Shoppers demand VR and AI tech for their retail experience

Technology to save the high street
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Guildford High Street

UK shoppers are demanding increased integration across online and in-store experiences.

According to InternetRetailing EXPO's ‘Future of Retail’ survey, which investigated 2,000 UK consumers’ attitudes to retail experiences, we aren't headed to a purely online retail world anytime soon, but shoppers are keen to see a smarter bricks-and-mortar store.

While 93 per cent of respondents had ordered a product online within at least the last month, 43 per cent claim to still buy all their clothing in-store. The survey showed that over half (57 per cent) disliked not being able to experience the look/feel/fit of the product if it was purchased online.

Half of respondents (48 per cent) would like more retailers to enable them to see how an outfit might look on them virtually – whether online or in-store. 25 per cent would be willing to upload a photo to a retailer’s website to enable this, whilst 23 per cent would like this to be available via in-store displays or virtual changing rooms where items could be digitally added to their reflection or on-screen image.

In fact, 10 per cent claimed that if retailers offered customers the chance to see how an outfit would look on them, without physically changing, either online or in-store they would purchase more, with 17 per cent claiming they would not only purchase more but also return less.

As expected, online proved to be a winner for convenience, choice and privacy. 43 per cent of people avoid in-store shopping due to those dreaded queues, with 36 per cent saying that online is more convenient. One fifth of respondents said that privacy was a key issue, as they feel uncomfortable changing in a public environment such as a fitting room. 14 per cent claimed they felt more adventurous whilst shopping online in the knowledge that they could try items on at home and return if unsuitable. 10 per cent liked that they were able to order multiple sizes without feeling ‘judged’ and 14 per cent did not like dealing with shop assistants.

Neil Gaisford, managing director, Retail, Clarion Events commented: “The results show a significant appetite from customers for VR and AI tech to deliver a more integrated omnichannel shopping experience.

“Half of consumers are enthusiastic about the idea of using virtual changing rooms, and over a quarter said it would mean they purchased more. These are statistics that retailers can’t afford to ignore. There’s a clear shift in UK customer expectations of their retail experience – whether online or in-store, and retailers will need to prepare to meet these demands.”

He continued: “Although data privacy is of course something that must always be a top priority for retailers and customers alike, we’re also seeing a third of UK consumers moving towards a greater willingness to share more data to ensure better recommendations. There’s also an expectation that their offline and online purchases will be available in one single customer view. There is clear consumer demand for everything omnichannel offers; therefore, to ensure their future success, UK retailers must ensure they are meeting the demands of this new ‘hybrid’ customer.”

Of course this instance is dealing primarily with clothes shopping, but it is easy to imagine how a more immersive and engaging experience can be brought to IT retail through these kinds of technologies.

The effect of new technologies on the omnichannel retail experience will be a topic of discussion at this year's InternetRetailing EXPO and eDelivery EXPO. Speakers from retailers such as Lidl, Lastminute.com, Made.com, Sainsbury’s and technology vendors including Google and Amazon will be sharing their thoughts on the future of retail. For more information on the event visit http://internetretailingexpo.com/.

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