With technology advancing the way it has been and new products being released at rates faster than we can record, it’s certainly difficult to keep track of which company made a splash in 2016. But if there’s one adage that holds true it’s that the more things change, the more they stay the same. And that goes for what makes a successful business a… well successful one. They’re innovative! And it’s not always about creativity, although that certainly plays a role, but it’s about taking the initiative and bold steps necessary to make an impact in the marketplace. Here are five of the top retail innovations of 2016:

1. Amazon’s Drones: Is this the future of home delivery? Possibly, thanks to Amazon’s drone technology. Imagine receiving a package the same day at an even lower rate. The company wants to deliver packages in under half an hour, so while it still has ways to go, this could seriously change the way we buy online goods. Amazon has always looked for ways to bring shipments quicker and at a lower cost. They have recently released details of a physical store with no check-outs as well – we’ll see more of this in 2017 I’m sure.

2. Google’s Self-driving Cars: While self-driving cars have been in the work for quite some time, Google’s cars made big strides by giving consumers a glimpse into Waymo, its official name for their automated cars. The name is short for “a new way forward” and with more people being transported safely and efficiently, the implications could have a momentous impact on environment, commute cost and customer service. This in turn will have impact on retail – particularly on accessibility of “bricks and mortar” stores and how to integrate omni-channel opportunities for super-fast deliveries.

3. Solebox’s Robot: Speaking of customer service, a German shoe company has started utilizing robots to stock and retrieve specific shoes and deliver them to the front line. This type of retail innovation suggests that companies will be looking for more automated and efficient methods in the future, which leads to more convenience and customer satisfaction when done right. Robotics and retail have always been two ideas that go hand in hand and it makes sense that the technology will initially have a greater impact in the speeding up process of retail stores.

4. Stitch Fix’s Personalization: Online shopping and personalization further merge with Stitch Fix’s retail innovation. This retail product allows customers to pick out exactly what clothes they prefer to wear, down to the size and specific occasion. Stitch Fix asks for users to fill out information such as budget, lifestyle, size and shape and then deliver personalized clothing right to your door. Customers can then try on the clothes in the comfort of their home and ship anything they do not want right back to the retailer. This innovation addresses the need of convenience while still providing expert design and personality.

5. Macy’s AI Customer Service: The 160 year old retailing giant rounds out the list of top innovators of 2016. Macy’s wants to improve the entire shopping experience by developing AI to assist in customer service. The mobile tool allows customers to call for help or to ask specific questions while shopping. It’s no wonder that Macy’s has thrived in this digital economy when other big companies have floundered.

If there’s one thing that these companies have in common with their innovation, it’s that they have focused extensively on convenience and efficiency. After all, in our “what can you do for me now” culture, we are looking for ways to get answers quicker, get our products faster and without leaving our home. So with 2016 completed, it’s interesting to see what 2017 will bring forward. With a small glimpse of what is on the horizon, the future is indeed bright for retail innovation.


project management expert Oliver Banks

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