The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by environmental sustainability, regulatory reforms, technology, and risk mitigation, and the growing importance of technologies such as robotic inventory management, smart checkout, and cashierless stores. 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 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. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, contactless kiosks and delivery drones are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. RFID for inventory tracking, autonomous delivery vehicle navigation system, and contactless card payments are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are M2M payment interfaces and e-commerce robotic process automation, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the retail industry 

E-commerce robotic process automation is a key innovation area in Internet of Things 

e-commerce robotic process automation enables e-commerce companies to use cloud-based software robots on an hourly basis. This allows companies to take advantage of robotic process automation (RPA) without the need for licencing and software. 

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

Headwater Research is one of the leading patent filers in e-commerce robotic process automation. Some other key patent filers in the e-commerce robotic process automation space include Headwater Partners I, and Broadcom. Recently, Broadcom acquired HostBridge Technology, which would help the company in terms of Mainframe Modernization and accelerate application integration. The acquisition will provide an opportunity for innovations in areas such as robotic process automation with bot-driven processes. 

In terms of application diversity, INVIDI Technologies leads the pack, while Amdocs and E. Merck stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Headwater Partners I held the top position, followed by Illumio and E. Merck

Ee-commerce robotic process automation will potentially become an important aspect in the retail industry. With retail companies increasingly focusing on automation and improving efficiency, this technology will gain popularity. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail and Apparel

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.