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The UK’s most innovative retailers in 2021

In an industry that is continually being tested and challenged, retailers are constantly needing to up their game to not only thrive, but survive in 2021.

The retail landscape has always adapted to advances in technology with the ongoing rise of on demand and e-commerce. But with ongoing restrictions and permanent changes to shopper behaviour, brands are being forced to challenge their creativity.In the last 12 months, retail trends have shifted considerably. Unsurprisingly, 42% of UK consumers expect to shop more digitally after the pandemic whilst 65% of homes have signed up to subscription services. However new research also reveals that perceptions and expectations of retailers have been altered. Shoppers are now looking closer at brand behavior, with greater loyalty shown to those who have done their bit for the nation.

Whilst we’ve sadly lost treasured high street names during the pandemic, a handful of creative retailers have gone beyond getting by, launching new innovations and pioneering experiences to their customers.

The best of retail innovation in 2021: top innovative retailers...

Lush - shaping sustainable in-store experiences

Lush has long topped the list for creative, sustainable retailers. But now the eco company has taken the next step in their mission to be zero waste by opening three ‘Naked’ stores in Manchester, Berlin and Milan.

Rather than spending efforts on reducing or revamping their packaging, Lush has taken it completely out of the equation; a monumental move in cosmetic product innovation.

Instead of individual lists of ingredients, customers can use the newly launched #LushLabs app. Smartphones scan products directly from the shelves using the Lush Lens, allowing them to explore content such as videos and directions for use. The concept not only reduces waste but encourages longer, enhanced interaction at a time where brand values remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds.

Read more about how Lush has revolutionised their in-store employee experience with Rotageek.

Argos - leading click and collect to meet consumer demand

Argos has survived (and blossomed) over the years by adapting to current retail trends. Gone are the days of flicking through its catalogue and waiting up to 30 minutes to pick up your product. Today, Argos is a go to destination for on demand collection.

After transforming struggling stores by connecting to their online channels, Argos has resurfaced as a leading click and collect retailer. Their ‘Fast Track’ service is the speedy collection alternative to Amazon Prime and has bolstered business in a time where most retailers have shut up shop. By sharing in-stock location data online, shoppers can purchase products in advance to pick up from their nearest store or whilst grocery shopping at their local Sainsbury’s.

Pret A Manger - digital retail innovation in the face of a pandemic

Dozens of brands have jumped on the subscription bandwagon in a hope to survive the pandemic. But for Pret A Manger, a revolutionary sign up model has turned the UK’s favourite sandwich chain into a digital, multichannel business.

YourPret Barista’ is the latest innovative retail technology to recovering from multiple lockdowns. Consumers pay £20 a month to receive up to five drinks per day - including syrups and extra shots that would normally bump up the price of a coffee.

The retail technology platform also benefits customer communication, providing more insights to boost Pret’s loyalty strategy.

Peloton - bringing at-home fitness to the high street

At-home workouts have thrived during the pandemic. And for one fitness giant, this has opened doors to a new store concept.

US-based app, Peloton, has seen both national and global growth in recent years and has sights on the UK. Taking advantage of all-time low property prices, the brand has taken over three showrooms in London, Manchester and Birmingham. Shoppers will now be able to test out the £2,000 bikes before buying, in a retail innovation that builds upon brand familiarity and experience.

Peloton will also bring their live studio experience to nine John Lewis department stores and Harrods’ technology department in the form of interactive concessions.

H&M - the future of retail tech

With fitting rooms closed since the start of 2020, H&M’s own innovation lab H&Mbeyond has partnered with NeXR Technologies to develop an alternative to the in-store experience. A virtual fitting room will allow customers to try clothing on their own personalised avatars.

Set to pilot in summer, the AR retail technology will enable shoppers to sample products without moving a muscle. After taking a scan of their bodies, users will receive an exact digital image of themselves in the app to which they can assign various styles and outfits.

H&M’s retail tech innovation aims to not only improve the digital shopping experience but to have a positive impact on returns behaviour and aid purchase decisions.

Boots - innovating the in-store experience

Concept stores have long been a trend in retail however Boots’ latest transformation has set the bar for high street health and beauty. The flagship Covent Garden store is a reimagined design combining innovative in-store retail experiences with heightened technologies.

More than 300 brands can be discovered among the ‘Beauty and Wellness Halls’ where lower shelving, digital screens and express pickup lanes have enhanced navigation. Sustainability is also a top consideration. A beauty kitchen encourages interaction with refillable toiletries and prescription collection lockers, encouraging passing customers and faster footfall.

The test space is the first of many changes in Boots’ transformation programme and sets an inspirational blueprint for high street stores.

Looking for more inspiration on how to drive retail innovation? Take a dive into the retailers who are taking the in-store experience to the next level.

Find out more about how Rotageek is revolutionising the retail industry for the likes of Lush, Sephora and Pret A Manger.

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