UK shoppers want more smart fitting rooms and other tech in-store

UK consumers are still committed to shopping in physical stores but they want more digital experiences like smart fitting rooms and touchscreens when they get there, a new survey from Barclays shows.

In-store tech is key for many UK shoppers

The research reveals the enduring need for a British high street, with 63% of British shoppers still preferring to physically see products before buying, especially higher priced products.

The survey shows that in the next 12 months, consumers are more likely to shop in the high street branch of a national retailer than from the same retailer online (81% vs 60%). They are also more likely to shop in the high street branch of a local or independent retailer (77%) than use a subscription delivery service (17%) or the mobile app of an internet-only retailer (36%).

Yet with the majority of shoppers (83%) also planning to shop online at an internet specialist in the next 12 months, an omnichannel approach is popular.
Barclays said investing more in technologies in-store would give high street retailers a further boost. The research shows that shoppers (65%) are eager to see more touchscreen technology and newer more experiential technologies are also popular.

Shoppers are more likely to visit a store with virtual reality (57%), smart fitting rooms (57%) or augmented reality (52%). And new payment technologies are highly rated by consumers, with many describing contactless (48%) and mobile payments (37%) as “life changing”.

Appetite for the use of drones in retail is more muted, however, with around two-thirds of shoppers citing worries about security, privacy and collisions.

Londoners are most enthusiastic about new retail technologies, closely followed by those in the North West. Respondents from this region are among the country’s most eager for biometric payments, mobile payments, smart fitting rooms and touchscreen technologies in stores. Shoppers in Manchester are especially keen to trial virtual reality technologies in store, even more so than those in London. In addition, although appetite for drone delivery services is more muted overall, shoppers in London and Northern Ireland are most eager for the introduction of drone deliveries.
In another technological shift, shoppers are now five times more likely to use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to complain about a product than they were three years ago. And they want a quick response when they complain, with one in three (38%) expecting a complaint made via social media responded to within an hour.
To continue prospering, high streets also need to offer more diverse experiences. When asked what types of outlet people want to see more of on their high streets, many want more independent specialist retailers (44%). However, it is clear that shoppers remain price sensitive with discount stores (29%) being a popular option.

The research also shows Britons to be proud of the retail sector and they want the industry protected during Brexit negotiations. Two thirds (64%) of consumers say they are proud of the service that UK retailers provide to society, and a similar proportion (65%) want the protection of UK retailers and goods prioritised during Brexit negotiations.
However, survey respondents also cite worries about the availability of certain categories of goods with 42% worrying about luxury goods availability post-Brexit.

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