. With the use of cutting-edge technology, these retailers are also creating hybrid experiences that bridge the gap between their online and offline presence. ContactPigeon is a powerful platform that aids some leading retailers with marketing automation, analytics, and personalization. Contact us today to learn more about how our platform can help retailers stand out from the competition, gather insightful information, and track the success of their innovative strategies.

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Joyce Qian

View posts by Joyce Qian
Joyce runs Marketing at ContactPigeon. On a daily basis, she ponders on different ways innovative campaigns can translate into significant busienss growth, particularly given the ability to leverage data-driven insights. Outside of work, Joyce loves reading, traveling and exploring her new found home in the ancient city of Athens, Greece. Follow her on LinkedIn.