Articles & Case Studies by Industry


Podcast: Can the Retail Industry Stay Relevant?

At the beginning of 2019, 16,000 retailers from 3,500 brands gathered in New York City for the the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show. Innovation Leader traveled to the conference to find out, “Can the retail industry stay relevant with today’s consumers?”

Inside Sam’s Club Now, an ‘Incubator Store’ in Dallas for Testing New Retail Concepts

The Sam’s Club “incubator store” in Dallas has been rigged with 700 cameras, about 400 Bluetooth locator beacons, robotics, computer vision, and a host of other technologies aimed at enhancing the retail experience while also making visits more efficient. It was created as a platform for “testing out hypotheses” about what’s possible, explains Keri Voke, a Product Manager for Innovation at Sam’s Club. We drop by for a visit.

Why Agile Retail Needs to be on Your Radar

As 2019 unfolds, physical retail is undergoing a major transformation — one characterized by freshness, nimbleness, and curation. Conversely, losing relevance is the inflexible model of old — one marked by multi-year leases, high fixed costs, and risk. Lindsay Angelo, a former strategy manager at apparel brand lululemon, explains.

Photo Gallery: Inside American Greetings, Where ‘Meaningful Connections’ Are Made

Many people think of American Greetings as a purveyor of greeting cards, gift packaging, party goods and e-cards, but as VP of Innovation Carol Miller describes it, the privately-held company is in the “meaningful connections” business, making the world a more thoughtful and caring place. Take a look inside the company’s headquarters.

What Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison Means When He Says ‘Retail Fundamentals’ Matter

Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison has had a mantra for the company since taking the helm in 2018: “Retail fundamentals.” Here are some highlights from his talk at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in Manhattan.

Four Ways Retailers are Combatting Disruption in 2019

At the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2019, 16,000 retailers from 3,500 brands discussed how to vie for attention from customers that have access to thousands of options at their fingertips. Find out what big retail companies are working on in the age of Amazon to persist past disruption.

Target CEO Brian Cornell on Making Bricks-and-Mortar Stores Work Harder

Target CEO Brian Cornell sounded doggedly optimistic during a talk at the National Retail Federation’s annual trade show in New York on Monday. Despite the gloomy clouds of the Sears bankruptcy and the relentless march of Amazon, Cornell said Target is staying in tune with the millennial consumer; introducing new store brand products rather than trying to grow existing ones; making sure that real-world shopping feels fun and not like a chore; and getting brick-and-mortar stores to work harder, serving as fulfillment and service centers for goods purchased online. Inside are edited highlights from Cornell’s speech, and an onstage Q&A session that followed with NRF CEO Matthew Shay.

Innovation and Blurring Sectors: Where Will You Blur the Lines in 2019?

Contributing columnist Lindsay Angelo predicts that in 2019, the blurring of sectors will gain steam. She says we’ll see more sectors colliding and combining to create something bigger and more impactful than each could do on its own. Think co-working spaces meet retail, art meets yoga, burgers meet shoes. Where will you blur the lines in 2019?

Live Call Replay: The Right (and Wrong) Ways for Corporates to Engage with Accelerators

Accelerators can help your company get insight into that latest innovations in your field. However, forming a collaborative working relationship is essential. Pano Anthos, managing partner of New York-based retail accelerator XRC Labs, shared best practices for working with accelerators in our most recent live call. Topics included what causes innovation to fail inside of large organizations, the benefits of working with accelerator, and the hallmarks of an innovative culture.

Spanx and Rent the Runway Founders on Building Brands and Shifting the Closet to the Cloud

Picking an outfit can feel like a chore. Even with a full closet, you may feel like you have nothing to wear. One of the most disruptive startups in retail, Rent the Runway, has been focusing on that issue. What if you could assemble the perfect outfit for an occasion online and rent it for a few days or weeks — rather than buying each individual item and keeping them forever?

