British shoppers may be the world’s biggest online addicts but they still like to go into stores to touch and feel the goods, it seems, especially if they’re “valuable”.
However, once they’re in-store, their digital addictions rise to the surface again and they now expect those stores to be tech-enabled with an array of features like smart fitting rooms and virtual reality.
The Barclays New Retail Reality research spoke to 2,000 consumers and found that two-thirds of shoppers like to see/try on valuable goods before they buy them.
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% – although that’s still not a bad score for the online option). They’re 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 a pureplay retailer (36% – again, leaving plenty of room for pureplay vendors to make lots of money). And the fact that the majority of shoppers (83%) are also planning to shop online at an internet specialist in the next 12 months as well as shopping in-store, makes it clear our love of the high street isn’t some backward-looking nostalgia-fest.
Gimme more tech
That’s made even clearer from results that show investing more in tech in-store would give high street retailers a further boost. The research reveals that shoppers (65%) are eager to see more touchscreen technology. Newer, more ‘experiential’ technologies are also popular too. Shoppers are more likely to visit a store kitted out with virtual reality (57%), smart fitting rooms (57%) or augmented reality (52%). Not quite sure how VR would help me decide whether a jacket suits me or not, although it could probably tell me whether it would stand up to battling goblins and flying elephants in Narnia.
In addition, while the appetite for the use of drones in retail is muted, with around two-thirds of shoppers citing worries about security, privacy and collisions (too right), new payment technologies can’t come fast enough. They’e highly rated by consumers, with many describing contactless (48%) and mobile payments (37%) as “life changing”.
OK, maybe those people need to get a different life (again VR could help here!) because while waving a card over a reader may be easier than typing in a four-digit pin or even (heaven forbid) signing your name), I’m not sure how life changing it is. Maybe it means they don’t need to be weighed down by loads of cash. However, they need to up the limit for contactless payments and introduce it to more stores (many a time have I waved my card around only to be told it’s not contactless) before it changes my life.
But I digress. 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. I must admit, Twitter complaints are quite effective. Moaning about the fitting rooms or general poor service in Twitter does tend to get a quicker response than phoning up and getting annoyed with someone in a call centre in Mumbai.
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, more independent specialist retailers (44%) and independent cafes and restaurants (36%) topped the list. However, it’s clear that shoppers remain price sensitive with discount stores (29%) being the third most popular option. So it looks like we won’t be seeing loads of indie fashion stores opening just yet as people rarely back up their intentions if it means something costs more than it does in Zara or H&M.
Londoners are keenest 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 room 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.
Ian Gilmartin, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays, said of all this: “Our research reveals that the public still sees the high street as an essential part of the shopping experience [but] consumer expectations are currently moving faster than retailer innovation.”
The research also throws up some interesting points about Brexit. Britons said they want the industry protected during Brexit negotiations. Two thirds (64%) of consumers say they’re 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.
But overall, consumers are uncertain about the impact of Brexit on retail and worry about the availability of luxury goods (42%).