Smartphones, smartwatches and beacons allow consumers to be tracked constantly – harvesting information about their shopping habits. But the emergence of wearable jewellery, mood-reading dresses, augmented reality mirrors and 3D printing also promise to rekindle shoppers’ love of physical stores.Published by trade body BCSC (British Council for Shopping Centres) and law firm Addleshaw Goddard, the Retail’s Digital Future report is being launched at the group’s first annual Retail Tech conference in London today. Major landlords featured in the report, such as Westfield and Intu, say that we’re moving to a time where shopping is more about the wider experience than simply buying things. Interactive mapping apps could soon provide tailored personal shopping guides, giving recommendations laced with vouchers. Shopping centres are set to become test beds for tech innovation, but landlords will also need to take steps to comply with laws on data protection and privacy, some of which have never been fully tested in court. “The recession and move to online shopping clearly meant both retailers and landlords were forced to change their approach,” explains Jane Hollinshead, partner at Addleshaw Goddard. “But companies need their customers to interact in a hands-on fashion with their brands. New technology takes this to a whole new level and what we’re seeing is a genuine blurring of online and offline shopping.” The report highlights eight emerging technology trends with some of the pioneering start-ups making them happen. Some of these stand-out as promising future tech for retailers. They include Robox, whose 3D printer raised over £280,000 via Kickstarter; Kovert, designers of stylish “connected jewellery”; and Gamar, whose augmented reality games for the V&A and British Museum inspire younger visitors to get involved. Tamoco, a company who create campaigns using beacons, are even using digitally connected beer mats to encourage party-goers to take a taxi home. In a tie-up with Uber, punters can tap their phones on a beer mat and get a voucher for cab. Such subtle use of near-field technology is expected to play a large part in sending vouchers to people in real time. The fundamentals of retail property will always be driven by rents generated via space. But the lines between the landlord and retailer’s domains are being increasingly blurred. Increased collaboration between landlords, retailers and innovators will lead to a greater focus on experience which, the report predicts, will take physical shopping into a new era of certainty.
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