How Platform is Changing What it Means to be a Mall

With more purchases shifting over to e-commerce daily, the retail apocalypse is proving to be more than just media hype about the death of malls and the decline of the independent storefront. So why would two entrepreneurs choose this moment to build a new outdoor shopping center on a ruins of a car dealership in southern California? Despite the dire forecasts, Joseph Miller and his partner, David Fishbein, set out in 2013 to create something that was anything but mall-like. Take a look at Platform inside…

Hasbro Interview, Part 3: CEO Brian Goldner on Innovation Resistance, Toys ‘R’ Us, and the Evolution of Games

In the decade since Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner took charge, the company has begun to take a “digital-first” approach to everything it does. That approach, informed by consumer insights data and customized “blueprints” that guide each of its brands, is helping the $5.21 billion company weather one of the most tumultuous retail landscapes in recent history. We spoke recently with Goldner about how Hasbro is navigating the changing retail landscape; initiatives like company-wide idea fairs and Quick Strike; managing Wall Street’s expectations; and why changing things as fast as the market needs you to change can often run counter to human nature. Part three of three…

Hasbro Interview, Part 2: CEO Brian Goldner on Idea Generation & How Innovation is Structured

In the decade since Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner took charge, the company has begun to take a “digital-first” approach to everything it does. That approach, informed by consumer insights data and customized “blueprints” that guide each of its brands, is helping the $5.21 billion company weather one of the most tumultuous retail landscapes in recent history. We spoke recently with Goldner about how Hasbro is navigating the changing retail landscape; initiatives like company-wide idea fairs and Quick Strike; managing Wall Street’s expectations; and why changing things as fast as the market needs you to change can often run counter to human nature. Part two of three…

How Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner is Building a Company that Can Innovate in the Physical and Digital Realms (Part 1)

In the decade since Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner took charge, the company has begun to take a “digital-first” approach to everything it does. That approach, informed by consumer insights data and customized “blueprints” that guide each of its brands, is helping the $5.21 billion company weather one of the most tumultuous retail landscapes in recent history. We spoke recently with Goldner about how Hasbro is navigating the changing retail landscape; initiatives like company-wide idea fairs and Quick Strike; managing Wall Street’s expectations; and why changing things as fast as the market needs you to change can often run counter to human nature. Part one of three…

Tackling The Wicked Problem: L’Oreal VP on the Effective Use of Design Thinking in Business

Jackson Wang shares his advice on the most effective ways to use design thinking, highlighting lessons from his work as VP of Retail Design at L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble.

Walmart and Amazon Race to Build Retail’s Future

Don’t buy into the narrative that these two companies are gladiators battling to the death. Here’s what’s really happening.

Walmart’s Major Digital Acquisitions

A list of acquisitions made by Walmart from 2011 to the present, including, ModCloth, and Bonobos.

Why Bissell Homecare Turned to Crowdfunding for a New Product Launch

Bissell Homecare is best known for making cleaning equipment for floors and upholstery. But Chuck Martin was convinced that the pet care sector offered new growth opportunities. Here’s how he launched the company’s first dog grooming product, with an assist from crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

How Home Depot is Building the Future of Retail with AI, Google, and VR

The $95 billion retailer is exploring new technologies like artificial intelligence and voice-driven search, as well as running design sprints and building minimum viable products, with an eye toward creating a more “interconnected” shopping experience between stores and the online world. Prat Vemana, VP of Online, explains how the company is working to make in-store and online shopping seamless for customers. Includes slides from a recent presentation on artificial intelligence…

Setting Up the Innovation ‘Shop’: Former Starbucks VP Shares Her Advice

Former Darden Restaurants and Starbucks exec Rachel Antalek says that getting started was the hardest part of responding to the ambiguous instruction to “set up a disruptive innovation team.” She shares the advice she wishes she’d gotten at the outset…

XRC Labs Founder on How Retailers Can Position Themselves for the Future

Pano Anthos of the retail accelerator XRC Labs discusses five roles that the store can play in the future — and the importance of trends like on-demand manufacturing, augmented reality, and text messaging.

