51 Companies That Are Changing The Way We Shop

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Photo: Augment

With the advent of e-commerce, retail is changing more than nearly any other industry. In this evolving environment, a few trailblazers have set themselves apart, and are revolutionizing the way we perceive and consume retail.

Some retailers have altered their merchandising strategies to accommodate today’s fast-paced shoppers. Others are making e-commerce more personalised than ever. 

These 51 companies are changing the entire shopping experience, from what happens in stores to how customers find goods online.

Our list includes everything from multinational corporate heavyweights to innovative new start-ups that launched recently. 

Click here to see the companies >
There are plenty more innovative companies out there. Let us know your favourites we missed in the comments below.

Hointer is taking humans out of stores.

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

Year founded: 2012

Why it's revolutionary: Led by former head of supply chain and fulfillment tech for Amazon, Nadia Shouraboura, Hointer is changing the way you shop for clothes by using a robotic sales staff. You download an app, go to the showroom, and scan the QR codes of the clothing you'd like to try. The clothes are delivered automatically right to the fitting room, customers swipe their card on the tablet, and walk out.

Zara is altering how the fashion business works.

Headquarters: Arteixo, Spain

Year founded: 1975

Why it's revolutionary: Zara's revolutionary strategy includes stocking light and replenishing with totally new products. As a result, the top fashion houses have started creating even more collections. Zara's fast-fashion outlook is appropriate for the short attention span of today's consumer, and the retailer is expanding globally.

Augment is trailblazing in simulated reality, a necessity in today's world of e-commerce.

Headquarters: Paris, France

Year founded: 2010

Why it's revolutionary: Augment creates instant, 3D models of products people want to buy and helps them determine if it's what they really want. It's currently working to provide simulations on customers' smartphones, making it possible to explore and buy products anywhere.

STORY provides an interactive, physical experience for brands and retailers.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2011

Why it's revolutionary: STORY is a retail space that completely changes every four to eight weeks and gives e-commerce sites like Birchbox a physical store. STORY began as 'A Startup Store' in 2011. The business model is the first of its kind, not only because of how it brings e-commerce to life, but because STORY includes paid brand partners who 'sponsor' different iterations.

Storenvy allows independent vendors to open and customise their own virtual shops.

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Year founded: 2008

Why it's revolutionary: While big-budget companies can afford to make e-commerce sites special, smaller businesses often don't have that luxury. Storenvy creates a more level playing field by allowing its 30,000+ vendors to personalise their online stores.

Threadless' crowd-sourcing merchandising caught the attention of America's largest retailers.

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois

Year founded: 2000

Why it's revolutionary: Threadless is an apparel company that lets artists submit designs for t-shirts, housewares and more. The designs with the most votes become available for purchase. The company recently got the attention of Gap, which started carrying Threadless t-shirts.

Amazon continues to be the leader in e-commerce.

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

Year founded: 1994

Why it's revolutionary: Amazon has raised the bar for everyone, and has major retailers like Target rushing to step up their game in e-commerce. Amazon is also foraying into food and fashion, which could likely make it the world's first online superstore. It's also working to crack the code for widespread same-day shipping, which would instantly disrupt the entire retail world.

Selfridges has pop-up concepts that combine retail and art.

Headquarters: London, United Kingdom

Year founded: 1909

Why it's revolutionary: Selfridges prides itself on selling a little bit of everything. But the company really shines at merchandising, bringing in artistic exhibits like the current 'no-noise' concept that eliminated logos from iconic brands like Levi's and Heinz.

Kiva Systems makes distribution centres more efficient.

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Year founded: 2004

Why it's revolutionary: Companies like Toys 'R' Us and Timbaland use Kiva Systems' robots in their e-commerce warehouses. The robots fetch items quickly and with perfect accuracy. As a result, customers can get packages more quickly.

Rent The Runway is using real customers as models for its offerings.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2009

Why it's revolutionary: The subscription site caught on quickly because it allows women to rent formal clothing for special events. This year, Rent the Runway started MyRunway, a program that lets customers upload photos of their dresses and review the fit. This meets two consumer needs: the backlash against models, and the demand for information about products.

Square is helping to expedite the death of the cash register.

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Year founded: 2010

Why it's revolutionary: Square's tiny mobile-payment system helps business transactions happen anywhere. This not only gives power to small businesses, but it helps larger ones do away with traditional lines and cash registers. Associates armed with mobile devices can complete any transaction.

Walmart has a high-tech lab that aims to shape the future of commerce.

Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas

Year founded: 1962

Why it's revolutionary: The world's largest retailer can't afford to let up. @WalmartLabs, its innovation centre, exists to create the 'core technology' that will blast Walmart into the future. Here, they're working on everything from specialised search engines to tracking buyers' habits to distribution solutions.

Headquarters: Manhattan, NY

Year founded: 2011

Why it's revolutionary: The design-based social site garnered 10 million members in its first two years and has been called the 'Ikea of Fashion.' The site is successful because of its social format and how it's been able to bring high fashion to the masses.

OpenSky chooses products based on consumer preferences.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York.

Year founded: 2009

Why it's revolutionary: OpenSky.com is a social network with 2.5 million members for shopping that helps people discover, buy and share unique goods that match their individual taste. Members create their own shopping circle by connecting to their friends and choice of the site's industry insiders like Bobby Flay or Martha Stewart to create a personalised shopping experience and gain access to exclusive information, advice and product recommendations from people they trust.

Shopify can create an e-commerce store in 20 minutes.

Headquarters: Ottawa, Canada

Year founded: 2006

Why it's revolutionary: Shopify can build an aesthetically-pleasing e-commerce site in about 20 minutes, according to founder Tobi Lutke (pictured). The amazing platform makes e-commerce more accessible to all businesses, and makes the customer experience more enjoyable.

Warby Parker is making prescription glasses more affordable for everyone.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2010

Why it's revolutionary: Until recently, people didn't question paying an average of $300 for prescription glasses. But Warby Parker is changing the eyewear industry by selling glasses for $95 per pair and taking on Luxottica, the company that sells most people their glasses. 'Glasses shouldn't cost as much as an iPhone,' co-founder Neil Blumenthal said.

UPS is keeping packages more secure.

Headquarters: Sandy Springs, Georgia

Year founded: 1907

Why it's revolutionary: UPS delivers billions of packages a year. As more consumers order online, UPS is adapting by implementing 'gopost' lockers outside of post offices. The lockers allow consumers to retrieve their packages in a secure place, without working through a middleman.

Pinterest is changing how companies present their products.

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Year founded: 2010

Why it's revolutionary: Pinterest is a platform where people share things they like. It's proven to be a boon for retailers including Etsy and Whole Foods. Retailers from Gap to Target have altered their marketing campaigns to include the platform.

Blue Nile is disrupting the jewelry business.

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

Year founded: 1999

Why it's revolutionary: Online jewelry shop Blue Nile targets regular guys who don't understand diamonds -- a market segment that was previously ignored. It's trashing the industry's secretive status quo. Blue Nile's latest step is an iPhone app that helps customers find the best diamond for them, making the shopping experience easier.

Shopkick is creating the personal experience that shoppers crave.

Headquarters: Palo Alto, California.

Year founded: 2010.

Why it's revolutionary: Shopkick is a mobile app that sends shoppers rewards when they're at retailers like Crate & Barrel, Target and Old Navy and is easier than carrying loyalty cards. 'No plastic cards, no confusing rules, no extra steps,' Shopkick says on its website. Just walking in with a smart phone earns perks.

Openhouse provides a place for pop-ups to thrive.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2007

Why it's revolutionary: Openhouse provides venues for pop-up shops, a growing trend in the retail world. As one of the only companies dedicated to this growing trend, Openhouse is important because it gives independent vendors a reliable place to sell.

Yihaodian is a working as a bridge to the all-important Chinese consumer base.

Headquarters: Beijing, China

Year founded: 2008

Why it's revolutionary: Yihaodian provides same-day delivery to its 24 million customers in China. Because Chinese e-commerce is expanding so rapidly, retailers like Walmart have rushed to form partnerships.

Stylitics keeps track of customers' wardrobes the way Mint.com does with money.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2011

Why it's revolutionary: Stylitics is an app that logs what customers own, and keeps track of what they buy and wear. Ultimately, Stylitics tracks what brands customers wear the most and affirms which companies they're most loyal to.

Zappos builds customer relationships like no other.

Headquarters: Henderson, Nevada

Year founded: 1999

Why it's revolutionary: Shoe-seller Zappos, now owned by Amazon, has made massive strides in 'relationship marketing,' building an incredible reputation for customer service. With the rise of social, Zappos continues to set the standard and find ways to augment its loyal customer base.

20x200 makes art accessible.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2007

Why it's revolutionary: 20x200 is an e-commerce site that allows a design enthusiast to transform into an art collector. The idea is to curate affordable art and become a gateway into art collection, benefiting both the consumer and the artists.

