12 examples of inspiring retail innovation
12 examples of inspiring retail innovation

12 examples of inspiring retail innovation

The way we shop has become a melting pot of digital and analog touch points. Context and mobility now define modern shopping. Retailers must meet a new standard in experience design if they are to avoid becoming the next Blockbuster or Barnes & Noble.

Some retailers are perfecting the customer experience and transforming old and tired marketplaces. Others are creating exciting new products that use data as a starting point. The biggest revolution is coming from companies tackling big scalable issues such as payment and distribution.

Let’s find inspiration in 12 different approaches to retail.

Area: 1 The Customer Experience Reimagined


A new mattress company that combines product design rigor and a no risk purchase experience. They offer a super comfy bed to Millennials that is easy to deliver and even return. That’s why they’ve become a $100M company in less than two years.

Warby Parker

A stylish company built on very deliberate design that has given the eyewear industry a much-needed shake-up. They’ve bypassed retailers and gone directly to the customer. Every step of the customer journey is deliberate and thoughtful. So much so it’s estimated to be in the top 3 retailers by sales per square foot in America.

Soul Cycle

This company has put the traditional fitness world in a real spin. They offer classes with a dazzling light show and music to accompany the guru instructors. They rely on word of mouth, rather than discounts to build a sustainable business/movement of over 12,000 rides a day. They’ve built such a powerful brand; their retail sales make up 12% of total revenue. Not bad for a ten-year-old company.

Area 2: Thoughtful New Products


This company is looking good. By combining machine learning with the personal touch of human stylists; they cracked the code of personal style. They’ve made smart solutions to the traditional pitfalls of online fashion shopping to reduce friction. Their curated shopping experience means improved chances of a better look for its customers and a business of over $250M in sales annually.

Honest Company

This company was born from the founder’s desire for healthy and natural products for her children. It helped when this founder was superstar Jessica Alba. They’ve made the P&G’s of this world wake up by offering a successful online subscription business that threatens all traditional health and beauty players. Despite some product missteps, the company has made significant progress in providing non-toxic products that match traditional product performance.


A contrarian approach to Soul Cycle, this company has gone upmarket to serve working parents looking for an at-home fitness solution. With some serious innovation in their hardware and software, the business has created the best of both the digital and analog worlds. They’ve sold nearly 40,000 bikes and are on track for $150M in sales this year.

Area 3: Systems and Networks of the Future


This app started over seven years ago with liberating the not-so-sexy iPhone contact list. This pragmatic start has been the source of the company’s epic success. They figured out how to avoid SMS text fees for their customers, and they’ve never looked back. With no ads, customers just love their service. That’s why their 1B+ active users send over 60B messages a day.

Amazon Delivery Services

Like many eCommerce providers, they approach analog retail with their data-centric approach. You can visit their first store in Seattle. They have plans for delivery that extends far beyond that. Try the acquisition of over 40 jumbo’s, driverless trucks and drone-based delivery. They’ve even launched free restaurant deliveries in London.

Starbucks mobile wallet

21% of Starbucks transactions are via mobile devices in America. That makes it way more successful that Apple Pay. Their smartest move was to integrate their mobile app with their existing loyalty program. The business results speak for themselves. Starbucks customers who use their mobile app purchase more regularly and at higher total amounts. That’s what happens when you make something faster, easier and rewarding.

I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. Just email [email protected].


About the author

Mike is the Head of Innovation at QUALITANCE. He’s passionate about emerging technologies and experience design. Over his award-winning career, he’s worked on big innovation and marketing projects for Nike, Levi’s, Xbox, GE and many others.