Dunkin’ Brands: How a Business ‘Built on Ritual’ is Getting More Digital

Chief Digital Officer Scott Hudler tells us that in 2017, “the innovation piece of our business is becoming more and more important to us, because we’re fighting some incredibly well-capitalized competitors in McDonald’s and Starbucks. If the analogy is ‘Moneyball,’ then we’re the Oakland A’s.” Hudler discusses kiosks, intelligent virtual assistants, delivery, and driving app downloads…

Former Lululemon Strategy Manager on Changing Consumer Motivations and Retail Disruption

“I think retail is going through a really interesting time right now,” Lindsay Angelo said in a recent conversation. “Certainly as a more established brand, there are a lot of headwinds out there. But think about how you can take advantage of that turbulence internally.” Angelo shares her take, and several slides…

‘More Speed, More Local, More Custom’: How Reebok is Thinking Outside the Mold

When it came to designing and manufacturing athletic shoes, Bill McInnis, VP at Reebok Future, says the shoe company wanted to get “ a lot more speed, a lot more local, and a lot more custom.” This was the inspiration for initiatives like the “Liquid Factory” and “Cotton + Corn,” two new processes the team has come up with for manufacturing shoes. More from McInnis inside about these initiatives and Reebok Future…

Staples CTO on chatbots, recruiting tech talent, retail shifts, and a smarter Easy Button

The future of retail, in Faisal Masud’s view, doesn’t force the customer to do anything the customer doesn’t want to do. That includes keeping shopping lists, poking around websites, getting into a car, or roaming the aisles of a store. It may even include placing an order, if intelligent software can accurately guess what the customer needs based on past purchasing patterns. Highlights and audio from our conversation…

Creating Iconic Advantage: Soon Yu Talks Innovation at VF Corp, Changes in Retail

Creating an iconic brand — like Apple, BMW, or Nike — requires more than great design and technological breakthroughs. According to Soon Yu, the former Global VP of Innovation at VF Corporation, when something is iconic, it has three simple qualities: Distinction, relevance, and universal recognition. More from Yu in this live call replay, with audio and transcript inside…

Retail Accelerator XRC Labs Spotlights Startups and Industry Shifts

The seven startups at XRC Labs’ 2017 Demo Day in New York represented the forefront of innovation in the retail space — from on-demand activewear manufacturing to indoor mapping services to artificially-intelligent visual search technology. In kicking off the demo day, XRC’s Managing Director Pano Anthos discussed some of the trends he is seeing in the retail space, and what retailers must do to stay relevant. Four of the trends he discussed are recapped inside, along with short descriptions of each of the presenting startups.

Creating an environment for innovators at India’s $43 billion Reliance Industries

“Some organizations think that putting processes of innovation in place will ensure a culture of innovation,” says Sushil Borde, VP of Innovation at Reliance. “But they don’t focus on creating the environment or fostering innovative talent, and that’s where they fail.” We spoke with Borde to learn more about how the company is working to institutionalize innovation, the innovation programs he’s helped to create, and the five tenets that guide innovation at Reliance.

Why Groupe Galeries Lafayette launched an accelerator for retail and fashion startups

“I was trying to shove innovation down their throat,” says Edoardo Manitto of Groupe Galeries Lafayette, the 120-year old French retailer. “That, in my case, didn’t lead to anything very productive.” Here’s what he’s doing instead.

Inside Target’s Food + Future coLab

The idea behind the creation of the coLAB, as founder Greg Shewmaker explains it, is that “we know less about our food than we ever have at any other time in history. We want to do something about it. I don’t want to go sell more Greek yogurt or healthy products. I want to go do something big, and fix some big problems.” Photo gallery inside…

Advice from American Greetings VP: How creatives and the business side can get along

Many people think of American Greetings as a purveyor of greeting cards and party goods, but as Carol Miller describes it, the privately-held company is in the “meaningful connections” business, helping people make connections with family and friends. On a recent IL Live conference call, she shared her advice about building great teams that include both creatives and business-side employees.

Here’s how Macy’s could set itself up for success, not just survival

Macy’s should “go small or go home.” Mark Nitkey, a former executive at Apple, Victoria’s Secret, and Ahold, explains how Macy’s should approach innovation in the Age of Amazon.

Retail innovator Ron Johnson on the Apple Store, SoulCycle, and his new approach to digital commerce

Johnson talks about companies blending digital convenience with an engaging offline experience — including the SoulCycle chain, Airbnb, and his startup, Enjoy. Johnson also shares some insights about launching the Apple Store concept while working for Steve Jobs, and how he may have tried to change things too abruptly as CEO of JC Penney.

