Written by Martha Craven and

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With household names such as Coast and House of Fraser hitting the headlines for insolvency, it is clear the 2018 has been a tough year for retail.

The struggles of the UK high street are often attributed to the rise of online shopping, with international heavy-weights such as Amazon often bearing the brunt of the blame. While the increase in online shopping is certainly a factor, there is also scope for technology to reinvigorate retail.

Data Analytics

Of course, the success of online retailers is, in part, due to their ability to gather consumer data, analyse it and use it for targeted marketing – all at record speeds.
However, this is not to say that data analytics has no place on the physical high street. Sensors instore can be used to log where customers go while inside the shop and identify what items the customer is looking at and record which items are eventually purchased.

Stores can use this data to identify which marketing campaigns are most effective and use this to inform future campaigns and update the layouts inside shops. Additionally, data collected can be used to show which trial products are successful and should be ordered in bulk.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Many fashion brands are experimenting with how technology can enhance instore experience.

YSL utilises Google Glass technology to offer customers a personalised recording which shows how the YSL makeup artist applied the makeup to the customer’s face during the instore tutorial. Customers can replay the recording of the tutorial to see exactly how the artist applied eyeliner or blusher.

Dior has also launched its own virtual reality headset, Dior Eyes, which transports customers to the backstage of a Dior fashion show. This technology is available in Dior flagship stores and offers shoppers an added incentive to visit.

One further example which could be implemented in many retail stores is smart mirrors. Smart mirrors can enhance the instore experience as they are able to take photos of different outfits for users to compare side by side in the changing rooms. Similarly, smart mirrors can show the customer the same garment but in a different colour.

When combined with data analytics, smart mirrors could show how often customers see a garment but then seek to alter the colour. This data could also inform retail buyers about which products to buy and also show where certain products should be distributed.

Although some critics may argue that the appeal of VR and AR in fashion retail will remain a gimmick, blending online and offline shopping can offer customers an exciting experience, which could offer retail stores a unique selling point.

Can Tech Really Help the High Street?

This article has identified just some of the ways in which technological developments can be utilised to improve the instore experience for consumers. The current climate for retail stores is extremely challenging, however adapting and integrating the online and offline experience may also offer some exciting solutions to retailers.

As the prevalence and availability of technologies such as VR, AR and data analytics improves, so will the scope and quality of the options available to retail stores.

25th October 2018