5 Continuous Innovation Examples From Top Retailers
Author: Go Studio
January 17, 2023

In the fast-paced world of technology and digital innovation, companies that stand out are those that embrace continuous change and improvement. It’s important for retailers to stay up-to-date with the latest technology and trends in order to remain competitive. But what exactly does continuous innovation look like in practice? Here, we take a look at five examples from some of the most successful retailers in 2022 to get an idea of how they have embraced the process of continual development. We’ll explore how they are using artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and more to optimize their customer experience and drive forward sales.

What are the principles of continuous innovation?

Continuous innovation helps businesses stay ahead of the competition while actively engaging with customers at every stage of the product lifecycle. It is a process of improvement and development based on a continuous flow of ideas, feedback and experimentation. It involves outlining clear goals and objectives that set performance benchmarks for success, as well as introducing new or improved products, services and processes. Collaborative environments are key to continuous innovation because it encourages different people from different backgrounds to work together to generate valuable ideas and insights. Continuous innovation requires a commitment to ongoing learning through data analysis, customer feedback and team brainstorming – all of which can help identify areas for further improvement.


1. Amazon

Starting with their guiding principle of “customer experience”, Amazon explores technologies which support their brand identity and goals from a high-level. A constant exploration of new principles in engineering and UX allow them to maintain a competitive advantage in key areas.

As an early adopter of AI, Amazon organized and restructured itself to benefit from innovative ideas in engineering. Amazon uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to improve internal processes and boost customer experience through personalized shopping tools for its customers. The company has developed an AI-driven recommendation engine that tailors product recommendations based on customers’ preferences and buying habits.

For example, when customers visit the Amazon Go store and add a few grocery items to their cart, they can ask Alexa to look up a recipe. The AI model is able to recommend specific items necessary for the recipe, even the required saucepan. This technology enables Amazon to offer a more tailored shopping experience that boosts sales.

This technology could eliminate hours of online shopping via an AI-determined shopping cart for Amazon users that offers intelligent purchase suggestions based on each specific consumer’s buying habits and preferences. The future possibilities are ever-evolving and dependent on which company works to develop it next.


2. Walmart

By introducing autonomous robots into their stores for inventory tracking, Walmart has also implemented AI and ML technologies into their retail strategy. The company is currently rolling out an innovative computer vision AI solution for out-of-stock detection to multiple stores.

Computer vision cameras installed in popular areas throughout the store scan shelves at pre-determined intervals and trigger replenishment through existing inventory systems. This technology uses sensors to scan shelves for stock levels and alert store associates when items need restocking or are running low. This ensures that shelves are always stocked with the right items at all times and increases customer satisfaction levels.

Since the retail giant prides itself on their ample supply chain, this investment is a logical step in avoiding out-of-stock conditions and bolstering that value to its customers. It’s also an excellent example of the innovation process. Walmart began by identifying how the time-consuming task of visually confirming out-of-stock goods was a costly problem for their business. Then, they would have embarked on a research phase to test this current business practice and float some potential fixes from their internal team. At that stage, their problem posed a significant enough challenge that they had to look at solutions outside of their current tools and ultimately decided to roll their findings into a Beta solution with the AI emerging technology.

Omni-channel shopping is challenging as consumers buy in-store and online through mobile and even virtual assistants. The ability for consumers to almost instantly satisfy their needs demands a variety of traditional retail, ship-to-store, and online options. As store-based shipping becomes even more important, the in-store inventory becomes a critical component to supporting shipping needs; thus, knowing the product you want is available before clicking submit is critical.


3. Target

Target has used augmented reality (AR) technology to give customers a unique shopping experience. The “See It in Your Space” AR feature on the mobile site enables customers to try out furniture in their homes before completing a purchase. Users can even move a product around before buying, and it’s all done on a mobile device. Customers can also virtually “Try-On” different makeup products before purchasing them, which eliminates the need for returns due to incorrect sizing or style choices. This helps improve customer satisfaction levels and boost sales overall by increasing the likelihood of shoppers purchasing during their first visit to the online store.

