Retail expert Bill Grimsey believes that there should be free Wi-Fi on the High Street

Tech and politicians key to the future of retail – Bill Grimsey

Free Wi-Fi on our High Streets, shops without any stock in them and voice recognition technology – these are just some of the ways bricks and mortar stores will change over the next five to 10 years, says retail expert Bill Grimsey…

The High Street is quite clearly going to be reliant on adopting technology in the future. 

I want to see more High Streets wired by local authorities, no black spots. So you will be able to get free Wi-Fi as soon as you visit the High Street and I want to see all the local businesses using this. I think town centres will then have a chance of thriving as community hubs, provided that the empty shops are converted into other usages like housing, education or health. 

Technology and providers are going to unquestionably influence retailers. I wrote a piece that said ‘tomorrow’s next generation of retailers are actually going to be nerds’. I meant that in the nicest possible way – and we’re seeing that transition now. I think the old guard and the retail industry is doing a valiant job in keeping up with technology that you will get a breakthrough of new companies. And I’m sure the young entrepreneurs are going to be right on the leading edge of technology, providing customers with an experience for what they’re looking for. 

The future of retail is going to change dramatically in the next five to 10 years. I think technology is going to influence the way in which lots of sectors operate, and you’ll see virtual stores and stores without any stock in them. 

Any retailer that’s not looking to the future at how technology might produce better customer experiences and lower cost supply chains is mad. 

Mobile technology and wearable technology are coming and I think once they take hold, with voice recognition the whole question of how you shop and how you seek out advice and services will change. That’s why town centres need to be wired up and using them. 

Local authorities need to adopt the attitude that they produce a plan that looks out 20 or 25 years, with a vision for those towns and embrace technology at the heart of it. Then they can migrate to it and the smart city is part of that. We are just not moving fast enough in the UK for that.

Retailers must broaden the experience for customers and give them what they need, and I think managed services is something they must do, otherwise they may fall behind.

As a nation we are sleepwalking into the 21st century, and we have got to stop it. It starts with our politicians at the centre, and at the local level they need to understand that the UK does not yet have forward thinking plans that embrace technology. Politicians need to ask what they can do for High Streets and their communities.

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