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Most UK shoppers would use innovations from ‘smile to pay’ to VR browsing to stay safe post-Covid: study

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Most UK shoppers would welcome digital innovations, from VR shopping to ‘smile to pay’ systems, if they could help them buy in easier and more convenient ways, new research suggests.

Business transformation agency Valtech questioned 1,001 UK adults in August 2021 about their shopping preferences since Covid-19, and found that 71% would be open to browsing stores virtually through a VR (virtual reality) headset, while 64% would 3D print products from home in order to avoid physical stores – or even click and collect services. This was particularly popular amongst those aged 55 to 64. Of those questioned, 64% said they were still trying to avoid the high street because of continuing Covid-19 concerns. 

Cutting down on physical contact in-store is also a priority, with 60% saying they would be happy to use ‘smile to pay’ services such as those already used in China. Alipay and KFC China both trialled such services in 2017, the latter reported to have expanded  to 300 sites the following year

Chris Daplyn, UK managing director at Valtech, says: “The way that Covid-19 has changed consumer attitudes to both retail and technology is staggering. Ideas like ‘smile-to-pay’ which once would have been totally unacceptable to UK consumers are now in increasingly high demand. 

“For retailers this means big changes. With many brands still struggling to keep up to date with basic technologies like click and collect or one-click purchasing, the sudden shift to innovative technologies like VR is going to take its toll. Brands that want to keep up with growing consumer demand need to rethink the way they provide experiences to customers, and that means being open to experimenting with the latest technologies. 

“Before they can do that though, brands need to get the basics right. A lot of these tools rely heavily on having access to customer data and having the right digital ecommerce infrastructures in place. If UK retailers don’t get the fundamentals right, they’ll always be playing catch up with these larger trends.” 

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