Chris Mitchell
Aug 7, 2015

Retailers must use robots, digital mannequins, VR and drones to stay futureproof

To ensure they survive, retailers must continue to innovate with new technologies and improve the customer experience, argues Chris Mitchell of Engage Works

Retailers must use robots, digital mannequins, VR and drones to stay futureproof

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of retail brands is how to create a fully integrated brand atmosphere that engages the modern shopper. An integrated approach that employs technology will reap the rewards. With that in mind, here are five ways to futureproof your retail store.

Brand theater

The old-fashioned showroom is dead. Simply having an attractive product display is not enough to intrigue the modern consumer.

There’s now a requirement for retailers to enhance customer’s in-store experience by using modern technologies including object recognition, touch-tables, media walls and interactive signage, which bring products to life and create compelling and engaging experiences that customers can share.

People now seek surprise and excitement when shopping; in fact, a recent study found that 44 per cent of customers actively choose to visit stores that use customer experience enhancing-technologies. So it’s important brands test boundaries and experiment with new technologies to wow their customers. 

Experiential design

Interactive technology should no longer be an afterthought for retailers. Instead, brands should (and are beginning to) design stores with technology installed from the get-go.

Some innovative brands are starting to realize that integrating experiences into the design of their stores from the beginning will elevate their presence and create fascinating experiences.

But brands willing to take this approach must roll this out across all stores—not just in flagships—to give consumers a reason to visit and to return.

Making technology a part of the store experience is a great future-proofing exercise, and ensuring they can be changed/adapted easily to meet current trends in this rapidly evolving industry is crucial. Irish clothing retailer Primark is a good example of a brand that is taking a progressive approach to experiential design.

Big data

If a retailer knows that one of its customers likes a specific product or brand, which they can find out through regular searches, repeat purchases or facial/product recognition technology, then they can ensure these products are placed in front of them more regularly.

However, shockingly, it was discovered that actually only 23 per cent of UK retailers make sense of the data they capture, and 50 per cent think the tools they use currently fail to meet the needs of the brand. Understanding the data your brand has gathered is crucial when it comes to determining what your consumer likes and dislikes.


Those looking to future-proof their business already know that they must engage with the consumer at every possible touch point—whether that’s a pop-up activation, something on their website or something in-store. However, it is the forward-thinking brands using devices in store to create a seamless transition from online to offline that will stay ahead of the curve.

In this digitally rich world, shopper behaviors are changing. Gone are the days when a shopper would go into town to buy a new frock. Now, potential shoppers combine online and offline to research, plan and look for the best deals before making purchases.

With this in mind, retailers must ensure that any omni-channel strategy is implemented carefully and has the full customer journey in mind. Beacon technology, for example, is helping retailers close the gap between on- and offline by allowing stores to identify active online and mobile customers within retail environments. 

New technologies

Retailers must embrace technologies including robotics, digital mannequins, VR and drones to offer a unique, memorable experience for the customer. More so, retailers must look at any cutting-edge technologies to experiment with, and it is brands that are willing to take a chance on the unknown that stand out. For instance, Topshop was one of the first brands to embrace Oculus Rift as a way to provide customers a feel of what it was like to be at London Fashion Week.

Brands like Audi and BMW (which both introduced digital showrooms a few years ago) are also striving to be at the forefront of innovation and are always looking to evolve the customer experience.

In the coming years, we will see many follow in the footsteps of these forward-thinking brands, but it is those willing to innovate, experiment and embrace new technologies to create immersive, interactive customer experiences—by taking on board the customer’s expectations and behaviors—that will succeed on the high streets of the future.

Chris Mitchell is account manager at Engage Works in London

This article is part of the Campaign Innovate series, a collection of articles that examine the way innovation, startups and technology are affecting the advertising and marketing industry.

Campaign Asia-Pacific has also launched the Campaign Innovate competition, an event that aims to provide a platform for Asia-Pacific's startups to pitch to some of the world's biggest brands. 



Campaign UK

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