High Streets Initiative · 19 September 2018

Virtual reality shop assistants will serve high street shoppers “in 5 years”

VR assistant
Retailers are looking for ways to improve the customer experience in-store

Being greeted at the door by a friendly virtual reality shop assistant will become standard across the UK high street in the next 5 years, according to a new study.

The report, from VoucherCodes.co.uk and WBR Insights, revealed that over 90% of retailers plan to have artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual assistant technology both in-store and online by 2023.

The majority of retailers said they wanted to simplify and enrich the customer experience by investing in more technology and to increasingly personalise the shopping experience.

Over a quarter of retailers, the report said, have already invested in Augmented Reality technology over the last 12 months with other key priorities being chatbots and AI-powered recommendation engines on their websites.

Over a third of retailers (37%) said they had invested in Virtual Reality technology with 38% already having introduced virtual assistants and 53% planning on doing so.

The report added that 44% of retailers offered AI-powered chatbots to help shoppers with 54% planning to do so in the next 5 years.

The findings come at a time of great turmoil on the UK high street with high-profile closures such as Maplin and Poundworld. Retailers are feeling the pressures of waning consumer confidence, higher business rates, operating costs and the growth of online shopping.

Read more about the challenges facing UK high streets:

As such retailers are also increasingly looking to offer more omni-channel approaches with 67% already using geofence technology to connect online shopping to the high street and 33% planning to do within the next five years.

“These latest figures highlight how retailers are continuing to adapt to the growth of online and mobile spending,” said Jimmy New, director of marketing at VoucherCodes.co.uk.

“Technology and digital investment will be key to ensure this growth does not come at the expense of traditional high street spend, as Artificial Intelligence and other popular innovations transform the shopping experience.

“To remain competitive and respond to customer demands, it is more vital than ever for retailers to evolve their in-store and online offering and create a sense of occasion and experience. Fortunately, thanks to the rapid developments in both AI and AR technology, retailers can create an even more immersive experience for customers – helping them to build stronger connections and encourage loyalty.”

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