From The Editor | December 19, 2016

Rewarding Retail Innovation

By Erin Harris, Editor in Chief, and Matt Pillar, Senior Executive Editor, Innovative Retail Technologies

Taken at face value, there’s really nothing special about the word, innovation. Merriam-Webster defines it as the introduction of something new, or a new idea, method, or device. New doesn’t necessarily translate to good or better, and by that definition, technology innovation in retail is something of a commodity. Silicon Valley is brimming with it. It’s bubbling and oozing out of so-called “retail innovation labs” in merchant headquarters from New York to San Francisco. In short order, we’ll see hundreds of innovations under one roof at the NRF BIG show.

Right now, much of this innovation is costing retailers a lot more than it’s yielding, and we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. History is full of examples of revolutionary innovations that suffered repeated failure before an “aha!” moment changed the world. Electricity. The light bulb. The airplane.

The challenge in this modern climate of tech innovation is the pace at which it’s happening. It’s a dizzying game of roulette, one in which a series of bad bets — too much cash placed on the wrong combinations of colors and numbers — can cost you dearly. Innovation-seeking retailers need to fail fast and they need to fail cheap. And when they land on a winner, they need to scale up even faster to maximize the cash in on their bet. That takes guts, savvy management, corporate buy-in, and smooth execution.

In this month’s issue of Innovative Retail Technologies, that’s the stuff we’re celebrating. Our Retailer Innovation Awards coverage can be found here. It’s a celebration of the retail technology innovation that’s winning, and proving itself by producing measurable results for progressive merchants.

Leading into the fourth quarter of 2016, we executed a call for nominations that yielded 50 examples of merchants doing innovative things. These nominations showcased the bravery of retailers that are making fundamental business process and technology changes that don’t just differentiate, but advance, the business cause on the differentiation they’re achieving.

Choosing the winners was no easy task. In November, the IRT editorial and publishing staff pored through hundreds of pages of nomination forms. We ranked them on criteria including the innovational attributes of their initiative, the collaborative effort demonstrated among systems and departments, and the measured success the innovation yielded.

That last criterion is a commonality among our winning entries. Retailer Innovation Award recipients aren’t just doing something new, they’re reaping the business reward for the execution of their innovation. Award winners were recognized in six critical areas of business transformation —omni-channel retailing, customer engagement, in-store operations, WFM/HCM, loss prevention, and supply chain/fulfillment.

The winners and finalists we recognized this year are addressing the incredibly complex problems retailers face today, and they represent some of the brightest minds and boldest leaders who are solving those problems through innovation.

On behalf of the team at Innovative Retail Technologies, congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Retailer Innovation Awards. We’re inspired by your success, and we know our subscribers will be, too.