The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by connectivity and technology, and growing importance of technologies such as cloud and artificial intelligence. 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 in Retail: Instant messaging Social network.

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 networks, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for cloud in the retail industry

Instant messaging social networks are a key innovation area in cloud

Instant messaging or IM can be defined as the exchange of messages in real-time using either embedded software or a standalone application. Instant messaging is different from email communication as the exchange through the former is instant. Enterprise instant messaging systems enable users to indicate their availability, converse with team members, hold team meetings, and exchange documents.

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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of instant messaging social networks.

Key players in instant messaging social networks – 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 instant messaging social networks

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Meta Platforms 270 Unlock company profile
Tencent Holdings 79 Unlock company profile
SoftBank Group 57 Unlock company profile
Microsoft 55 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 54 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 48 Unlock company profile
Tremor International 31 Unlock company profile
Sgrouples 27 Unlock company profile
Transform SR Brands 24 Unlock company profile
Salesforce 22 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 21 Unlock company profile
Flybits 20 Unlock company profile
Omnifone 20 Unlock company profile
Khoros 17 Unlock company profile
Johnson Controls International 15 Unlock company profile 15 Unlock company profile
Walmart 12 Unlock company profile
PLUNKETTS PEST CONTROL 12 Unlock company profile
Intel 11 Unlock company profile
Take-Two Interactive Software 11 Unlock company profile
Accenture 11 Unlock company profile
SEVEN Networks 11 Unlock company profile
Nielsen Company 11 Unlock company profile
Avaya Holdings 10 Unlock company profile
eBay 9 Unlock company profile
Toronto-Dominion Bank 9 Unlock company profile
Twitter 9 Unlock company profile
HYP3R 8 Unlock company profile
Nokia 8 Unlock company profile
Beijing ByteDance Technology 6 Unlock company profile
Bluefin Labs 6 Unlock company profile
PayPal Holdings 6 Unlock company profile
Investel Capital 6 Unlock company profile
Konami Group 6 Unlock company profile
ADOBE 5 Unlock company profile
RadiumOne 5 Unlock company profile
Amadeus IT Group 5 Unlock company profile
Empire Technologies 5 Unlock company profile
Sendle 5 Unlock company profile
Womanizer Group Management 5 Unlock company profile
MeltwaterLevi Strauss & Co 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

In terms of patents filed, Meta Platforms, Tencent, SoftBank Group, Microsoft, and Alphabet are the leading players in this space. In November 2022, Meta launched ‘find, message, and buy from business’ feature on WhatsApp, its own instant messaging application. The feature enables WhatsApp users to discover brands, initiate a conversation with them, and complete purchases on the application.

In terms of application diversity, Johnson Controls International, Take-Two Interactive Software, Womanizer Group Management, Bluefin Labs, and Nokia are the leading players in the instant messaging social network space.

In terms of geographic reach, The Nielsen Company, Konami Group, RadiumOne, and Nokia are the leading players.

A variation of instant messaging is chatbots. Retail players are increasingly adopting instant messaging to better communicate with customers and enhance customer service by expediting resolutions.

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.