Photos: How Lululemon Athletica is bringing designers closer to customers

At a new “lab” store in Manhattan’s Noho neighborhood, customers come in to peruse merchandise in the front of the store, and when they head to the fitting rooms to try it on, or to a counter to pay for it, they’re just a few steps away from the designers who work in the back half of the space. Photos inside…

Joe Pine: Products and services are being commoditized. Here’s how you create experiences.

“If you look at convenience, convenience means spending less time with a customer,” Pine said on a recent conference call with Innovation Leader members. “What I’m talking about is spending more time with a customer, where customers actually value the time they spend with you. Instead of time well-saved — a commoditized service — they view it as time well-spent. We spoke with Pine about how social media and virtual reality are changing the nature of experiences; Uber, Hilton, and Capital One; and more. 30 minutes of audio inside…

How Sherwin-Williams uses open innovation to create breakthrough new products

Victoria Scarborough, the Program Director for Sherwin-Williams’ seven-person Global External Innovation Team, defines her team’s mission as identifying outside “technology that would move the innovation needle.” Inside, she explains how they work and shares several slides…

10 startups aiming to change shopping online and off, from retail accelerator XRC Labs

The startups that pitched at last week’s Demo Day ranged from instant interior design services to pop-up boutiques to a smart mirror that could change your morning routine.

Three keys to longevity for corporate venture capital groups

“One the biggest knocks against corporate venture capital initiatives is that they are often a by-product of a booming economy and a pet project of the CEO. They’re here today, gone tomorrow. This reputation, unfortunately, is grounded in some truth, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” writes corporate VC Kyle Fugere.

How IKEA is exploring the future of furniture, home design, and meatballs

To test ideas and prototype designs, the world’s biggest furniture company built a model apartment in southern Sweden. It invites local families to move into the apartment and document their experiences with the experimental furnishings. Includes slides…

How new CVS digital lab proves value, collaborates with business units

Chief Digital Officer Brian Tilzer discusses why the $37 billion retail and healthcare giant set up its new Digital Innovation Lab in Boston; how it connects with teams at CVS’ Rhode Island headquarters; and his thoughts on mobile payments, videoconferencing and collaboration, and in-store Bluetooth Beacon technology. Includes 40 minutes of audio from our recent Field Study visit…

Gap exec on innovation training, co-creation, customer insights

Gap Inc.’s Dean of Global Innovation talks about creativity, co-creation, the Mindspark training initiative,  and the importance of solving small problems first. Includes slides and 30 minutes of audio from a recent call.

How $36 billion grocer Ahold is experimenting with smaller stores

A new small-format grocery store from $36 billion Dutch grocery giant Ahold that is integrated into a neighborhood streetscape may be the key to attracting a young, discerning urban shopper who frequents farmer’s markets or Whole Foods. We talk to one of the developers of the company’s new bfresh concept.

How 7-Eleven is working to expand the part it plays in customers’ lives

Rob Chumley’s mission: help 7-Eleven Inc. become more than just a quick place to stop for a sandwich and a Slurpee. “What we’re really focusing on now is this transition from convenience, which is defined by the products, to a convenient store, which is defined by the solutions it provides,” Chumley says. Here’s what 7-Eleven’s SVP of Innovation has been working on since he took on the role in November 2011…

Lowe’s exec Kyle Nel on innovating in a time of exponential change

In the 1920s, the average time companies spent in the S&P 500 Index was 67 years. Today, it’s 15. Many of the also-rans fell victim to linear thinking at a time when the business and technological landscape was changing exponentially. Kyle Nel, Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, explains how his company is working to stay ahead of the curve. Includes slides and audio…

Staples exec on building up $22B retailers’ digital muscles

When he joined Staples as its Chief Digital Officer in 2013, Faisal Masud was surprised how much of its technology development the $22 billion office supplies retailer outsourced. Since then, he has embarked on a campaign to build up the company’s digital muscles — both through attracting new talent and by acquiring small startups.

Starbucks VP on working with Howard Schultz to bring idea to life

Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, had a vision that he’d been developing for a decade. He wanted to create a shrine to coffee in Seattle, the company’s hometown, where visitors could learn about the bean and the beverage, immerse themselves in the Starbucks brand, and watch as it “rained coffee beans.” VP Liz Muller was asked to make the vision real.

