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The Innovation Award 2

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We have seven candidates for this year’s Innovation Award: Argos, Asda, Clarks, House of Fraser, M&S, ShopDirect and Tesco. Please read through their commendations below before submitting your vote at the bottom of the page. Choose your favourite from the list or select up to three in order of preference.

Not newness for newness’ sake, but rather inventive and inspiring solutions for problems or the creation of new opportunities. The winner of this Award will have shaken something that needed disrupting, seen something that was obvious once their genius had made it clear, or so improved a business that it has created a new genre, a new mode of business or even a new verb!


  • has launched a service or product that’s novel, distinctive and well executed

  • has changed what we now consider to be best practice or normal as a result of their innovation

  • where the innovation is based on others’ technology or services, they’ve made the innovation distinctive and unique

  • the innovation is clearly commercial and sustainable, not just a marketing or brand initiative for temporary effect.


Argos [show-irdx rarg]

Argos was a pioneer of click and collect and multichannel, but the last year or so has seen a resurgence in activity, investment and focus at the retail giant. Sales grew to £4bn this year, with eCom delivering 44% (and mobile a creditable 18%). At the heart of the growth has been the transformation of their 734 stores from ‘sheds with catalogues’ to a digitally-led experience. Bertrand Bodson (Digital Director) explains the new digital stores in this interview with Emma Herrod at IRX14 ( The tablets in-store (replacing the laminated catalogues) serve not only the 55% who are digital customers, but also give an insight to the other customers into how digital shopping could be.

We were impressed by Argos’ drive to seed and support integration within the business and so commend the creation of a tech lab over the Victoria store. When a new idea develops it is tested on-site, downstairs. This iterative, prototyping approach speeds the test/learn/fail/improve cycle, and keeps the innovators close to the customer and the retail realities.

Finally, we have seen innovation in the underlying logistic capability with new hub and spoke methods for increased convenience over the past year. It has also linked with eBay to increase store footfall and connect imaginatively with high volumes of digital transactions via the extensive store network.

In all, a strong year of tangible innovation across many fronts.



Asda [show-irdx rasd]

Asda’s nomination is based upon its consistent experimentation with variations on click and collect throughout the year. Asda is focusing on reaching the whole of the UK and is creating 12,000 jobs as multichannel and store openings extend their reach (

Asda was amongst the first to unveil a ‘collect from the underground’ option for online shoppers, cleverly connecting shoppers with their purchases at the right time (the end of the working day’s commute) and the right place (near their home):

Asda has also developed drive-through options in service stations and continues to trial new approaches (

This is driven by a strategic view that increasing store footfall is not the objective, but rather taking the store to more places that are convenient for customers. A distinctive and innovative approach for the sector that is worth of the term ‘innovative’.


Clarks [show-irdx rcuk]

The use of iPads and tablets for in-store is becoming an orthodoxy. Most implementations meld POS with web information, but Clarks have a distinctive use for tablets in-store: integration with measuring children’s feet.

Parents care about correct and careful measurement, and Clark’s reputation on this front is unparalleled. The new iPad approach sees the tablet ‘slot into’ a foot measuring device, entertain and inform the children, convey the sizing to the store assistant and parents and link to stock.

The ipad and measurement are well-integrated to the store and provide an improved store experience as well as a sales benefit that supports the brand values. and

House of Fraser [show-irdx rhof]

House of Fraser (HoF) has been in the new for its recent sale, but has maintained a steady stream of innovation for the last 18 months. Their ongoing behind-the-scenes improvements delivered a 57% increase in sales via digital channels, and record Christmas 2013 trading, even as rivals faltered.

The integration of mobile and responsive design into a luxury experience caught our eye. Mobile-first design caters for the 50% device representation ( and HoF has already looked beyond mobile to be ready for other emerging devices (eg TVs)

This video interview with Andy Harding gives a flavour of the achievement, but also the pragmatic approach to clearing problems, testing and releasing – showing us that the innovation approaches are embedded within the business (

Taken in conjunction with HoF’s continued store investments, their Digital (dot com) stores and trading results, their innovation in the digital interfaces to support their brand experience is commended.

M&S [show-irdx rmas]

After the largest IT/ecommerce investment known within the industry, M&S unveiled its dot com platform on time and on budget this year. More than a “new platform” this has been a re-foundationing of the business’ infrastructure to fit it for a multichannel world. Not only must it support the back-end capabilities of a world-leading retailer, but also the front-end experience and effectiveness of the platform they’ve left behind.

Laura Wade-Gery spoke of the many changes in hand:

International and digitally-led stores (eg in Kalverstraad in the Netherlands); iPads and digital sales points in stores (; new supply chain capabilities for multichannel (; embracing big data allied to style advice with their integration (

In addition M&S created their “Labs” during the year which will give the retailer a team to test, implement, review, improve in an agile “web time” – blending the benefits of their scale and capabilities with the fleet approaches of the dot com era. This is an innovative approach to balance the 110%-right needs of a blue chip (with a bank!) and the ‘permanent beta’ of the web.

This year M&S has been making the running – will they top your chart?


Shop Direct [show-irdx rsdg]

Shop Direct has completed the transformation from catalogue company to digitally-led retailer, with over 84% of sales now driven by online and messaging from the leadership that they consider themselves a digital-first retailer. Profitable again after 10 years of change, the retailer now boasts £1.7bn in turnover and is aligning itself to a digital future (

Of interest to us though was the approach that ShopDirect is taking to give itself an advantage in customer insight and behaviour as it prepares for an even-more-digital shopping age (their CEO predicts that in 2015 every transaction they complete will involve a mobile device! –

Traditional retailers can monitor store visits and behaviour; catalogue companies could monitor page yield and conversion by postcode and account… what about the digital-first retailer?

ShopDirect has created an innovative UX (user experience) laboratory in-house that it can use as its test-bed for customer interaction. Of interest to us is the way it blends the experiential and persuasive aspects of UX with extensive, deep ‘big data’ (appropriate to the analytical catalogue heritage).

The UX lab was developed in-house and supplements the normal test/review and candidate development with Big Data (some 20 million observed real-time data points of live transactions).

While UX investment is not new, it is the integration within the organisation, the link with extensive data and the creation of a ‘new normal’ way of doing business that caught our eye – while the £20million a year of incremental sales confirmed our interest!

Tesco [show-irdx rtsc]

This year Tesco’s innovation has come to the fore as we see beyond the size of the brand and its many activities to a more ‘multichannel-first’ coherent approach.

Innovations this year include: delivery, with the £1 delivery, free click and collect and delivery passes a la Amazon Prime raising the bar for competitors (; they’ve taken the time to launch their own tablet, the Hudl, combining product revenues, ecosystem opportunities and of course growing the customer base for online shopping (; Click and Collect via 1750 outlets is noteworthy, but the real innovation is that these are accessible to some 50 third-party vendors via its marketplace (; smart discounting and digital couponing redux, rebuilding an early Clubcard lead on insight into active digital couponing (; Clubcard FuelSave that integrates point earning with redemption and finally the use of their social network (The Orchard) to share offers with some 60,000 members…

A worthy contender on any of the points above, but the real achievement is to innovate across so many areas at once.



Next up: The Omni Award

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