I have been researching into different types of new technology which could be developed in a retail environment, creating a more interactive experience for consumers. There are many different technologies being constantly developed in order to create an environment which makes consumers more likely to spend, and gives them a chance to connect more with brands and products. It is amazing to think about how technologies are advancing, and within five years we could have a completely different shopping experience.
Some people may find this as daunting. I for one like to search the shops looking for that special purchase, and on a student budget when I find that one product it feels somewhat like the end of a marathon. I come away from a day of shopping feeling content, and love the thought of spending all day looking around stores - not only for shopping but to experience the visual merchandising, shop layouts and customer service. Many people believe that customer service has been lacking in the high street for many years, and I tend to agree. But rather than trying to improve this, it feels like instead we are trying to push sales advisors away from the frontline, and invest time and money into machines.
With new ideas for "virtual fitting rooms", the customer can simply stand infront of a camera and try on clothes without getting undressed or really moving a muscle. Initially to me this sounded perfect, no more messing up my hair trying on the 30th outfit of the day, curtains covered in make up stains and enough space for a mouse. But then what happens to the product? The joy of shopping is to touch and feel products, try them on and see exactly how they will look, whether they compliment your body shape, and its always nice to look in the mirrors of a fitting room and think you've miraculously lost a stone since eating your pasta for lunch. Gradually we will lose everything that shopping has been about since its beginning, which I find a waste after all of the effort. After all, the product were buying isn't 2D, so why should the experience be?
There is also a massive threat the the high street in the form of new internet technology, already in use by popular high street brand Miss Selfridge. This technology allows webcam users to try on clothes direct from their website, thus stopping the need for leaving their house to pick their dress for the weekend. Good news for the busy working girl, bad news for British stores as they slowly become less and less needed by society.
It is obvious that social networking is quickly becoming an integral part of retail, with many stores using social networking to promote their brands, events and most importantly - products, whilst providing a more interactive experience for their consumer. In the future it is predicted that shops will use social networking inside their store to further promote, encouraging customers to use interactive touch screen panels to send images and information of products to facebook and twitter contacts. This massive rise in the use of social media is a perfect marketing tool for companies, and as it is free, quick and easy it is a no brainer for any company to be concentrating on this communication format.
A major benefit of interactive retail stores is the decline in theft rates, giving a better profit for companies. However with the high price of the technologies as a starting point, it would take a long time to reap back the rewards, especially in the uncertain retail climate of recent times.
Watching these videos opens your eyes to how advanced technology is truly becoming, and it is exciting to think about the possibilities that these technologies could bring to the British High Street, from interactive window displays to virtual fitting rooms. Theres scope here for a complete transformation of retail experience, and whether it will be beneficial or not will become clear sooner rather than later, I think.
Take a look at these videos and see for yourselves, I'd love to hear what you think.