What's in store for the future of the high street?

August 17, 2018

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After the introduction of online shopping, the high street took a nosedive in terms of footfall. But strangely, in 2015, figures showed weekly shoppers were visiting physical stores up to 40% more, and 2018 is predicted to see a 44% increase. So, what's changed?

Presumably, the social element of shopping is bringing customers back to the pavements, along with innovations in-store. Plus, physical stores all you to try on clothes even if you're going to order online later — no matter how many maxi dresses you find online that you adore, you won't know how well they fit till they arrive!

With both high street stores and an online store launched in 2005, we've turned to the expertise of QUIZ Clothing, to see what changes are happening to make the high street more appealing than ever before.


A digital imprint on the high street
Technology was, initially, largely an internet-based element for retail. But, recent research still indicates that people value brick-and-mortar stores — in fact, 81% of UK customers said that the physical stores were vital to the shopping experience. So, when it comes to improving the high-street and implementing in-store technology, what should retailers be getting involved with?

Customers have been noted to enjoy using in-store kiosks as a convenient way to get information. However, not all retailers are getting on board — 66% of those surveyed in one study said that they were yet to encounter artificial intelligence in-store. Do retailers realise the huge potential of this type of technology? In fact, 60% of consumers are attracted to the idea of using them to find products that they weren’t aware of before. As an example, in QUIZ’s digital stores, an in-store kiosk enables visitors to browse the full collection (even if some products aren’t available in-store) and order them to their homes or local store.

Staff can also make use of in-store technology in order to amplify the customer experience. One way to do this is by providing employees with handheld iPads or other smart tablets. This allows staff to find the answer to a query, check a product’s availability and place orders for the customer without having to use a fixed computer. This can improve the customer’s experience and help build a stronger brand-to-customer relationship.

Augmented reality is the next big trend in technology, and it’s coming to retail too. This can help the customer with their purchase decision and help them visualise themselves with the product. Although this can be made available through an app, there are also ways to introduce it in-store. In a fashion store for example, a smart mirror can allow customers to dress themselves in different outfits without actually trying them on. Similarly, in a furniture store, visitors can upload a photo of their home and try out pieces of furniture to see if it would suit their rooms.


More visits, more loyalty  
Technology not only enhances the in-store experience, but it can help encourage more in-store visits. It’s possible that having in-store technology in a physical shop can make a brand more attractive to customers, and potentially a better option over competitors. Some retailers are recognising this too as one report suggested that 53% of retailers view investments in new automations and appliances in-store as vital to keep up with their competitor activity.

Keeping up with technology and outfitting a store accordingly can be a big boost to a brand's image too. One study revealed that 46% of those surveyed said that a positive experience due to well-functioning technology increases their brand confidence.


Imperfect technology
Technology can, however, experience a few blips. This can be frustrating and add time onto a customer’s visit which may result in a negative experience. RetailWeek found that two thirds of those surveyed had experienced problems and breakdowns in-store with the technology. Unfortunately, this then affects sales — one third of customers said that they were unable to complete their transactions because of the technology difficulties.

Any in-store experience that fails to live up to expectations can damage a customer's viewpoint, and in-store technology is part of this. Retailers must keep software and technologies updates and well-maintained to avoid issues like this.

Complicated technology can also be a damaging problem. This could make people feel excluded too — in-store tech should be simple to use, and visitors should be accompanied when using it if it’s more complex.

In-store technology can be hugely advantageous when used effectively. Although customers are happy to shop online, they also enjoy shopping as a leisure activity and appreciate an interactive experience when doing so.


Sources
https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/retail-consumer/consumer-insights-survey.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2017/06/20/the-future-of-retail-how-well-be-shopping-in-10-years/#21188bbe58a6

https://www.itproportal.com/features/consumers-love-in-store-technology-so-its-time-for-retailers-to-respond/

https://internetretailing.net/themes/themes/quiz-brings-digital-into-westfield-stratford-store-15243

https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/07/06/can-in-store-technology-slow-the-retail-apocalypse.aspx

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