The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by e-commerce, demand for convenience, supply chain management and risk mitigation, and the  growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and augmented and virtual reality. 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: on-demand digital manufacturing. 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

On-demand digital manufacturing is a key innovation area in retail

On-demand digital manufacturing uses technologies such as computer-aided design and 3D printing to manufacture products that are tailored precisely to the needs of a customer. The process involves the use of advanced manufacturing techniques and software systems with an aim to optimize workflows and doesn’t require conventional tools or molds.

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 on-demand digital manufacturing.

Key players in on-demand digital manufacturing – 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 on-demand digital manufacturing

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Levi Strauss 62 Unlock Company Profile
Carl Zeiss Stiftung 40 Unlock Company Profile
Best Apps 32 Unlock Company Profile
eBay 21 Unlock Company Profile
Coupang 11 Unlock Company Profile
adidas 10 Unlock Company Profile
Global Technology Services 9 Unlock Company Profile
Kojima Industries 8 Unlock Company Profile
Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault 7 Unlock Company Profile
Illinois Computer Research 4 Unlock Company Profile
Seiren 3 Unlock Company Profile
Lectra 3 Unlock Company Profile
Spree3D 3 Unlock Company Profile
Meta Platforms 2 Unlock Company Profile
Zalando 2 Unlock Company Profile
Dassault Systemes 2 Unlock Company Profile
MediaTek 2 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 2 Unlock Company Profile
Accenture 2 Unlock Company Profile
Smith Sport Optics 2 Unlock Company Profile
Alibaba Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 2 Unlock Company Profile
Yu Jian 1 Unlock Company Profile
Siege Sports 1 Unlock Company Profile
mything 1 Unlock Company Profile
NetDragon Websoft 1 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 1 Unlock Company Profile
Lululemon Athletica 1 Unlock Company Profile
Hong Yan 1 Unlock Company Profile 1 Unlock Company Profile
ZTE 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading patent filers in the on-demand digital manufacturing space include Levi Strauss, Carl Zeiss Stiftung, Best Apps, and eBay. Levi Strauss is at the forefront of using technology to create new experiences. At the brand’s Miami outlet, Levis unveiled a pop-up featuring futuristic attributes to familiarize shoppers with the experiences they can enjoy with technology integration. The outlet offered shoppers the convenience to customize the prints on their pair of Levis with cutting-edge technology that completed the design in 90 minutes.

Global Technology Services is the leader in terms of application diversity, while Meta Platforms and Accenture are in the second and third positions, respectively.

By geographic reach, Carl Zeiss Stiftung leads the pack, followed by Coupang and Levi Strauss.

On-demand digital manufacturing allows more flexibility to retailers, thus helping them reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. The usage of the latest technologies to manufacture personalized products provides superior satisfaction to the shopper, resulting in a deeper engagement with the retailer.

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.