Technology is dictating where and how we shop, new Westfield research shows

Westfield: new shopper research

Westfield: new shopper research

Technology is transforming the shopping habits of UK consumers with services such as in-store connectivity and availability of self-service tills increasingly influencing the choice of where to shop, according to a new report out today by Westfield.

The Westfield How We Shop Now report– based on research from over 8,000 UK consumers explores how people are shopping and what this means for retail – reveals that almost half of shoppers decide where to shop based either on the quality of mobile signal or the availability of wifi in store, while a third of under-24s have walked out of a shop because it didn’t have mobile signal.

The research also shows that shoppers are increasingly looking for the store to be faceless, relying on technology to give the instant service they crave, from click-and-collect to self-service tills, and from online price checking to touchscreen ordering kiosks. 63% of shoppers say they prefer self-service to service and over 75% add that they would like to use touchscreen ordering points. It’s only when looking for additional information that consumers seek out sales assistants, looking to them for in-depth advice they cannot find on line and expecting them to act as their own ‘walking wiki’.

While the digital revolution has opened a new platform for retail sales, it has also fundamentally changed our in store shopping experience and habits resulting in zero tolerance for bad service. Shoppers do not tolerate queues in stores because they are used to the instant automated service offered online with a staggering 54% of shoppers willing to pay extra for an express till. Retailers who fail to deliver excellent service are missing out on £5.4bn of potential annual sales.

Myf Ryan, director at Westfield, said: “Technology is driving the retail experience, with the majority of consumers going into ‘Machine Mode’ when shopping.  Customers are treating their mobiles and tablets as life support machines and if their supply is cut off they walk. It is also evident that technology helps to drive sales, with over a third of 14-34 year olds saying new technology in-store would encourage them to spend more.”

Savvy shoppers are looking to technology for guidance and inspiration with 57% tempted by interactive digital displays. Two-thirds say they’d be interested in virtual mirrors, which allow customers to see how something looks on without ever entering a fitting room, while 52% are keen to experience other types of augmented reality to enhance their overall shopping experience.

Ryan said: “The way consumers are using technology when shopping is focused on having control and efficiency, with click and collect, self-service tills, reading online reviews and checking prices being the most valued technologies.  However, our research shows there is a growing appetite from consumers for technology that inspires and enhances the shopper journey, whether that’s avoiding the need to try things on by using virtual mirrors or making their purchases through e-wallets.

“Westfield Labs, our research team dedicated to developing new retail experiences, has been responding to these findings by developing exciting new technology experiences that inspire consumers. This includes the introduction of the newly developed Express parking system now available at Westfield London, which uses Radio-Frequency Identification Tags so you will never need a coin or a ticket again. The technology will remember past visits and reward users for returning.”

Westfield developed the How We Shop Platform in 2013 to ensure shopping centres and retailers continually adapt to the changing face of retail. The research has revealed eight new shopping trends which explore how we shop, what technology consumers want and the financial costs of poor service.

The results have also led to the discovery of six new shopper tribes defined by how they shop rather than demographics. This offers a new perspective on how retail should develop in the future if retailers want to ensure they are attracting the new consumer. The Social Shopaholic, who makes up 32% of shoppers, is spending £1,672 annually, while the Have to Shopper spends just £424, yet makes up almost a quarter of shoppers – highlighting a huge opportunity to increase this tribe’s spend.

Ryan said: “Incorporating technology into the customer service journey is an absolute priority if retailers want to be the default choice. With How We Shop Now revealing that bad service is accounting for the loss of over  £5 bn worth of sales, we expect to see more accessible technologies like ‘on call’ sales assistants or voice-activated information points to incorporated into stores to meet this growing demand.”

What’s next for retail technology?

Tech-forward Stores:

Not only will free connectivity come as standard, but retailers will look for ways to extend the brand experience by communicating directly with us through smartphones. This new generation of tech-advanced store will do everything from sending us free music downloads to shop by, to notifying us about soon-to-launch items that complement our look.

Beyond retail:

Expect technology to become part of the shopping experience outside the store too. Express parking, using Radio-Frequency Identification Tags, will remember past visits and reward you for returning, while new apps will help you to pre-order food so it’s ready for you at the food court when you want it. Digital store fronts, using ‘connected glass’ technology will enable shoppers to purchase via the screen with same-day delivery.

Fuss-free Shopping:

Simplicity will be the buzzword for retail, as customers move away from hands-on customer service.  Technologies such as voice-activated information and changing-room points or touch screen service points will become more commonplace. We’ll use contactless for everything from paying for our parking to buying items from vending machines.

360° Social:

Watch out for retailers getting more creative around how they socialise their spaces. Look out for communal areas and more technology to facilitate social sharing in the store.

On-call Assistants:

The days of the over-eager assistant, following you around the store, are gone. Expect assistants to be ‘on-call’, summoned with smart technology, via an in-store app or automated help points.

Beacon Buying:

As in-store beacons allow shoppers to be sent more relevant deals to their phone, deal-hunting will become much more targeted and personal.

Report overview:

How We Shop Now Report – 8,000 UK Shoppers Surveyed
8 Shopping Trends that Shape the way we shop – revealed under four key themes
Machine Mode Zero Tolerance Rise of Retaillery One-Off Me
Having it All Butler Luxury Socialised Spaces Deal-Brain Britain
6 Shopper Tribes That define How We Shop
Social Shopaholic Style Savvy Browser The Peer Dependant
Prize hunter Mission Effiicent ‘Have to’ Shopper