The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by personalisation, convenience, and technology, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial Intelligence in Retail: Skin care recommender systems.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

70+ innovations will shape the retail industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 128,000 patents, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, autonomous vending, skincare recommender systems, and AI-assisted surveillance are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Autonomous delivery vehicle navigation system, autonomous delivery management, and planogram modelling are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are virtual contact centre automation and checkout object identification, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the retail industry

Skincare recommender systems are a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

A skincare recommendation system is an innovation that provides personalised skincare and cosmetic formulas for consumers. Artificial intelligence-based skincare recommendation systems give better recommendations as they gather more information about customers’ personal preferences.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10 companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of skincare recommender systems.

Key players in skincare recommender systems – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to skincare recommender systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Henkel 37 Unlock company profile
Procter & Gamble 32 Unlock company profile
L'Oreal 20 Unlock company profile
Shiseido 11 Unlock company profile
Unilever 10 Unlock company profile
Chanel Parfums Beaute 8 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 8 Unlock company profile
Kinpo Electronics 8 Unlock company profile
LG 6 Unlock company profile
Milbon 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading players in the AI-based skincare recommendation systems space in terms of patents filed are Henkel, Procter & Gamble, L'Oreal, Shiseido, and Unilever. In 2020, L'Oreal unveiled an AI-based 6.5-inch device that provides personalised on-the-spot cosmetic and skincare formulae. It’s an at-home system that consists of a streamlined four-step process. These formulae become more and more personalised over time as the device gathers more data about the consumer’s skincare preferences.

Leading players in the space in terms of application diversity are Procter & Gamble, Sony Group, Shiseido, and Chanel Parfums Beaute.

Leading players in terms of geographic reach are Milbon, Unilever, Shiseido, and LG.

Consumers are increasingly becoming more interested in skincare fuelled by the focus on health and self-care during the pandemic.  However, as different people have different skin types, personalised skincare will grow in momentum in the coming years.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence in Retail.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.