One of the key questions we get asked at Planet Retail is: “Can you tell us what innovative things retailers are doing at the moment?” Sometimes, clients want us to go further and actually quantify innovation - is it increasing, which retailers and markets are ‘most innovative’. Such measures tend to be highly subjective and just because a retailer is innovative, it is no guarantee of success. A new idea can also be a bad idea. Often its the retailers who come up with one good new initiative or new way of thinking who succeed over rivals who come up with a handful of weaker ideas.
But, can we actually put some figures behind innovation and try to measure it? I have been playing around with data scraped from Planet Retail’s Daily News, which has been comprehensibly covering developments across the largest global retailer for over a decade.
Each year, from 2007-2012 (eight months only), I compiled all the news we had published. To give an idea of scale, each year comprises over 8,000 news stories, or 1,400,000 words. If all of Planet Retail’s news was laid out in A4 format, it would equate to the length of 7 buses, 5 football pitches or the distance between your office and mine (probably anyway).
Out of this treasure trove of news, I then pulled out all key words which could be assumed to be connected with innovation - including innovation, innovate, launch, launched, trial, new, pioneer/ed, debut/ed etc’. Counting up the instances of these words annually allowed me to come up with a % for each year. Very rough, but could it tell us if there was a trend in innovation?
The graph shows the results - and a clear trend; a gradual increase in the instances of innovation from 2007 to 2011. But, what has happened in 2012? Based on the eight months of the year so far, innovation is lagging significantly behind previous years. Based on the methodology outlined above, 2012 looks like being the worst year for innovation for at least 5 years.
It would be interesting to hear whether this fits in with people’s experience. As usual, please feel free to comment in the boxes below.