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IRX 2018 RESEARCH UK shoppers demand VR and AI tech alongside a more integrated omnichannel shopping experience

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While the UK won’t be moving to a purely virtual, exclusively online retail world anytime soon, there is a clear demand for increased integration across online and in-store – both in terms of the shopping experience and the customer data collected (or not) at each point.

So finds InternetRetailing EXPO’s ‘Future of Retail’ survey, which investigated 2,000 UK consumers’ attitudes to retail experiences both online and in store.

So what does it tell us?

Consumers trade data for relevance and recommendation

Despite online retailers investing significantly in customer profiling and targeted digital advertising, only 6% of consumers felt that online shopping was improved by brands helping them choose more suitable items in line with their taste, by recommending items based on previous purchases. Almost a third (28%) agreed that they would be willing to grant a selection of their favourite brands full access to their social media profile to enable receipt of better product recommendations both in-store and online. In addition, 30% would like their offline purchases to be added to their online profiles so that brands could have a single view of their tastes and purchase behaviour.

Future retail mix: one size doesn’t fit all

Unsurprisingly the in-store experience remains a powerful force due to the physical experience of purchasing a suitable product. Even though 93% of respondents had ordered a product online within at least the last month, 43% claim to still buy all their clothing in-store. The survey showed that over half (57%) disliked not being able to experience the look/feel/fit of the product if it was purchased online.

However, online proved a winner when it came to convenience, choice and privacy. Almost half of respondents avoided instore shopping due to hatred of queues (43%) with 36% saying that online was just far more convenient. Perhaps more surprisingly, privacy also proved a key motivation. One fifth said they felt uncomfortable getting undressed in a public environment and that they didn’t like changing rooms, with 14% claiming they felt more adventurous whilst shopping online in the knowledge that they could try items on at home and return if unsuitable. Ten per cent liked that they were able to order multiple sizes without feeling ‘judged’ and 14% did not like dealing with shop assistants!

The Reality of Virtual: demand for on and offline

Half of respondents (48%) would like more retailers to enable them to see how an outfit might look on them virtually – whether online or instore. Twenty five per cent would be willing to upload a photo to a retailer’s website to enable this, whilst 23% would like this to be available via in-store displays or virtual changing rooms where items could be digitally added to their reflection or on-screen image.

In fact, 10% claimed that if retailers offered customers the chance to see how an outfit would look on them, without physically changing, either online or in-store they would purchase more, with 17% claiming they would not only purchase more but also return less.

Neil Gaisford, Managing Director, Retail, Clarion Events comments: “The results show a significant appetite from customers for VR and AI tech to deliver a more integrated omnichannel shopping experience. Half of consumers are enthusiastic about the idea of using virtual changing rooms, and over a quarter said it would mean they purchased more. These are statistics that retailers can’t afford to ignore. There’s a clear shift in UK customer expectations of their retail experience – whether online or in-store, and retailers will need to prepare to meet these demands.”

He continues: “Although data privacy is of course something that must always be a top priority for retailers and customers alike, we’re also seeing a third of UK consumers moving towards a greater willingness to share more data to ensure better recommendations. There’s also an expectation that their offline and online purchases will be available in one single customer view. There is clear consumer demand for everything omnichannel offers; therefore, to ensure their future success, UK retailers must ensure they are meeting the demands of this new ‘hybrid’ customer.”

The impact of the new technologies supporting the omnichannel retail experience will be a hot topic at this year’s InternetRetailing EXPO and eDelivery EXPO. Speakers from retailers such as Lidl,, Sainsbury’s and technology vendors including Google and Amazon will be sharing their thoughts on the future of retail.

For further information and to register free for InternetRetailing EXPO and eDelivery EXPO, please visit Get involved on Twitter by following @etailexpo and with the hashtags #IRX18 #EDX18.

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