As new technologies emerge, many aspects of our daily lives are rethought and adjusted to incorporate simpler, more innovative experiences. Although valued by the British public, the high street is not immune from these changes. With a wealth of competition, retail giants and local councils alike are looking at more ways to improve and create a more enjoyable consumer high street experience, by employing new technologies to encourage customers to shop in new ways.1 Apps and Moblie Websites
In today’s age, an online presence is a necessity for brands. Most of these have been redesigned to perfectly fit your mobile screen or permanently reside on your home screen in the form of an app. This makes a consumer’s shopping experience easier than ever before. You can now buy your products within a few simple clicks and, in some cases, receive your purchase the same day. Online shopping is favoured amongst most age groups and with ‘save for later’ and barcode scanning options, desktop to in-store transitions are seamless. Retailers are reducing the time actually spent in store, and simultaneously ensuring consumer loyalty by enhancing the customer experience. For example, Starbucks customers can order and pay for their drink before they have even entered the store, allowing them to skip queues and grab their order straight away. The app can also locate the nearest store and encourages revisits by collecting rewards with frequent usage.
Using microlocation technology, Apple’s iBeacon allows retailers to create a personalised shopping experience for its customers. The advanced location transmitter allows mobile apps to alert the user with nearby deals, promotions, and discounts. iBeacon also provides retailers with crucial analytical customer information. Using your microlocation, stores have the potential to find out which products you were looking at, how long for and any impulsive or last-minute purchases, allowing them to tailor promotions and discounts towards specific customers. PayPal are a company looking to improve their customers experience using iBeacon technology. Users will be able to make purchases using the PayPal app without having to directly interact with their mobile. Simply walking into a shop will trigger a check-in, and an image of the user will appear on the Point-of-Sale system to confirm identification, allowing for a more personalised service and a hands-free transaction.
3 Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) is revolutionising the high street experience. AR allows customers to view the world with virtual elements augmented by computed-generated sensory input. As many consumers prefer to physically see a product before purchase, AR allows online users to virtually try on clothes or place desired furniture into their homes. Uniqlo, a Japanese fashion brand, was one of the first fashion brands to utalise AR technology by installing augmented trial rooms in 2013. The trial rooms virtually place products on the user using an LCD screened mirror. Users can easily change the colour or fit of
a product, saving time and effort, and creating a stress-free customer experience. Ikea are another brand utalising AR technology. It can be difficult to visualize how pieces of furniture will look in your home, therefore, using the Ikea app, customers can place furniture inside their homes to see if it fits within their interior.
4 Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is a step up from AR. Instead of a user testing virtual products, users will never have to leave their home to visit a store again. Although virtual stores are still developing, retailers are using focus groups to create the perfect virtual experience. Customers can try their products in virtual changing rooms, adjust a store’s lighting and atmosphere based on their current mood, and receive advice and assistance from artificial intelligent (AI) assistants who know your taste better than you do. Ikea, again, are a brand taking advantage of this technology. Equipped with two wands and a headset, customers can walk around and test out features in a life-sized kitchen. The advanced technology allows users to seamlessly changing cabinet colours, materials, and features to create their dream kitchen. Although still in it’s early stages, some experts predict VR stores will replace the high street by 2050.
Chatbots are becoming increasing popular amongst high street retailers due to its efficiency and ease. They can provide responses in real-time, and assist customers with enquiries and recommendations, even allowing them to purchase items. Chatbots can be integrated into a retailer’s website or app, or even preexisting messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik etc. The Chatbot’s responses are based on the way it is programmed, however, using developments within AI, a Chatbot’s language can develop based on what is has learned from previous conversations, allowing for more intelligent, realistic conversations. In 2016, H&M launched a chatbot on popular messaging app Kik. Targeting their younger demographic, the app allows for users to browse stock and send enquiries. Initially, the chatbot presents users with two images representing different styles. This teaches the chatbot about a user’s specific taste and allows the chatbot to give intelligent suggestions and guide users to certain products.
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