Against a backdrop of big name store closures, a new report from VMware, a leading innovator in enterprise software, reveals the extent to which increasingly digital shopping habits are disrupting the high street. One in four consumers surveyed say they will cease to visit physical stores in the next three years.
The retail industry has been rocked by the recent closure of several high street giants, some of which have been around for decades. The turbulence illustrates how rapidly UK consumer’s shopping habits are evolving and the risk to brands which fail to use technology to respond quickly enough. The need to give customers what they want when they shop has never been more pressing both online and in-store, and according to VMware’s findings, it’s the basics which form the efficient shopping experience that consumers expect.
Clear stock visibility (38%), simple returns (30%) and one-hour delivery (29%) were all rated as investment areas higher than interactive apps to try on products or clothing (17%) and entertaining in-store experiences such as augmented and virtual reality (7%). The study also indicates that technologies which support more autonomous shopping experiences will become increasingly vital for the sector.
A staggering 86% of 18-34 year olds do not see human staff in stores as an important factor for deciding whether to shop with a retailer. Additionally, over the next three years, a quarter (25%) of 18-54 year olds want more unmanned checkouts in stores. With consumers still spending the most money in high street stores (£198 on average), retailers need to still provide an enjoyable shopping experience with much greater self-service and without the need for human staff.
Retailers have a balancing act on their hands: to meet the demand for a simpler, more efficient shopping experience now while also looking to a more autonomous future. Technology will play a vital role in achieving that objective and work needs to be done to demonstrate to shoppers the value that technology will bring to their experience, particularly in-store. For example, 59% of respondents who shop in-store did not have an opinion about the speed in which retailers are investing in new technology – despite a call for more unmanned checkouts in the future.
Jordi Ferrer, vice president and general manager, UK & Ireland, VMware said, “The increasing pace of change in retail is shifting consumer behaviour and driving expectations for more convenient and transparent shopping experiences via mobile, in store and online. Retailers have the difficult job of integrating complex IT systems securely, quickly and cost effectively to fullfil these expectations and to drive new, more valuable and differentiated experiences both in store as well as online. Investing in technologies which help get the basics right is fundamental to survival, as well as a great opportunity to enhance the shopping experience and focusing staff to more added value services.”