The World’s Most Innovative Retail Companies of 2015

Fast Company's picks included Warby Parker, Apple, and Alibaba

Retail companies made a strong showing on Fast Company's 2015 World’s Most Innovative Companies list. Nearly one-third of the companies on the list have retailing as a significant part of their business model, and the top three top spots on the annual innovation ranking went to retail companies. 

Of all companies in all industries anywhere in the world, Fast Company not chose e-commerce rising star Warby Parker as the No. 1 most innovative for its list. 

Is Warby Parker really more innovative than No. 2, Apple, the retail disruptor of the century, and No. 3, Alibaba, the biometrics cyber payment pioneer? Maybe, maybe not. But Apple and Alibaba have been around a while, so Warby Parker gives Fast Company something new to talk about. 

Warby Parker Is nothing is not distracting. There’s the reported $100 million in revenue that Warby Parker generated in its fifth year in business. There’s the Zara-esque vertical integration that has turned the eyewear industry on its ear. There’s the core buy-one-give-one marketing strategy that inextricably integrates capitalism with social responsibility.    

All of those leading-edge retail practices are individually innovative. But what really earned Warby its designation as the World’s Most Innovative Retail Company in 2015 was the sum total of its retail innovations, which managed to make something as utilitarian as eyeglasses sexy.  

The what of Warby Parker innovation is in the consistent execution of retailing best practices. The how of Warby Parker innovation is all about personality. It’s unique. It’s quirky. It’s surprising. It’s endearing. It’s the same kind of “sexy" that ignites fires in personal relationships translated into corrective eyewear. 

The retailing lesson from Warby Parker's innovative success is about retailing past vs. retailing future. Playing it safe in an effort to offend nobody and appeal to everyone may have been the strategy that moved retailing companies down the long road of  growth and longevity in the retail history days of yore. Today, however, that strategy is quickly moving some of the largest U.S. retail  chains down the short path to Chapter 11 bankruptcy court.  

Fast Company's 2015 World’s Most Innovative Retail Companies: 

  1. Warby Parker
  2. Apple 
  3. Alibaba 
  4. Google 
  5. Tesla 
  6. Toyota 
  7. Eataly 
  8. Panera Bread 
  9. Netflix 
  10. Gumroad 
  11. American Giant
  12. IKEA
  13. Samsung
  14. Algramo
  15. Silver Crystal Sports

Check out an archive of the most innovative retailers from 2010–2014 to see how this list compares to previous years' lists.