For a pair of revolutionary new products and a culture of true believers. Its two biggest innovations in 2012, Flyknit and the FuelBand, were evidence that the company is ever-willing to redefine itself and its manufacturing process. Bringing in $24 billion in revenue–up 60% since 2006 when CEO Mark Parker took over–doesn’t hurt either.
For sending brick and mortar stores into the next century. Its London flagship store was remodeled and opened in September 2012, and now features elaborate visual effects. For example, RFID chips on certain items transmit a radio signal to the nearest LCD screen. When the customer brings the item near the screen, information about the item details is displayed.
For localizing and compartmentalizing its stores. The brand’s partnership with Amazon allows users to have small packages delivered to stores rather than their homes. In 2012, that partnership expanded to five areas globally: New York, Seattle, DC, Silicon Valley and London.
For offering a mix-and-match solution for your skin. Sephora’s Pantone Color IQ rolled out in select cities last year, aiming to ease the process of picking a foundation. Pantone’s color detection technology, used in graphic design to match colors, was used to develop the handheld gadget that holds more than 1,000 SKUs and can determine an exact match to the customer’s skin tone.
For offering members high-quality goods without the middleman. When the online clothier launched in November 2011, it began with a small run of t-shirts. But in just over a year, it has expanded its selection to include scarves, sweatshirts, ties, oxfords, and other items. By using a limited batch model, it keeps demand high. In 2012, the site grew to nearly half a million users.
6_Black Milk Clothing
For crowdsourcing an online shopping experience. The Australian company known for leggings lets its customers contribute the product photography. By tagging a photo on Twitter or Instagram, photos are automatically added to the site.
For being your personalized wish list. The social shopping site, which was acquired by eBay last year, predicts what products a user will like based on their social media feeds. It then lets users store those items in an online closet, or simply buy them. Shops are eager to join: More than 3,000 items per day are pulled from 75,000 stores, and Svpply now has more than a million products in its repertoire.
8_Crate & Barrel
For letting you build your living room without using a hammer. With Crate & Barrel’s 3D Room Designer, launched in mid-2012, users can upload pictures of their own room to see how the desired couch, table or lamp will look. By snapping a picture and sending it to your local store, customers can work with a store associate to browse the more than 2,000 items and pick the perfect pieces for their room.
For bringing an industrial tool to the average Joe. Its 3D printers let serious (or amateur) craftsmen create and share new products, free from the once-prohibitive cost of manufacturing. MakerBot released the Replicator 2 last year, after securing $10 million in funding.
For making fast fashion actually fashionable. The company publicly announced its goal of opening 200 stores in the United States–in every major market–and raising profits to more than $10 billion by 2020. With brand collaborations with the likes of Jil Sander and Rei Kawakubo, the clothing giant keeps prices low and fashion high.
[Image: Flickr user Daniel Kulinski]