Technology is a double-edged sword. The birth of the internet enabled retailers to advertise and sell their products online – opening up a whole new world of opportunity by enabling them to target customers they would never have otherwise reached. Yet it’s also down to technology that so many of our beloved high street stores are closing. But there’s a twist in the tale because thanks to the latest innovations, it seems like tech is now both saving and enabling our most loved brands to once again thrive on the high street.
It’s no secret that traditional high-street retailers may be struggling, but most are far from down and out. It is predicted that the sector will actually grow between 3.8% and 4.4% this year, driven by high consumer confidence and innovation. But while retail is far from a dying industry, there’s no doubt that the high street needs to change dramatically to compete with online retail giants.
Today, many shoppers have the ability to make purchases from the comfort of their own sofas where they don’t have to pay to park, rely on public transport, queue up or battle the crowds. So what incredibly powerful reasons are our high street stores giving us to make us flock to the shops.
Topshop and Gap – augmented reality ‘smart’ mirrors
One of the biggest limitations of the online shopping experience is the inability to try clothing on. It’s also one of the biggest reasons many shoppers still prefer to visit stores. But spending ages in the changing rooms trying on outfit after outfit isn’t much fun. Well, until now.
Soon customers will be able to admire themselves in “smart mirrors” that let them flip between different outfits instantly, before walking into a virtual reality “holo-room” to test products in 3D. Talking robot assistants will appear to offer advice, should it be required, or perhaps just say something approving.
Topshop and Gap have both shown off demos of AR in the changing room, allowing customers to try on different colours and styles.
Far from being a gimmick, if used properly, AR devices such as smart mirrors can offer experiences much more engaging than online shopping, and far better than the analogue experience we’re used to in-store.
Nike – Interactive Configurator
Nike are at the forefront of exploring innovative technology for their customers, including self-tying shoes and home printed 3D trainers. Their most recent investments have been with augmented reality. Working with an immersive technology company to install two video mapping devices in their flagship Paris store.
One of the two devices links an interactive configurator with several Nike models. Customers can then virtually customise them through a tablet, or similar device. Once a shoe is placed onto the stand, a projector will recognise the model, configure accordingly and allow them to customise the appearance. The results are a real-time projection that mimic the final results of their design.
LEGO – Mosaic Maker
Nothing says customer personalisation like your own face printed in LEGO.
LEGO has always strived to bring a unique experience to their customers and they’ve really outdone themselves this time. LEGO launched the Mosaic Maker, an automated digital experience that offers LEGO fans of all ages the opportunity to purchase their very own, one of a kind mosaic portrait.
The Mosaic Maker, which was first introduced at the brand’s flagship store in London, brought a level of personalisation that consumers instantly connected with. The experience allows LEGO fans to develop a deep, emotional connection with the brand and truly feel as though they are a part of it.
Starbucks – Order and pay app
After a hard day of high street shopping, you deserve a coffee, but how many times have you gone to enter coffee shop but changed your mind last minute when you’ve seen the length of the queue?
Well thanks to the Starbucks order and pay app – you can beat the queues. Users simply download the app and place an order for collection through their smart phones.
But the coffee chain giants aren’t stopping there. The company are now developing the app to provide an even more seamless customer experience. By integrating voice recognition technology into the app, users can place an order with a simple conversational exchange and then collect immediately in person.
As the high street continues to change, retailers must bridge the gap between digital and real-world interactions in order to thrive. It’s clear shoppers still enjoy making in-store purchases, but brands have to embrace innovation, personalisation and omni-channel retail to defend themselves against the might of the ecommerce giants.