Inside Home Depot’s new innovation lab at Georgia Tech

The $82 billion home improvement retailer opened the new site in January. One goal is to connect with students at Georgia Tech, but Home Depot exec Martin Key says they’re also exploring technologies that could impact the way people shop and the way store associates work. Includes videos.

CVS Health’s Chief Digital Officer on navigating two revolutions

Brian Tilzer says the $139 billion company is navigating two revolutions: omni-channel retail and what he terms “the digital enablement of healthcare.” It wouldn’t be possible without dialing up spending, and bringing new talent to the company. Here’s what he’s doing (includes slides)…

Frugal innovation: Six principles and a case study from the new book

The authors of the new book “Frugal Innovation: share with Innovation Leader their six principles of frugal innovation, and an example from the book about how Kingfisher plc, the largest home improvement retailer in Europe, is working to move the needle on one of those principles.

Hallmark innovation exec on retail pop-ups and new brands

Patti Streeper’s job at $3.9 billion Hallmark Cards is to help cultivate businesses that may not fit with the 105-year old company’s brand image — but ones that speak to new groups of customers. We talked with her about two examples: Easy, Tiger, a line of offbeat cards targeted at Millennials, and 5 Points, a pop-up retail concept that Hallmark launched last year.

How Panera Bread reinvented its customer experience

Blaine Hurst, the Chief Technology and Transformation Officer at Panera Bread, explains how he worked with CEO and founder Ron Shaich to design and test the “Panera 2.0” concept, working out of a single cafe near Boston’s Fenway Park.

GameStop’s new Technology Institute explores future of retail

In March, the $9 billion videogame retailer created the GameStop Technology Institute to help it develop new experiences and offerings for the “empowered consumer.” Senior director of technology innovation Charlie Larkin gives us a look at their first project, launching this month.

Why Lowe’s Innovation Lab hired sci-fi writers to guide its strategy

Kyle Nel, the Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, explains why the home improvement retailer created a comic book to help executives evaluate possible future scenarios. Nel also discusses why he doesn’t think labs should be located at corporate headquarters, and how his team is measured.

eBay innovation vice president: ‘Evangelize early and often’

“Doing innovation in a large company is not always an easy thing,” says Steve Yankovich, VP of innovation at $6.6 billion eBay. Inside, he talks about how his team “graduates” its projects to business units, and why it’s so important to be able to kill low-potential projects. His insights, plus a video and infographic, are inside…

From Disney: Consumer insights and the Seven Dwarfs

Director of Consumer Insight Karen Kricorian explains how Disney’s theme parks and resorts group approaches research. “When you think you know something,” she says, “that’s when you need to shake up your thinking.”

Why corporate innovation execs should know Placemeter

Innovation Leader regularly keeps innovation executives apprised of startups that merit attention, and we’ve found another one in Placemeter. Inside, we describe why this disruptive Manhattan-based startup (or one like it) may have an impact on global retailers and other large corporations.

Sweet! Four steps Hershey’s uses to reduce innovation risks

Director of Adjacency Innovation Deborah Arcoleo lays out the four steps she uses to de-risk innovation initiatives, from assembling the best team possible to ensuring that key stakeholders at the company have contributed to the key measures of success.

Gap Inc.: Moving Ideas from ‘Fuzzy’ to ‘Fruition’

Dean of Global Innovation Michael Perman explains how Gap Inc. has trained about 250 employees to be innovators, through a program called Mindspark. But Perman also asserts that not everyone in large organizations is cut out to innovate: “Not everyone is built that way, anymore than everyone should be an accountant.” Perman also outlines Gap’s current innovation priorities. Includes audio.

Nordstrom dissects an innovation project that fizzled

Nordstrom deployed a team from its innovation lab to the sunglass department at its flagship store in Seattle. Their goal: “the world’s first flash build” of a new iPad app for sunglass salespeople, over the course of a week. They created “user story maps” and paper prototypes. Here’s what happened after they were done.

Spotted: World’s best-looking vending machine?

Is there a duller visual environment than the typical airport gate area? San Francisco-based Benefit Cosmetics is trying to shake things up with a vending machine that looks like a mash-up of an ice cream truck and a Mary Kay Cadillac. The machines stock 30 of Benefit’s top-selling products. They’re in five airports now, with plans for 20 more by the end of 2013.