Klarna, a Swedish company that works with 90,000 merchants to offer payment solutions, has released new research that shows while a majority of fashion retailers want to invest in high tech features such as AR / VR, 4 in 5 shoppers say that they wouldn’t be interested in using it. Its findings showed that there is an apparent discrepancy between what shoppers want in the future and what retailers plan to deliver.
Futurist Insight to Retail Tech
Klarna’s Global FashTech Research Series surveyed 2,000 shoppers and 50 decision makers in fashion retail throughout the U.K, and according to their investigation, fashion retailers are investing in the latest tech trends but find the fundamentals a challenge. A fifth of these retailers admitted that they are struggling to get the basics right, and 42% are so focused on getting online right that in-store technology is not a priority.
“A fifth of these retailers admit that they are struggling to get the basics right, and 42% are so focused on getting online right that in-store technology is not a priority.”
This contradicts what consumers say they want, with almost three quarters [73%] stating they value shopping in-store, as it offers a human experience that can’t be recreated online. In short, retailers shouldn’t be writing off the value that an excellent in-store experience can bring to their business.
What Should the Future Look Like?
Technology that takes measurements so that consumers can be sure items fit before buying [42%] and access to the same level of discounts in-store as they can access online [49%] is top of the wish-list for consumers. Also, a third [31%] of shoppers want to be able to pay later after they’ve left the store or pay after delivery, without their credit/debit card.
Howard Saunders, a Retail Futurologist and expert, commented: “The advancement of technology is inevitable, and it’s clear that customers are undecided about the advantages of some of the latest technology. This research shows that retailers may enthuse and embrace technology as a means of reviving sales, but unless customers can see the benefits personally, it could be a wasted investment. A muted response to technology like drone delivery, smart fabrics, and virtual store assistants shows that removing the personal element from fashion retail could be a mistake. The future is coming at us fast, but it’s worth remembering we’ll still be human when it arrives.”
“Research shows that retailers may enthuse and embrace technology as a means of reviving sales, but unless customers can see the benefits personally, it could be a wasted investment.”
So when it comes to the future of shopping, it looks like retailers are prioritising other less functional features, despite the clear direction from consumers on what the future of retail tech should look like. When asked what retailers would like to integrate in the future, online personas & avatars [38%] were top of the list, while shoppers’ top request was a better variety of clothes [28%]. Besides, retailers want to create virtual stores to be viewed online [32%], despite that only 10% of consumers said they’d like to see the same.
What Do Consumers Want?
There’s a growing demand for a more personalised shopping experience that combines the feeling and advantages of in-store shopping with the convenience and choice of online. 49% of shoppers said when they shop in-store they miss the personalised offers they receive online, while 46% said they believe online shopping is more convenient than in-store. Retailers must take note that no one channel is the key to success — combining elements of both is vital.
On what consumers want, Malin Eriksson, Klarna’s U.S. General Manager said: “We know that fashion retailers have a good track record for adopting the latest technology; however our latest research shows that some work still needs to be done to ensure retailers are delivering what shoppers want. What we can see is that shoppers want the basics to be done better and they don’t want their preferred fashion brands to favour fads over function through the introduction of technology that doesn’t improve their shopping experience.”
“What we can see is that shoppers want the basics to be done better and they don’t want their preferred fashion brands to favour fads over function.”
Eriksson continued: “This doesn’t mean every retailer needs both an online and offline presence — it means tapping into what consumers want and adapting to that specific channel. For example, 61% of shoppers say they don’t like that shopping online takes longer because they can’t touch or see items before buying. The answer could be offering body scanning technology or offering services such as pay later that allow consumers to try items at home before paying. There’s no one right answer, fashion is an increasingly competitive area and listening to shoppers will be the difference between success and failure.”
As retailers continue to embrace various high tech to lure customers into stores, I do wonder whether Klarna’s consumer and merchant research on how retail technology’s impact on how we buy and sell fashion in the future will change the direction that retail is currently headed. I am hoping that the future of retail will be one where consumers and retailers use technology as a tool that sets in motion a shopping experience that gives consumer’s the convenience they crave without removing the human element. And in turn, allows retailers to be able to provide a high-tech service that gives us what we need rather than what they think we want.
Founding editor-in-chief of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta is currently one of the leading influencers writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She has also given talks at Premiere Vision, Munich Fabric Start and Pure London, to name a few. Besides working as a fashion innovation consultant for various fashion companies like LVMH Atelier, Muchaneta has also contributed to Vogue Business, is a senior contributor at The Interline and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, UAL.