The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by efficiency, convenience, and the growing importance of technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud services. 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 Cloud: e-commerce robotic process automation.

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.

Biometric authentication, gesture-based user interfaces, and shipping management systems are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are user biometric authentication and instant messaging social network, which are now well-established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for cloud in the retail industry

e-commerce robotic process automation is a key innovation area in cloud

Cloud RPA (robotic process automation) is a business process automation that uses web-based, cloud-native artificial intelligence and robotic process automation (AI + RPA) software. Cloud RPA enables process automation through a web-based interface.

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 e-commerce robotic process automation.

Key players in e-commerce robotic process automation – 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 e-commerce robotic process automation

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Headwater Research 211 Unlock company profile
Headwater Partners I 183 Unlock company profile
Broadcom 83 Unlock company profile
Endurance International Group Holdings 46 Unlock company profile
Illumio 39 Unlock company profile
E. Merck 20 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 19 Unlock company profile
INVIDI Technologies 16 Unlock company profile
TransUnion 13 Unlock company profile
Avaya Holdings 10 Unlock company profile
Verizon Patent And Licensing 7 Unlock company profile
Ot Ip Sub 7 Unlock company profile
Gogo 6 Unlock company profile
Amdocs 6 Unlock company profile
Computer Associates International 6 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 5 Unlock company profile
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading players in the cloud RPA (robotic process automation) space in terms of patents filed are Headwater Research, Headwater Partners I, Broadcom, Endurance International Group Holdings, Illumio, E. Merck, and Alphabet. In March 2021, Google Cloud and Automation Anywhere, an RPA company, signed a strategic, multi-year collaboration deal. As part of the agreement, the two companies agreed to develop RPA and AI-powered products and bring robotic process automation capabilities to Google Cloud products. With this deal, Automation Anywhere’s Automation 360 platform was made available on Google Cloud.

Leading players in this space in terms of application diversity are INVIDI Technologies, Amdocs, E. Merck, Headwater Research, and Headwater Partners I.

Headwater Partners I, Illumio, E. Merck, INVIDI Technologies, and Gogo lead the space in terms of geographic reach.

Cloud-based RPA simply is RPA-as-a-Service. It is an automation software that can be easily accessed by any entity with an internet connection.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Cloud Computing 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.