Despite all the negative media about the death of the High Street, it’s estimated that 83% of all retail sales in 2020 will be from bricks and mortar stores. Millennials and Generation Z, the most significant group of consumers over the coming years, are falling back in love with traditional ways of shopping.
These are the most connected and tech-savvy sectors of the population and analysts predict that a new hybrid retail offer will emerge that makes use of artificial intelligence to integrate offline and online retail experiences.
Is AI all about humanoid sales assistants?
Although sales robots might become a feature of some stores they’re not really expected to displace human sales staff just yet. Instead, AI is about making machines capable of problem-solving in a way that humans currently do. AI is already capable of learning from experience, of handling huge data sets and interpreting new inputs. These capabilities are likely to increase over the coming years.
In retail, AI will be increasingly handling the management of daily tasks and gaining insights into customer behaviour. AI can gather data on customer preferences, making adjustments to store inventories and ordering.
The high-end brand Fartech has launched a Store Of The Future Platform with the aim of using data to combine online and offline retail channels. The Store of The Future will enable retailers to collect customer data while browsing in-store. So-called Smart Mirror Technology will allow customers to browse through different styles, colours and outfit combinations in the fitting room. Sizing, styles, browsing habits will be kept by the store, allowing the company to tailor their offer to individual customers every time they visit. Previously, physical stores have been unable to retrieve consumer data in the same way as online stores, putting them at a disadvantage. Digital assistants could complement human floor staff, offering advice as to how to navigate large stores, where to find items and information about offers.
Experiential retail bridges the gap between the two different retail channels, tipping the balance of attraction back towards bricks and mortar. If the High Street ever regains footfall, it will be through offering something that the online experience currently cannot. Artificial intelligence perhaps offers a way in which physical retail can edge ahead. Retail executives in the coming decades will be at the forefront of a potentially revolutionary change in the way we sell and shop.