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Artificial Intelligence dominates retail innovations league table

Digital Retail Innovations Report 2018 celebrates the top 60 tech breakthroughs in the industry

Artificial Intelligence is continuing to fuel innovation in the retail industry, according to new rankings published today. Conducted in partnership with Webloyalty, Retail Insider’s Digital Retail Innovations Report 2018 recognises the top 60 global retail technology initiatives of the last year, with innovations involving Artificial Intelligence (AI) claiming nearly 40% of the spots on the list, up from 30% last year.

Amazon dominates three of the top four positions in the rankings, with Amazon Echo being crowned digital innovation of the year over all. Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa has seen significant take up, with the AI-powered solution making up 68% of all smart speakers sold in 2017. Its new abilities to recognise multiple voices in the household means it can better personalise the engagement with individuals, and its number of skills continues to expand into selfies and fashion advice, via the voice-activated camera Echo Look.

Amazon’s grocery store, Amazon Go, remains second on the list. The store opened last year after much anticipation, providing a frictionless Just Walk Out (JWO) shopping experience for its customers.

The report praised other AI initiatives from a variety of brands including Adidas’ SpeedFactory robots and Tesco’s tie up with Spoon Guru which offers dietary data processing. Facial and voice recognition innovations took numerous spots on the list, with the likes of Starbucks’ voice ordering and KFC’s ‘smile to pay’ technologies creating personalised experiences for customers.

Augmented reality (AR) innovations also featured heavily in this year’s list, with Virgin’s immersive holiday showroom and ASOS’ body inclusive AR technology recognised in the report.

A trend consistent with both the 2016 and 2017 reports is the prominence of the fashion industry, with nearly a third of this year’s list made up of fashion retailers. ASOS is ranked at both ninth and tenth place with its pay later solution and AR technology. The food and drink industry is also significantly represented, with a mix of grocers, restaurants and food waste initiatives claiming 22% of the list.

Richard Piper, Director of Webloyalty, Northern Europe, says “Artificial Intelligence is seeing a dramatic rise in the world of retail and its fascinating to see how it’s being used and by who. The technology is being adopted by a full range of retailers, from e-commerce businesses to grocers to fashion brands, and is being used to tailor customer experiences while streamlining operations for brands, ultimately increasing profitability. AI is truly helping businesses achieve competitive edge, it’s no longer just about the products, it’s about the whole immersive customer journey.”

Glynn Davis, Editor of Retail Insider, says, “This year’s report highlights once again how much the retail industry is constantly evolving to stay ahead. Previous versions of the report focused predominantly on the UK but this year it became increasingly clear that innovation knows no boundaries and it’s great to see exciting developments from across the globe recognised by some of the industry’s leading experts.”
The innovations were scored by an advisory panel consisting of expert analysts and senior researchers from a range of companies, including Tesco, John Lewis, OLIO and Streetbees. The panel’s scoring was based on four criteria: innovation, commercial potential, potential influence across the sector, and potential benefit to customers.

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