A host of senior retail executives gathered yesterday in central London at Sourced Market to celebrate the second Retail Insider ‘Transforming Retail Awards’ aimed at highlighting some of the most exciting innovations in the retail sector over the past year.

Guests taste their first beer of the evening.

The Awards attracted many entries of a very high standard giving the judges a particularly difficult job this year. However they eventually whittled all six categories down to four shortlisted entrants.

The judging panel consisted of a group of retail experts overseen by, but completely independent of, Retail Insider editor Glynn Davis. The panel included Paul Clarke, CTO of Ocado; Jeremy Fennell, MD of Carphone Warehouse; Paul Wilkinson, head of product for space, range and display at Tesco; Martin Newman, chairman at Practicology iServe; Lawrence Shaw, CEO of Sitemorse; Simon Calver, head of venture investments at BGF; Edwina Dunn, CEO of Starcount; and Sarah McVittie, co-founder of Dressipi.

Along with six judged categories, this year also saw the introduction of an Editor’s Special Award for a company which had especially caught Glynn Davis’ eye.

Your Studio’s work for Topshop kicked off the evening by winning the Best In-Store Experience of the Year category, sponsored by Clipper Group. The judges loved its fun and inventive swimwear promotion, which involved a London-focused VR experience that customers took whilst sliding down a real in-store waterslide. It beat: Vita Mojo’s customised meal innovation; seamless delivery/ordering system from Built; and Mishi Pay’s new Scan, Pay, Leave technology.

Mike Daly of Clipper Group presents Tom Philipson, co-founder of Your Studio, with Best In-Store Experience

Fashion-profiling company Dressipi came first in the ‘Best Connected Experience of the Year’, sponsored by PCMS Group, fighting off stiff competition from: Go Instore’s staff/customer linking technology; innovative use of Twitter by the Big Green Bookshop; and Amazon Home’s new package of installation ordering facility.

Steve Powell of PCMS presents Sarah McVittie, co-founder of Dressipi, with the award for Best Connected Experience of the Year

Picking up the title of ‘Delivery Innovation of the Year’, sponsored by Software AG, was Bloom & Wild – the online flower delivery company. Judges rated its technology, which identifies problems with external delivery companies before even they know as a worthy winner. Strong competition in this category came from: Waitrose’s At Home wine-tasting parties; Built’s logistics operation; and warehousing on demand proposition Stowga.

Adam Gilbert of Software AG presents Henry Mower, operations director at Bloom & Wild with the award for Delivery Innovation of the Year

Healthy snack provider Graze topped the ‘Most Intelligent Use of Data’ category, sponsored by K3, beating Dressipi, Knomo’s work with Nosto and online giant Ocado  in the process. Judges admired its tech platform which allows it to monitor customer reactions’ to new snacks and analyses them by gender, geography etc.

Sarah Proudlock of K3 presents Owen Silk, data analyst at Graze, with the award for Most Intelligent Use of Data.

Innovative warehousing provider Stowga took the title of ‘Most Promising Newcomer’, sponsored by Practicology iServe. The company aims to turn the previously very long-winded and formal process of finding warehousing into a much quicker and easier process – linking companies with spare capacity in their depots to companies who require short term storage – a kind of retail AirBnB.

Jeremy Wilson from Practicology iServe presents Sameena Ashraf, business development at Stowga, with the award for Most Promising Newcomer.

Judges felt this was the strongest entrant out of a category which also included: producer/retailer platform Great British Exchange; market research experts StreetBees; and UseHero which connects online customers direct with under-utilised store staff.

Finally, online-only supermarket Ocado triumphed in the ‘Overall Technology Innovation of the Year’ award sponsored by Webloyalty, after beating off rival entries from: Great British Exchange; Mishi Pay; and the dietary preferences search finder Spoon Guru. The judges decided that its Ocado Smart Platform solution which gives retailers the means to power all aspects of an online retail business from front end store to logistics and delivery had the biggest potential to transform retail over the coming years.

Ben Stirling of Webloyalty presents Matt Soane, general manager and Roland Plaszowski head of retail systems at Ocado with the award for Overall Technology Innovation of the Year.

Editor Glynn Davis then announced his own Special Award for two companies who had not necessarily won their own categories but which he felt should be commended for their work. This accolade went jointly to North London bookseller the Big Green Bookshop for its Twitter #BuyAStrangerABook campaign and to Go Instore for its use of video/chat links which transform staff into live web advisors.

Simon Key, co-founder of Big Green Bookshop, joint winner of the Editor’s Special Award.

Jeremy Dodd, business development manager at Go Instore, joint winner of the Editor’s Special Award.

During the evening Pete Brissenden of The Bottle Shop matched beers to individual categories – a difficult feat he also pulled off last year. He again successfully enticed guests to try beers from CloudWater, Bohem Brewery, Brew By Numbers and Great Divide.

Pete Brissenden of the Bottle Shop matched beers to each category.

Full run-down of the winners is as follows:

Best In-store Experience of the Year: Winner – YourStudio for Top Shop

Best Connected Experience of the Year: Winner – Dressipi

Delivery Innovation of the Year: Winner – Bloom & Wild

Most Intelligent Use of Data: Winner – Graze

Most Promising Newcomer: Winner – Stowga

Overall Technology Innovation of the Year: Winner – Ocado

Editor’s Special Award – Big Green Bookshop, Go Instore

Retail Insider would like to thank the sponsors of the Awards for their support: Clipper Group, Webloyalty, K3, Software AG, PCMS Group and Practicology iServe. And special thanks to Pete Brissenden of The Bottle Shop, the team at Sourced Market, and Gareth Dobson of Beershots. (All images are credited to Beershots).

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider