Defining the Future of Retail – The 7 Key Drivers of Innovation in 2016

Each year, J.C. Williams Group and Ebeltoft Group publish Retail Innovations; our annual compilation of global retail trends, concepts, and innovation. This year’s edition, Retail Innovations 11, demonstrates 7 key drivers of innovation that have been observed countless times in retailing throughout the world.

These key drivers include:

  1. Product
  2. Experience
  3. Technology
  4. Sustainability
  5. Price
  6. Convenience
  7. Customer

With a carefully executed strategy, retailers can differentiate by innovating in these key areas—and we saw many interesting and unique concepts do just that in Retail Innovations 11. These concepts, presented below, embrace innovation and provide significant customer benefits, namely:

  • To address a customer need in a specific market,
  • To make an unpleasant and mundane experience more enjoyable,
  • To educate and inspire,
  • To make sustainability and waste reduction fun—and delicious,
  • To reduce costs and provide customers with access to products that would otherwise be unaffordable to buy,
  • To provide a convenient and high-tech alternative to a traditional business model, and
  • To allow customers to create their own products.

Let’s take a look back at this global study, so we can reflect on what truly is driving retail forward.

  1. Product – Increase the relevance of the range of products or define new ways to help customers choose the best solution.

Retail Innovations 11 Case Example: Veg and the City (Switzerland)

How many of you urban dwellers are craving a little more green in your apartments? (And, we don’t mean marijuana!)

Veg and the City offers gardening products specifically designed to be convenient, space-saving, and innovative so that everyone can have a personal home garden. Relatively removed from natural settings, urban dwellers increasingly yearn for a greener personal environment and to reconnect to what they eat. With revolutionary products, individual advising, small garden patches for rent, and public harvest events, Veg and the City offers the urban population different opportunities to achieve these goals.

Sky Planter – hangs from the ceiling
Edible Wall – modern, space-saving, portable, and can contain up to 20 different herbs


  1. Experience – Create excitement around products and find new ways to interact with your customers.

Retail Innovations 11 Case Example: EchoPark Automotive (USA)

Who ever thought a trip to your mechanic could be this pleasant!

EchoPark Automotive created a new business model for used-car sales and reinvented the traditional car-buying and service experience. The store is a cross between an Apple Store and a modern hotel lobby, with docked iPads lined up around stations, tech-friendly waiting areas, and video walls to assist and enhance the shopping, financing, and service experience.

An open-air space for customers to lounge and research cars
Customers can watch their cars in the auto repair centre


  1. Technology – Use technology to provide more access to products, more experience, more convenience, or more of anything that generates excitement.

Retail Innovations 11 Case Example: Orange Concept Store (Romania)

Try-before-you-buy for tech products, telecom, TV, and internet services.

Romanian telecom market leader, Orange, delivers a complete digital journey to reveal the benefits of technology for customers in their daily life. The store is designed to meet customers’ expectations to explore products, and engage with a more personalized approach to purchasing technology. The store is organized around four main themes: home, office, entertainment, and fitness.

Home area with digital table
Close-up of digital table 


  1. Sustainability – Serve a vision and help people live better.

Retail Innovations 11 Case Example: Instock (The Netherlands)

Food waste—reinvented!

Addressing consumers’ heightening awareness of what they buy and consume, Amsterdam restaurant Instock transforms surplus food into delicious meals by picking up “waste” from various suppliers and creating entirely new dishes from that waste. As the harvest changes every day, customers will always be surprised by the menu, which makes it refreshing and fun to return to the restaurant.

Food truck
80−100% of the meals consists of ingredients that otherwise would have gone to waste


  1. Price – Invent new ways to lower costs and prices for customers.

Retail Innovations 11 Case Example: Leapp (The Netherlands)

It’s like shopping in an Apple store without those Apple prices.

Starting solely online, Leapp sells refurbished Apple hardware. The company opened physical stores to better appeal to those customers who prefer to personally inspect refurbished products before they buy. Since the demand for second-hand Apple products appears to be high, the company is expanding rapidly in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

leapp-store leapp-2


  1. Convenience – Make the retail interaction seamless, frictionless, effortless or less time-consuming.

Retail Innovations 11 Case Example: Hi Shine (Poland)

Didn’t make it in time to the dry cleaners? No problem!

Hi Shine makes dry cleaning as easy as drawing money from the ATM. This innovative vending machine allows customers to leave dirty clothes 24/7, to be washed and dry cleaned within one day. Machines are located near customers’ homes or offices, for added convenience.

Customers can leave clothing in the equipment, track their order, and then collect their clothes by entering a code in the machine


  1. Customer – Allow customers to take part in the creation of your product.

Retail Innovations 11 Case Example: Creyate (India)

Take the lead in creating your own personalized and tailored garment.  

Creyate is a platform that functions as a 3D design studio, enabling customers to use advanced technology to create, personalize, and customize garments that fit them perfectly.  Being an omni-channel concept, customers can access their designs and creations from anywhere—online or in-store.

A curated collection of fabrics, trims and other design details allows customers to create 100,000 unique products
A unique and technologically advanced garment-customization experience using iMacs and 3D rendering technology

In summary….

There is a lot of retail innovation happening everywhere! And, as we have seen above, these innovative retail concepts all have one thing in common: they focus on the customer benefit—whether it be to give city dwellers an opportunity to reconnect with nature, or make a dull trip to the mechanics more pleasurable, or to provide a truly customizable and omni-channel experience. Innovations that do not stress the customer benefit will only be a fad and then fade away.

Technology plays a major role in many of these innovations, and we look forward to seeing how retailers will continue to adopt technology into their business models in 2017—from self-service devices and vending machines, to digital payment systems, virtual reality, and AI.

Change is inevitable. But, as we have witnessed over the last decade of this study, it is not so much the drivers of innovation that change; but instead, it is the application of innovation within these drivers that further push the boundaries on what retail can be.

Keep an eye out for Retail Innovations 12, to be released early next year. Once again, we will take an in-depth look into how these key drivers of innovation continue to evolve over time and include a variety of new and exciting retail concepts.  Retail Innovations 11 is still available for download here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *