Innovation is the lifeblood of retail but what do we actually mean by innovation? And what separates something innovative from something simply new?

The need to grow sales, better serve the customer and gain an advantage over the competition has driven game-changing innovation in retail for generations.

Through detailed interviews with judges on this year’s Launch Pad stage at Retail Week Live – full round up of the event can be found here – Retail Week, in association with digital advertising business Criteo, looks to answer these questions and more in the preview below and via a downloadable report.

Is the term innovation overused in the retail industry?

Everybody loves to claim a first, but are we too eager to herald a new development, service or product as innovative?

“Definitely, and probably not just in the retail industry,” says Ocado director of technology Paul Clarke. He believes that many, if not most, companies set the bar too low, with their view of innovation being limited to relatively minor incremental improvements, rather than striving for truly game-changing opportunities.

Briony Garbett, director of digital at Oasis, agrees that the term is probably overused, often describing what the industry is actually improving and enhancing rather than innovating. “It’s important to remember that what feels innovative to the retail sector may not feel innovative to other industries, with ideas often borrowed or developed from other areas,” she adds.

What is the most innovative project you’ve worked on over your career to date?

Each of the Launch Pad judges has carved out a reputation for working on, and in many cases leading, innovative projects during their careers in retail.

For Jonathan Wall, ecommerce director at Shop Direct, helping the business to make the transition from a catalogue retailer to a digital retailer is the most innovative project he has been involved with. “It’s not finished yet but we have certainly turned the business into a digital/mobile-first retailer and removed most of the catalogue heritage in the business,” he notes.

And Haatch chief executive Scott Weavers-Wright nominates former Pitch Perfect winner Elevaate, of which he is chairman, for “truly changing the way supplier contribution is positioned between brands and retailers globally”.

Garbett cites the replatforming of Oasis’ new website – under her direction – to include lots of innovative and exciting elements that are new to online fashion as the most innovative project she has worked on to date.

To read the full Innovation in Retail report, produced in association with Criteo, click here.