Where Target always appears to be at the top of its game, they invest company resources in continuously growing and changing with the market. By financing departments that explore opportunities and bring innovative ideas to the forefront, Target has been an example of innovation for years. They are a perfect example of reinventing your industry by thinking outside of their day-to-day business challenges.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the application of VR and AR technologies will enhance not only the online shopping experience but also in-store experiences. Imagine heading to Target and using the app to preview what certain items could look like in the customer’s home and even shopping from home in a fully immersive AR and VR environment.


4. Ford

Ford has been investing heavily in autonomous car technology since the early 2020s. By 2022, this investment paid off with the launch of its semi-autonomous vehicles. These cars can operate autonomously on urban roads, allowing drivers to spend less time worrying about navigation and more time focusing on their journey. Ford hopes to have more than 1000 semi-autonomous driving cars in the Lyft fleet over the next five years, and the rides are currently operational in Austin, Texas.

With new high-tech companies entering the electric car market in recent years, Ford was facing some big industry changes this year. We’ve seen companies fall behind in competitive markets before, like Bed Bath & Beyond with the rise of Amazon and Wayfair. It looks like Ford may be making an effort to avoid giving up its market share to other car manufacturers by keeping the focus on what’s next. This, coupled with a strong product roll-out strategy via a leading ride-share service like Lyft, is likely to cement them as a relevant, consumer-focused manufacturer for many years to come.

Semi-autonomous technology leads the way toward the future of transportation and potentially fully autonomous vehicles which would lead to fewer road accidents and congestion. Autonomous technology will also reduce road rage because of the ability to reroute and improve travel time based on road trouble via an auto network – where all the cars talk to each other and communicate real time updates with the network.


5. Nike

Nike has taken its commitment to sustainability one step further by introducing 3D printing technology into its manufacturing process to reduce waste materials and create products with less environmental impact than traditional manufacturing methods require. By investing in this advanced printing technology, Nike can produce unique products that are both eco-friendly and cost-effective, helping increase their bottom line while also doing something positive for the environment. Not only that, but Nike has more recently hinted at the launch of Nike Forward, the brand’s revolutionary sustainable shoe-making method.

The level of product personalization can increase dramatically via 3D printing specifically for a consumer’s feet or body type. 3D printers are lower in cost and the real environmental benefit can come when a consumer can print their own shoes at home thus reducing packaging, energy, and shipping fuel consumption.


Benefits of Technology Innovation

Continuous innovation is essential for staying ahead of competitors in today’s rapidly changing retail landscape. Top retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Ford, and Nike are motivated when it comes to embracing new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D printing, and more. Their strategies demonstrate how retailers can not only stay ahead of the competition but also provide better experiences for their customers while reducing costs associated with traditional methods. Ultimately these improvements are an example of how to highlight the business values of each brand and incorporate them into your innovation strategy. Customers are more likely to see the effort your company makes to reinvent its industry and purpose along the way!


Key Takeaways:

  • Continuous innovation is essential for staying ahead of competitors in today’s rapidly changing retail landscape.
  • Amazon has been finding new ways to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to improve internal processes and boost customer experience. Their personal shopping experience underscores learning from each area of their business and boils it down to an actionable solution.
  • Walmart gives innovators the perfect example of the innovation process by identifying a business need, working through possible solutions, and taking a risk on emerging technology to solve problems.
  • Target has used augmented reality (AR) technology to give customers an online shopping experience more similar to what they’d get in-store.
  • Ford exemplifies how a robust new product and roll-out strategy can keep your brand relevant in a saturated market by introducing its autonomous vehicles in 2022.
  • By investing in advanced printing technology, Nike can produce unique products that are both eco-friendly and cost-effective, helping increase the bottom line while also doing something positive for the environment.


Innovation Solutions

Some of the world’s top companies are ensuring their longevity in this rapidly changing landscape through continuous innovation. Their success highlights just how important it is for organizations to stay abreast of technological developments, as well as continuously strive to fine-tune processes and procedures and leverage the benefits offered by emerging technologies. Any company yet to embrace continuous improvement should be encouraged to do so now more than ever if they hope to remain competitive and successful in the future.

We are a comprehensive innovation studio here to help you keep your organization’s technology ahead of the curve. We combine a lean startup model with enterprise-level assets to offer unique solutions to your technical challenges and help drive your business’s growth. Ready to get started today? Request an introduction.

Other Insights

Let's work together

Fill out the form below to get started and someone on our team will reach out soon.