Shoppers crave a more hi-tech experience

Investing more in in-store technology could attract more customers, new research has revealed.

According to the Barclays New Retail report, almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of UK shoppers said they were keen to see more touch-screen technology in high-street retail stores.

It also found that newer, more experimental technologies were also popular, with shoppers more likely to visit a store that was kitted out with virtual reality (57 per cent), smart fitting rooms (57 per cent) or augmented reality (52 per cent).

New payment technologies were also highly rated by consumers, with many describing contactless (48 per cent) and mobile payments (37 per cent) as “life-changing”.

Many consumers still favoured the high street over online, as shoppers surveyed said they were more likely to shop in the high-street branch of a national retailer than from the same retailer online (81 per cent v 60 per cent) in the next 12 months.

They were also more likely to shop in the high-street branch of a local or independent retailer (77 per cent) than use a subscription delivery service (17 per cent), or the mobile app of an internet online retailer (36 per cent).

However, competition still remained fierce as the majority (83 per cent) of shoppers were planning to shop online at an internet specialist in the next 12 months.

Despite this, 44 per cent said they would like to see more independent specialist retailers on their high street. Independent cafes and restaurants came in second (36 per cent) and discount stores third (29 per cent), indicating that shoppers were still price-sensitive.

British shoppers (64 per cent) also showed that they were proud of the UK retail sector and wanted the industry protected during Brexit negotiations (65 per cent).

Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “The British high street is part of what has made the UK great. Being a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ is ingrained in our cultural identity and consumer pride in the sector endures. Our research reveals that the public still see the high street as an essential part of the shopping experience and as a national treasure they want to see protected.

“Consumer confidence in the retail sector is continuing despite uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote, and there are opportunities ahead for retailers if they can maximise the opportunity of ‘Brand Britain’, both at home and abroad.

“Consumer expectations are currently moving faster than retailer innovation. More investment is needed to keep consumers coming back for what they love – great British high-street experiences.

“The conclusion from our research is that the key to success for many retailers is to offer a balanced high-street and online offering, taking advantage of technological innovation in-store to attract shoppers through their doors.”

Hugh Fletcher, digital business consultant at Salmon, added: “There is no doubt that digital services have risen in prominence and continue to revolutionise the retailing industry. A report released by Barclays confirms that high-street stores remain a vital component of the omni-channel experience – almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of consumers still prefer to physically see an expensive product before the point of purchase. Importantly, 57 per cent would be more likely to visit a store that installed new technologies such as virtual reality and smart fitting rooms. As consumers crave a more digital approach to their shopping experience, vendors must embrace technology-driven concepts and evolve.

“Connected devices and zero UI platforms (the idea of eliminating the barrier between user and device), such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, plainly highlight the shift leaders in the market are undergoing to meet shoppers’ traits. Our own Programmatic Commerce research found that 57 per cent of UK shoppers will be ready for automated purchases through IoT devices within two years. There are, however, many challenges to overcome: it’s paramount that convenience remains core, but consumers will also demand efficiency and security. Technology can disrupt any sector and embracing the aforementioned technologies sooner rather than later is a must for retailers.”