top of page

Crisis – the birthplace of innovation. How the global pandemic has forced retail innovation at pace

Looking back at the last 10+ weeks will tell a whole host of stories.

Drastic stories of innovation that are apparent right now. In Retail.

We’ve compiled a retailer round-up featuring some of our favourite innovative efforts from retailers over the past few weeks:

Fashion retailers have had some of the toughest times during the past few weeks, struggling to maintain demand while being able to sell and promote its latest products to its consumers. ASOS have, at the very least, found a solution in its promotion of new products to shoppers.

Acknowledging that its models have been ‘WFH’, ASOS have launched an augmented reality tool helping to digitally fit models with its latest clothes. The tool works to digitally map each product onto the model in a realistic way, acknowledging the size, cut and fit of each garment. It’s not exact, but it’s helped to drop new products on-site each week, while maintaining a studio setting for shoppers browsing for inspiration. Crucially, the tool has protected the safety and wellbeing of staff and models.While ASOS had been trialling the system prior to lockdown, the global pandemic has vastly accelerated the trial, and could prove to be an economic shoulder for life in recovery.

Via research from Kantar, the Co-op are proving to be one of a handful of brands to emerge in growth as a result of the pandemic. And, they are the only major retailer to see this growth accelerate following the lockdown period, taking their market share to 7.8% - higher than Aldi at 7.3% market share.

Convenience and Online are two channels that have gained distinct share while shoppers adhered to the government’s lockdown advice, choosing to stay closer to home. And, online expansion for the Co-op has rapidly accelerated as it has swiftly adapted to changing shopper demands as a result of the pandemic. Back in November, the Co-op announced plans to roll out its partnership with Deliveroo to 400 stores by the middle of this year. However, it’s now expected that the actual

number of stores is set to be closer to 770.

But it’s not only leveraging a partnership with Deliveroo to support its ambitions in supporting shoppers. The Co-op have also recently announced a partnership with Buymie, whereby 200 ‘personal shoppers’ will take orders on over 4000 Co-op products via its app. Customers are able to have their items delivered within as little as an hour, or schedule their delivery for anytime up to a week later. All of this is helping the Co-op to deliver on its ‘Closer’ ambition.

In a bid to replicate its in-store experience and staff expertise, Dixons Carphone have launched ShopLive – a personal shopping service connecting shoppers with Currys PC World staff via video link. Any shopper browsing the website are invited to speak to staff about any variety of products.

It’s not only through ShopLive that they are hoping to support shoppers. Having learned that there has been an increase in engagement during lockdown, Dixons Carphone have identified its shoppers’ needs to better understand the technology they may have just purchased. As a result, they’ve ramped up content distribution in line with questions shoppers were asking. Not only are they presenting shoppers with the products or promotions they’re after, they’re continuing to support

shoppers after purchase.

While perhaps not as ‘innovative’ in terms of trialling something new during the pandemic, Iceland have achieved what other national retailers can only dream of – they have gotten online delivery availability back to normal.

Online delivery slots have proven to be one of the most difficult things to obtain over the last few weeks. And, it’s no real surprise when comparing demand to the weeks prior to lockdown. More and more people are using retailers’ online services, particularly those within vulnerable categories who hadn’t previously considered online delivery.

Iceland have increased online delivery capacity by 250% which has helped to provide shoppers with next-day delivery slots again – while still prioritising vulnerable shoppers. But, this is only one element to Iceland’s success. The Food Warehouse have significantly increased its intake of online volumes, allowing Iceland’s online operation to be almost entirely store-picked. This has proven a

huge advantage for Iceland, allowing for expansion via recruitment alone. In numbers, Iceland have gone from 100,000 orders a week to 500,000 as of data sourced at the beginning of May 2020.

But, it doesn’t stop there, with Iceland aiming to bring their total to 700,000 in the coming weeks.

Sainsbury’s in-store shopping app, SmartShop has been around for some time, with the Retailer famously having to retract their trial of the UK’s first ever cashierless grocery store in September last year – customers simply weren’t ready, it was claimed. However, it now seems that customers are ready.

With the pandemic encouraging social distancing, SmartShop is perhaps the most practical way of implementing government measures. Mike Coupe, back in May discussed how a third of all of Sainsbury’s in-store sales are now going through SmartShop in the stores that have handsets available. A growth plan that may previously have taken up to three or four years to reach, has now been achieved in less than six weeks. For Sainsbury’s, it has allowed shoppers to shop even more safely, and equally as important, it has allowed their staff to be better protected on the front line. While SmartShop isn’t as innovative as some of the newer efforts discussed previously, wider adoption has been directly fuelled as a result of the pandemic.

The Retailers listed here merely showcase a handful of the brilliant work done by Retailers across the country in recent weeks. It doesn’t really matter whether or not the work has been encouraged by a global pandemic. Each piece of work has helped to support its’ shoppers. And, as we clapped for our carers for a final time, after 10 weeks’ celebration, let’s clap for the unsung heroes in all of this; and

the innovative work done during a period where creativity has been forced upon organisations up and down the UK. Thank you.


bottom of page