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Consumers want tech-driven clothing stores

As consumers increasingly visit stores as the pandemic subsides, NTT Data finds that technology in shops could persuade consumers to return to physical shopping

Customers would be more likely to visit a physical store if they knew that the shopping experience would be supported by immersive technology, according to NTT Data.

The tech company surveyed 2,000 UK consumers and found that two-thirds would be keen on visiting a store if the experience was more personalised, with contactless payment solutions and immersive experiences.

Geoff Lloyd, director of retail at NTT Data UK&I, said: “Consumers want to see more from retailers, especially after the online retail experience has evolved to become more personalised.

“By implementing the right advanced digital systems to automate processes and offer additional insights, retailers can monitor their customers’ behaviours more effectively and match the customer experience to their needs appropriately.”

Before the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to work and shop from home, consumers were already shifting their shopping online while expecting much more of physical stores, which led to discussion surrounding the “death” of the high street in favour of experience shopping.

Retailers were already looking into bringing technology into stores to transform them into experiential destinations as opposed to just locations to make purchases. However, as highlighted by Lloyd, digital customer service provided by retailers during the pandemic has left consumer expectation at an all-time high.

Now that people are coming back to stores, consumers want a reason to leave their houses to shop, and are more likely to do so if technology is used to make their experience more streamlined.

To ensure their technology is up to scratch to offer consumers the experiences they want, retailers are investing in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) on the customer-facing end, while investing in data management, cloud services, networking and machine learning on the backend.

NTT Data’s research was centred around consumer preferences when clothes shopping, and found 47% of those asked would prefer to shop in a high street store, but 13% would be more encouraged to visit a store if they’re able to use an application to order items to a changing room or purchase items while they continue shopping.

Similarly, 61% would like a self service checkout when shopping for clothes in store, or to be able to checkout without having to interact with a cashier.

When it comes to interactivity, 20% of the shoppers asked wanted to be able to use QR codes to gain access to more information about what they’re considering buying, while 13% said they would like to use interactive display screens.

Just over 15% said they would like to use smart mirrors when shopping for clothes, which often encourage interaction, allow users to virtually try on clothes, or post to social media.

At the tail end of 2022, data from Capgemini/IMRG suggested clothes shopping was one of the categories still seeing a strong growth in the online space, increasing by 11.9% in July 2022 when compared with the year before, making it a category of focus when it comes to encouraging customers back into physical stores.

Moving out of the pandemic, consumer habits will continue to change – while lockdown forced retailers to quickly shift online, consumers returning to shops is now pushing retailer’s thoughts in the opposite direction to meet the customer where they want to shop.  

Lloyd said: “Reassessing their 2023 plans and ensuring that effective strategies are in place, both online and in-store, will ensure [retailers] are offering a consistent, tech-savvy experience to their shoppers.”

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