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A Shop but Not as We Know It – The Bright, Virtual Retail Future

By Bronnie Edwards

Will robots be able to spell our names correctly when ordering a drink at Starbucks? Will ‘Gordon’ be the name on everyone’s lips as the best barista in town? What if you could see yourself in that brand new outfit without walking out of the shop?

These questions and the role of virtual reality and augmented reality in our daily lives is becoming a common thread in many discussions around the future of retail and how to keep consumers engaged, drive brand loyalty, increase footfall, dwell time and ultimately spend.

The shift in consumers utilising technology in their daily lives is becoming more and more blurred than ever before and how do we ensure they add value and improve our lives – what does this mean for your brand? How do you stay future fit?

The retail industry has already cottoned on to this ever-increasing relationship between consumers and devices with many retailers embracing new technology with enthusiasm. Think more than social media and email campaigns, this is new in store technology to shape the consumers experience – i.e. in-store beacon technology, robots making clothing, augmented reality changing rooms, personalisation on designs etc.

We have seen a major change in physical stores with retailers trialling various ways of incorporating tech into both their store experiences and the products themselves. It is clear that any technology adopted really needs to add value to the consumer experience and cannot be overly complex or gimmicky – it needs to be both seamless and practical to benefit the consumer.

The most useful retail tech either streamlines the shopping process through payment/online/seamless technologies or creates an enhanced experience providing the shopper with entertainment and escape experience curated by the brand. Successful retailers are now focusing on humanizing the digital experience in store and we predict this is going to grow exponentially in 2017.

With both the tech itself and its implementation evolving on almost a daily basis the “humanizing digital” trend is certainly one to watch. Here are some best-in-class examples:

Image credit: ASICS

ASICS expansion into Europe with new stores in Paris, Spain, Brussels and Germany as delivered by our Cross Border team are utilising new technology in concept stores to elevate the customer experience with the use of technology to drive the sale and increase brand engagement. The stores also have digital touchpoints where you can browse through all ASICS products to find out the research and technology behind the finished product as well as order from their online store.

WAH Nails

Image credit: WAH Nails

WAH Nails – here VR is central to the retail experience where customers can develop nail designs and virtually try them on before choosing.

Tommy Hilfiger – VR headsets allow customers to watch the catwalk show in store, as if they are sat in the front row.

Tommy Hilfiger

Image credit: Tommy Hilfiger

Cubitts – allows VR digital facial gauge and VR to create a 3D model of the customers face so they can adjust the glasses design before they are produced on their own, virtual faces.


Image credit: Retail Focus

Samsung Charlotte Tilbury – Charlotte Tilbury created a 360 deg VR film to launch their Scent of a Dream Perfume.

Charlotte Tilbury

Image credit: Charlotte Tilbury

Shiseido and Microsoft have collaborated to create a plugin for Skype for Business where speakers can use a filter to virtually enhance their appearance over Skype.

Shiseido Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft

And we hear that ASOS is developing an online virtual, shoppable department store, launching in 2017.

EDWARDS-Bronnie-jacket-150x150Bronnie Edwards works in the Central London Retail team which provides retail strategy and advice to large landlord estates across Central London including Carnaby Estate, Rathbone Square, Regent Street St James and St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden.

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