As the UK lockdown eases, Retail Week’s inaugural Discovery 50 report shines a spotlight on the world’s top tech start-ups that can help drive retail forward.

With the sector attempting to get back on its feet, retail boardrooms worldwide will be debating how to best proceed with business and operations.

The focus has now moved towards embracing new channels, technologies and ways of driving efficiency and effectiveness. Collaboration is crucial, but with a sea of possibilities it is hard to know where to begin.

Retail Week’s Discovery 50 report celebrates the top 50 global tech start-ups powering the new retail world. 

Shortlisted by a panel of retail and business experts, here are five start-ups that featured among the judge’s top picks for having the greatest potential to shake up the retail sector:

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Meepl’s AI technology can help fashion retailers offer a more personalised service 


What: Offers personalisation for fashion retailers

Where: Zurich, Switzerland

Tell me more: With its instant 3D body-reconstruction platform, meepl helps fashion ecommerce retailers offer an interactive and personalised online shopping experience. 

Using meepl’s AI-based technology, any customer with a smartphone can submit two body scans to create a 3D avatar and a list of more than 50 measurements within seconds – data that retailers can then use to offer made-to-measure size recommendations and a 3D virtual dressing-room service.

By making recommendations customised to the shopper, retailers benefit from reduced return rates and therefore achieve greater efficiencies in their supply chains.

Throughout the pandemic, consumers have increasingly turned to the internet to buy new clothes. Even though stores have now reopened, many consumers may feel uneasy about using fitting rooms and so continue to buy online.

This technology from meepl will help give shoppers a more personalised customer experience from the comfort of their own homes. 

Online fashion retailers often lament the issue of excessive returns, however, the judges also highlighted that meepl can help target this issue.

“Through its innovative technology, meepl is enabling retailers to benefit from visual feedback on size and fit so that they make significant inroads in reducing return rates,” they said.

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NearSt’s solution makes it easier for high street retailers to be found online by local shoppers



What: Improves retailers’ SEO

Where: London, UK

Tell me more: Founded in 2015, NearSt helps high street retailers – particularly independents – drive footfall by improving the likelihood that they’ll show up in local Google search results.

Shoppers are searching online more than ever, but NearSt says almost all search phrases such as “Where can I find … near me?” often return no relevant results. This means local stores with thousands of matching products do not appear in the millions of searches shoppers are making. 

Having created a piece of software that integrates with any stock management system, NearSt’s solution addresses this problem and shows shoppers that the things they’re searching for online are often stocked in stores nearby.

The judges said NearSt would give retailers a “helping hand” when it comes to getting shoppers back in store: “NearSt is making it as easy to shop locally as it is online, and enabling smaller retailers lacking the scope and budgets of larger brands to compete.”


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Ometria’s marketing model has helped retailers such as Feelunique reach consumers


What: Delivers personalised marketing

Where: London, UK

Tell me more: Ometria collects and aggregates data from all customer touchpoints, profiles the information using AI processes and allows retailers to send the most effective marketing messages based on individual shopper habits.

The platform was built specifically for retailers, and online beauty retailer Feelunique is a high-profile user. The retailer embedded the tech to automate email newsletter creation and help individually design them for each consumer.

Ometria’s tech crunches the data and populates the newsletters around a series of personal insights, including browsing and purchasing behaviour and the activities of similar shoppers.

With pandemic life starving consumers of face-to-face interactions, Ometria can help retailers deliver the personal touch.

Personalised online communication with customers has been a key focus area in retail for several years, but this year it has become even more significant.

The judges also highlighted that Ometria’s platform saves hours of manual work. They added: “Harnessing AI to review data at speed leaving teams to work on creative content has to be the future.” 



ParcelLab’s ecommerce technology has helped retailers such as Lidl retain custom


What: Innovating ecommerce delivery

Where: London, UK

Tell me more: This shipping tech start-up provides various tools for retailers to manage the customer experience after the online checkout, rather than giving that responsibility to third-party carriers.  

ParcelLab’s tech enables users to monitor shipments and communicate with customers in multiple ways after a product purchase. 

Key retail clients of parcelLab include supermarket chain Lidl, as well as the European consumer electronics retailer MediaMarktSaturn.

A key target for retailers using parcelLab’s technology is to get customers to return to their websites. The start-up reports that 85% of Lidl’s online customers return to the grocer’s website during the delivery process – the majority from the direct tracking link included in shipping emails.

Even sceptical consumers have been forced to turn to online shopping in response to restrictions on movement in recent months.

ParcelLab can help ecommerce retailers to welcome this step change. 

The judges said: “ParcelLab turns boring shipping information into real communication, offering customers the tools to monitor shipments. Clearly a win for customers and retailers, and it demonstrates how a retailer can control a tricky touchpoint, turning it to their advantage.”  


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Sook has created a solution for retailers to benefit from a bricks-and-mortar presence


What: Adapts vacant retail spaces

Where: Cambridge, UK

Tell me more: Sook presents retailers and brands with physical selling space only when they need it.  

The start-up turns otherwise unwanted commercial sites into usable brand spaces, aided by its proprietary technology that allows interested parties to design their stores online and preview in 3D-model format or in virtual reality prior to fit-out.

Sook partners can rent space by the hour and the start-up has identified 40 potential sites across the UK.

E-bike manufacturer Flit used Sook for a crowdfunding launch event, and then again to host test rides with customers and create a shop. On the occasion of the test rides, Flit estimated the revenue generated was 10 times the cost of renting the space.

Sook offers a great proposition for firms post-Covid, helping them get back on to the high street.

In the ’new normal’, bricks-and-mortar retailers will have to work collaboratively with landlords and think carefully about the shop space they occupy.

The judges said: “Vacancies on the high street are going to become a big issue for landlords, local councils and residents alike this year. Sook might just be the right start-up at the right time.” 

Discovery 50 front cover

Want to know more about the other 45 start-ups with game-changing solutions for retail? Download our Discovery 50 report for free to:

  • Meet the top 50 retail tech start-ups from across the world – spanning Europe, the US, Canada, the UK and the Middle East

  • Understand how to navigate the common barriers impacting retail start-up partnerships

  • Learn how start-ups can help retailers seize new opportunities and overcome existing challenges