The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by desire for convenience and efficiency, and the growing importance of technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, and automation. 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: Shipping management 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.

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

Shipping management systems is a key innovation area in cloud

Shipping management systems that are cloud-based can be used to streamline the whole process from raising an order to its successful delivery. Companies can achieve enhanced automation and data centralisation, by increasing data efficiency.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of shipping management systems.

Key players in shipping management 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 shipping management systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
United Parcel Service 209 Unlock company profile
Nuro 113 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 34 Unlock company profile
FedEx 33 Unlock company profile
Coupang 26 Unlock company profile
Canadian National Railway 25 Unlock company profile
Uber Technologies 21 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 21 Unlock company profile
Expedia Group 20 Unlock company profile
Amadeus IT Group 19 Unlock company profile 19 Unlock company profile
Booking Holdings 18 Unlock company profile
Ferguson 17 Unlock company profile
Live Nation Entertainment 16 Unlock company profile
Indigo Agriculture 14 Unlock company profile
Ocado Group 13 Unlock company profile 13 Unlock company profile
Fedex Supply Chain Logistics & Electronics 13 Unlock company profile
eBay 12 Unlock company profile
Crawford Group 10 Unlock company profile
United States Postal Service 9 Unlock company profile
SoftBank Group 8 Unlock company profile
Didi Global 8 Unlock company profile Group 7 Unlock company profile
Fly Victor 7 Unlock company profile
Comcast 7 Unlock company profile
Apollo Global Management 6 Unlock company profile
Splitty Travel 6 Unlock company profile
Huawei Investment & Holding 5 Unlock company profile
Capital One Financial 5 Unlock company profile
Ticketmaster Entertainment 5 Unlock company profile
US Postal Service 5 Unlock company profile
FlyBuy Technologies 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

In terms of patents filed, United Parcel Service, Nuro, International Business Machines, FedEx, and Coupang are the leading players in the cloud-based shipping management systems space. In September 2022, Coupang, a South-Korean online retailer, announced its partnership with ShipStation, a cloud-based online retail shipping solution.

In terms of application diversity, FedEx, Nuro, Ticketmaster Entertainment, Huawei Investment & Holding, and eBay are the leading players in this space.

In terms of geographic reach, FlyBuy Technologies, US Postal Service, Coupang, and Ocado Group are the leading players.

Automation, cost reduction, real-time monitoring, and enhanced visibility are key benefits of these solutions.

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.