Restoration Hardware is making showrooming an asset instead of an enemy.

Headquarters: Corte Madera, California

Year founded: 1979

Why it's revolutionary: Restoration Hardware decreased its number of physical stores and used the remaining ones as showrooms. Sofas, tables, rugs and other decor were meticulously arranged with an emphasis on the aesthetic. Customers could find even more merchandise online or in catalogues while shopping in the stores.

Bib + Tuck is an online market tailored to the fast-fashion culture.

Headquarters: New York, New York

Year founded: 2011

Why it's revolutionary: Co-founder Sari Azout told Vogue that Bib + Tuck is like 'Sartorialist meets eBay.' The invitation-only site allows members to buy, sell and trade clothing items, perfect for today's fast-fashion mentality.

Lululemon's amazing merchandise strategy eliminates excess merchandise.

Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia

Year founded: 1998

Why it's revolutionary: Lululemon has accomplished what most retailers only dream of: eliminated discounted merchandise. Instead, Lululemon offers fewer items to create the perception of scarcity, resulting in 'fanatical' shoppers, and 95 per cent of merchandise selling for full-price CEO Christine Day told the WSJ.

Tommy John is becoming for men what Victoria's Secret is for women.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2009

Why it's revolutionary: Founder Tom Patterson started Tommy John to solve one of men's biggest clothing complaints: baggy undershirts. Since then, the brand has expanded to 500 stores nationwide, including Nordstrom.

Hall & Madden is changing how men buy dress shirts.

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois.

Year founded: 2012

Why it's revolutionary: Two tailors started Hall & Madden last year after noticing that men's dress shirts rarely fit correctly. The shirts are as high-quality as those manufactured by Hugo Boss, Burberry, and Gucci, but for about one-third of the price ($150 for three).

Etsy didn't stop at its successful website.

Headquarters: Brooklyn, NY

Year founded: 2005

Why it's revolutionary: Etsy has been called a high-quality and well-run street fair. But Etsy also has one of the best mobile-apps around and wisely got involved with Pinterest, where it's the most-pinned company. Other retailers are watching to see how it will engage customers next.

Target is getting loyalty programs right.

Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Year founded: 1902

Why it's revolutionary: Target's REDcard is one of the most attractive, simple loyalty cards among the big every-day retailers. Between the 5 per cent discount, no annual fee, and additional perks, the card is making a difference for consumers (who pay their balances on time.)

Patagonia is connecting to a shift in consumer values.

Headquarters: Ventura, California

Year founded: 1972

Why it's revolutionary: Patagonia's Cyber Monday ad campaign urged consumers not to buy new clothes if they didn't need them and pointed them to its Common Threads program. The anti-consumer message and commitment to sustainability shows Patagonia is a leader in an industry-wide initiative.

Apple's store designs have the industry's full attention.

Headquarters: Cupertino, California

Year founded: 1976

Why it's revolutionary: Apple already transformed the retail landscape when the minimalistic design of the Apple Store took off, but the world's most valuable company hasn't let up. New, unique stores push the envelope, always trying to be more beautiful than the last.

Tory Burch is quickly becoming an empire by hitting a market sweet spot.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2004

Why it's revolutionary: Tory Burch rose to popularity with her famous ballet flats. Since then, her lifestyle brand has expanded to clothing, handbags and jewelry. The secret to her success is that she's hitting a great category of consumers: people who have money to spend, but aren't rich.

ShoeDazzle is hand-picking shoes that women will love.

Headquarters: Los Angeles, California

Year founded: 2009

Why it's revolutionary: ShoeDazzle takes the experience of buying shoes to a whole new level through a curated 'showroom' that chooses selections based on the customer's preferences. Business is exploding: the retailer went from 3 to 13 million customers in 2012.

eBay is revolutionizing payments through PayPal.

Headquarters: San Jose, California

Year founded: 1995

Why it's revolutionary: eBay's PayPal division is changing how people pay for things. Recent innovations include a program with McDonald's France which allows customers to pay ahead online and says many similar programs will roll out in the U.S. this year.

Knot Standard is helping men find better-fitting suits at affordable prices.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2010

Why it's revolutionary: Knot Standard takes the anxiety out of shopping for men by offering local tailors who provide measurements and online ordering of suits. The result is a better-fitting product and happier customer. Other retailers can learn from Knot Standard's efforts to personalise the customer experience.

Victoria's Secret's marketing prowess is the envy of apparel retailers everywhere.

Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio

Year founded: 1977

Why it's revolutionary: Victoria's Secret's marketing, culminating with its annual fashion show, is among the best in the business. The company defied an economic downturn to report record sales for three years straight.

Yumani makes sellers compete for customers.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2010

Why it's revolutionary: Yumani is a site that tries to give consumers more power by letting them request products at lower prices. The more consumers, the bigger the discount.

'With online auctions, am I supposed to compete with other buyers to drive up the price of an item?' asked founder Henry Zilberman. 'The concept seems completely backwards!'

Bow & Drape is making strides with custom-fit dresses.

Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts

Year founded: 2012

Why it's revolutionary: Bow & Drape is an online-only clothing retailer that sells customised dresses that fit to a woman's exact measurements. Right now, it uses an at-home Fit Kit (low-tech) or 'photorealistic dynamic configurator' (high-tech) methods to ensure the perfect fit, but it eventually wants to let consumers upload an avatar to fit themselves virtually.

Vente-privee is setting a new standard for flash sales.

Headquarters: Paris, France

Year founded: 2001

Why it's revolutionary: Flash sale sites have recently surged in popularity. But Vente-privee sets a new standard by only offering premium merchandise from the hottest designers and also using curators like designer Joe Zee to add credibility to its selections.

Macy's is an old brand that's staying ahead.

Headquarters: Cincinnati, Ohio

Year founded: 1858

Why it's revolutionary: Macy's continues to identify and act on new retail trends, coming up with great new ideas. Beauty Spot, for instance, is a cosmetics concept kiosks to improve the experience on the selling floor. It's also making strides with location tracking in its big stores, delivery systems, and digital receipts.

Frank & Oak curates style online.

Headquarters: Montreal, Canada

Year founded: 2012

Why it's revolutionary: Frank & Oak is an online clothing shop for men that personalizes customers' offerings as they shop. Its algorithm is unique and presents you with what you're most likely to be interested in. It wants to curate style -- not just products.

FreshDirect is reinventing grocery shopping.

Headquarters: Long Island City, New York

Year founded: 2002

Why it's revolutionary: FreshDirect has grown to become the Internet's most popular grocer -- it now delivers groceries to people in cities around the world -- and it's not stopping there. It has been working hard on staying true to its name and maintaining freshness at all times, with 'quality freshness ratings' that are updated daily and a warehouse with seven different climates.

Ikea is one of the first major retailers to make progress in India.

Headquarters: Delft, Netherlands

Year founded: 1943

Why it's revolutionary: The world's largest furniture maker plans to enter the emerging market of India in a big way, opening 25 stores in the near future. It's always working to improve its products' functionality and style, along with marketing that sets the standard in its industry.

JCPenney is altering the look of stores everywhere.

Headquarters: Plano, Texas

Year founded: 1902

Why it's revolutionary: JCPenney's CEO has raised eyebrows in his year-long tenure by announcing the company would cease promotions.

But the in-store experience that he's in the process of creating at JCPenney has competitors rushing to emulate it. The full store of branded shops, a half-mile long aisle for customers to hang out, and a seasonal entertainment area have the potential to change how people buy in department stores.

Threadflip is helping women find a home for their unwanted clothes.

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Year founded: 2012

Why it's revolutionary: Threadflip lets women buy and sell second-hand fashion goods, but is less of a hassle than eBay or other shopping sites. For an additional fee, Threadflip will take what users send in and post it themselves.

Marks & Spencer is pursuing a green supply chain.

Headquarters: London, England

Year founded: 1884

Why it's revolutionary: Marks & Spencer, the U.K.'s all-in-one retailer, has taken some of the most drastic steps for sustainability of any major company. It encourages shoppers to donate old clothes for a voucher and uses recycled plastic bottles (not oil) to make polyester for its clothing.

Bonobos is helping men find clothes that actually fit.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York.

Year founded: 2008

Why it's revolutionary: Bonobos is blazing an empire by making shopping more convenient for men. Men provide simple measurements and Bonobos sends clothing that is fashionable and fits them well. Perks like free shipping and painless returns are the cherry on top.

Birchbox makes consumers an offer they can't refuse.

Headquarters: Manhattan, New York

Year founded: 2010

Why it's revolutionary: Birchbox sends subscribers a box of high-end beauty supplies for just $10 a month. This year, the company launched a program for male subscribers. Birchbox is a leader in a current industry trend: curating great experiences for consumers.

These companies are changing the way we shop, but not all retailers are as successful.

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