The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by e-commerce, data analytics, supply chain and inventory management, and the growing importance of technologies such as robotic inventory management,  virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) and artificial intelligence. In the last three years alone, there have been over 156,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in retail: in-store shopping assistance. Buy the report here.

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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 stabilizing 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.

50+ 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 115,000 patents, there are 50+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, on-demand digital manufacturing, planogram optimization, and AR-assisted shopping are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Location-based personalization, personalized lookbooks, and self-checkout are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are in-store shopping assistance and digital signage personalization, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the retail industry

In-store shopping assistance is a key innovation area in retail

In-store shopping assistance refers to the usage of technologies such as sensors, near field communication (NFC), and smart devices to enhance the customer experience while shopping in-store. The assistance provided can involve a wide range of aspects from displaying relevant product information to product recommendations. In some stores, sensors are used to track the movement of a shopper and provide recommendations based on the proximity to product categories in the aisle.

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 130+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of in-store shopping assistance.

Key players in in-store shopping assistance – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to in-store shopping assistance

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Headwater Partners I 356 Unlock Company Profile
Headwater Research 244 Unlock Company Profile
Cox Enterprises 204 Unlock Company Profile
AT&T 113 Unlock Company Profile 81 Unlock Company Profile
Flex 64 Unlock Company Profile
Nio 57 Unlock Company Profile
Alibaba Group 55 Unlock Company Profile
Microsoft 53 Unlock Company Profile
Monticello Enterprises 49 Unlock Company Profile
Verimatrix 38 Unlock Company Profile
Upaid Systems 38 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 35 Unlock Company Profile
eBay 27 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 26 Unlock Company Profile
Tencent 22 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 21 Unlock Company Profile
Mastercard 20 Unlock Company Profile
IP 18 Unlock Company Profile
AinaCom 18 Unlock Company Profile
Visa 16 Unlock Company Profile
PayPal 16 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 15 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 14 Unlock Company Profile
Akamai Technologies 14 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 13 Unlock Company Profile
Fanuc 12 Unlock Company Profile
Capital One Financial 12 Unlock Company Profile
Best Buy 11 Unlock Company Profile
Pej 10 Unlock Company Profile
Hilton Worldwide 10 Unlock Company Profile
Skype Technologies S.A 10 Unlock Company Profile
Jamf 9 Unlock Company Profile
Advanced New Technologies 9 Unlock Company Profile
Verizon Communications 8 Unlock Company Profile
Chegg 8 Unlock Company Profile
Swirl Networks 8 Unlock Company Profile
Time Warner Cable 7 Unlock Company Profile
Sensoriant 7 Unlock Company Profile
KT 6 Unlock Company Profile
Thales 6 Unlock Company Profile
Afero 6 Unlock Company Profile
Live Nation Entertainment 6 Unlock Company Profile
Meta Platforms 6 Unlock Company Profile
Bizmodeline 6 Unlock Company Profile
Criteo 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Attentive Mobile 5 Unlock Company Profile
JVCKENWOOD 5 Unlock Company Profile
Walt Disney 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

The leading players in the in-store shopping assistance space in terms of patents filed are Headwater Partners, Headwater Research, Nuro, Cox Enterprises and Walmart. The retail giant Walmart uses artificial intelligence (AI ‘Ask Sam’) to assist in-store shoppers. Ask Sam enables Walmart’s in-store personnel to locate products, access store maps, view sales information and look up prices for products via smart devices, significantly increasing staff efficiency and reducing operating costs.

Citrix Systems, Nio, and Walmart are the top companies in the in-store shopping assistance space in terms of application diversity.

By geographic reach, Nuro leads the pack, while Rakuten Group and Nio are in the second and third positions, respectively.

Enhancing in-store shopping assistance enables retailers to attract more customers, while reducing operational costs, thereby optimizing operations. Retailers are utilizing the latest technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence to deliver unique in-store experiences to attract younger shoppers and boost sales. Personalized recommendations provided through in-store shopping assistance tools also help identify shoppers’ needs, thereby increasing sales per customer.

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

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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.