At Springwise, we rely on a network of over 15,000 spotters worldwide to send in fascinating and innovative new business ideas for us to review and write up. Of the hundreds of spottings we receive each day, many of the most interesting and surprising come from the world of retail, and it’s here that we’ve decided to focus our lens for this month’s top ten.
“Retail” is of course an incredibly broad category. It can cover everything from the supply chain down to point of sale promotions, and this is something we’ve tried to reflect in this list, from Memove’s RFID innovation to Selfridges’ Quiet Zone campaign.
One thing to note is how many of the ideas below can be linked by their desire to make the shopping experience more enjoyable, be it through speeding up payments and helping customers skip queues, providing a uniquely quiet and relaxed retail environment, or gamifying shopping by enabling customers to pay with points earned exercising. There are plenty of factors that can make shopping an unpleasant experience, and any effort to counteract that will always be appreciated.
What’s more, none of these examples give the impression of being bolted on at the last minute, in the way conventional “Buy One Get One Free” campaigns often do, for example. Rather, these innovations have taken place at the heart of the product or shopping experience, and, as a result, have transformed that experience into a genuinely useful one. This sense that these innovations are serving a real purpose — be it enabling customers to see how popular clothes are on Facebook for social validation, or involving the customer in the selection of what products are available in-store — creates a unique retail experience, engaging the customer in a way they are not likely to forget. There’s lessons and inspiration here for innovators in every industry…
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Shopping can be a trial for some, and it’s a widely held belief that many men can find it more of a chore than women. Aiming to improve the experience for men, Hointer added QR codes to their jeans so that customers could simply scan the code in order to get their desired size delivered to a changing room ready for them to try on. This streamlined process saves customers from having to wade through piles of clothing to find their size, ultimately speeding up a shopping trip for those who would rather be elsewhere.
2. Facebook app lets runners pay with kilometers completed
We’ve seen apps that reward their users with motivational phrases when they exercise. However, Nike Mexico took this a step further with their Facebook auction, Subasta de Kilometros, which allowed runners to accrue points for every kilometre run and then use these points to bid on Nike-branded running gear in the auction. Through this app Nike Mexico cannily provided an extra incentive for runners to keep fit, at the same time as promoting their products.
3. In China, virtual reality stores turn open spaces into a supermarket
With the aim of providing a more interactive shopping experience, Yihaodian in China developed augmented reality stores that can only be accessed in certain public locations. When customers point their smartphone in the right direction at locations such as public squares, a virtual store is displayed where items sit on shelves or hang from the walls. This app provides a simulation of a physical retail store so shoppers can feel more immersed in their online shopping trip.
4. In Denmark, supermarket crowdsources suggestions for local products
As concerns grow over food air miles, and more consumers want to buy local, SuperBrugsen in Denmark has come up with a novel way of ensuring that the produce they stock will appeal to eco-minded consumers. Through their website, customers can suggest particular local items they would like the store to stock, after which managers will taste-test the items to ensure their quality. A clever way to use customer crowdsourcing to ensure that the store only stocks items that will sell. The crowds have also been put to good effect in the Netherlands through the Avoid The Shopping Crowds app that analyzes social media feeds to tell the user how busy a shop is before they enter it. Both businesses use crowdsourced data to improve real life experience.
5. Mobile app lets retail store shoppers skip the checkout lines
The convenience of popping to the shops for a few grocery items can be hampered by long queues. This was something the brains behind QThru recognized when they developed their app, which allows shoppers to browse, scan and buy products all through their phone. Skipping the queues is an appealing prospect for many, and with that in mind we also saw SoPost, which uses customer’s email addresses to deliver purchases, rather than the traditional home or work address. An interesting idea that reflects the increasingly mobile lives many lead.
6. Brazilian fashion retailer displays Facebook ‘likes’ for items in its real-world stores
We’ve seen those involved in retail adjust impressively to the increasingly online world we live in. C&A provided a good example of how the real world and the online can converge to create a modern shopping experience. By displaying Facebook ‘likes’ on small screens embedded in articles’ hangers, the retailers showed the increasing tally of ‘likes’ different items of clothing were receiving from web users. The hope was that approval from the online community would encourage shoppers to purchase an item of clothing.
7. Machine accepts cards for tips
Increasingly, cash is being passed up in favor of card payments. This makes for a lighter purse, but can also mean that cash rituals such as tipping can be left by the way side. DipJar aims to remedy this by offering an easy way for cardholders to tip, in the form of a machine placed near the till that customers need only place their card into quickly for a USD 1 tip to be taken. If they wish to give more they can just place the card the desired amount of times. A simple innovation for the retail industry that encourages generosity in a world where plastic is paramount.
8. Calming UK store campaign includes quiet shopping areas and debranded products
Facing the shops can be a fraught experience, particularly at busy times such as seasonal sales or the lead-up to Christmas. Nowhere are the staff more aware of the stress involved in shopping than at Selfridges, a huge UK department store, and they decided to lessen the burden for customers by introducing the No Noise campaign. Specifically, when customers entered designated silent areas they had to remove their shoes and hand over their phones. All products in these zones were de-branded. Concern for customers will rarely go unappreciated, and Selfridges may well have earned themselves a few life-long customers with this campaign.
9. In New York, bedroom furniture store lets customers nap for free
Making customers feel comfortable can only increase the likelihood that they will make both a purchase and a return visit. COCO-MAT took this truism quite literally, and offered a try-before-you-buy approach for their beds. Visitors to the store were allowed to nap in the beds for a couple of hours and received a free glass of orange juice, but were not obliged to buy after trying. The idea behind the campaign was to spread word of the bed store and consequently increase footfall.
10. At Brazilian retailer, RFID tracks merchandise from manufacturer to customer
Shop assistants must dread the words “Have you got any more of…?” seeing as it often prompts a trawl through the back room to see if an item is available in a particular size. But Brazilian Memove’s RFID stock tracking technology could consign such headaches to the past thanks to tags stitched into the clothing that monitor all items from manufacturing to the moment the customer walks out of the shop with the purchased product. Keeping track of the stock supply chain can be made much simpler through the use of technology, and Memove provides a fine example.
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You can follow Chris here: @ChrisKreinczes
I’m Chris Kreinczes, the Managing Director of Springwise, one of the world’s leading sources of new business ideas. Springwise scans the globe for promising new business ventures, ideas and concepts that are ready for regional or international adaptation, expansion or inves