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Style over substance? Fashion retailers want latest tech, but consumers don’t see it as such as good fit

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While fashion retailers want to invest in high tech features such as AR and VR, some 80% of shoppers say they wouldn’t be interested in using it. 

The research, carried out at London Fashion Week by Klarna, surveyed 2,000 shoppers and 50 decision makers in fashion retail and highlights a clear discrepancy between what fashion shoppers want in the future, and what retailers plan to deliver.

Fashion retailers seem to be dazzled by the latest tech trends, while they still find the fundamentals a challenge. A fifth of these retailers admit they are still struggling to get the basics right when it comes to digitisation, and a further 42% agree they’re so focused on getting online right that in-store technology isn’t a priority.

This is in stark contrast to what consumers say they actually want, with almost three quarters [73%] stating they value shopping in store, as it offers a human experience that can’t be recreated online. In short, retailers shouldn’t be writing off the value that a good in-store experience can bring to their business.

What should the future look like?

Technology that takes measurements, so consumers can be sure items fit before buying [42%], and access to the same level of discounts in-store as they can access online [49%] were both top of the wish-list for consumers. In addition, a third [31%] of shoppers wanted to be able to pay later after they’ve left the store or pay after delivery, without their card.

However, despite clear direction from consumers on what the future of ‘fashtech’ should look like, retailers are prioritising other less functional features. Online personas & avatars [38%] came top when retailers were asked what they would like to integrate in the future, while shoppers’ top request was better variety of clothes [28%]. In addition, retailers wanted to create virtual stores to be viewed online [32%]  despite the fact that only 10% of consumers said they’d like to see the same.

Howard Saunders, Retail Futurologist and expert expands:“The advance of technology is inevitable, and it’s clear that customers are undecided as to what the advantages of some of the latest technology is. What this research shows us is that retailers may enthuse and embrace technology as a means of reviving sales, but unless customers can see the benefits personally, it could be a wasted investment. A muted response to technology like drone delivery, smart fabrics and virtual store assistants shows that removing the personal element from fashion retail could be a mistake. The future is coming at us fast, but it’s worth remembering we’ll still be human when it arrives.”

So what do consumers want?

There’s a growing demand for a more personalised shopping experience that combines the feeling and advantages of in-store shopping with the convenience and choice of online. 49% of shoppers said when they shop in store they miss the personalised offers they receive online, whilst 46% said they think online shopping is more convenient than in store. Retailers must take note that no one channel is the key to success — combining elements of both is what matters. 

Luke Griffiths, Klarna’s UK General Manager says:“We know that fashion retailers have a good track record for adopting the latest technology and doing it well, however our latest research shows that some work still needs to be done to ensure retailers are delivering what shoppers want. What we can see here, is that shoppers want the basics to be done better, and they don’t want their preferred fashion brands to favour fads over function, through the introduction of tech that doesn’t improve their shopping experience.”

Griffiths continues: “This doesn’t mean every retailer needs both an online and offline presence — it means tapping into what consumers want and adapting to the channel in question. This could mean thinking outside of the box. For example 61% of shoppers say it bothers them that shopping online takes longer because they can’t touch or see items before buying. The answer could be offering body scanning technology, or it could be offering services such as Pay later that allow consumers to try items at home before payment. There’s no one right answer, fashion is an increasingly competitive area for retail, and listening to shoppers will be the difference between success and failure.”

Image: Fotolia

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