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Social Media and Mobile Points the Way Forward for Retailers

March 12, 2013
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It's billed as a battle between the high street and the internet. But a new report from consultancy firms Kantar Retail and The Futures Company has shown that traditional stores need to embrace mobile and social media technology to meet shoppers' new priorities.The Future Shopper analysed global retail and technology trends to predict how we will all shop - and how the shops will entice us inside. It shows how retailers will use smart phones and social networking to target shoppers with tailor-made deals as they pass their store.

Stores will make the most of their showrooms by stocking core items for customers to try, and using augmented reality through special mirrors to illustrate what an item of clothing looks like in different colours. Anything not in stock can be ordered from a virtual warehouse where other items can be delivered to customers' homes. Rather than trying to fight new technology, The Future Shopper says that successful high street stores will embrace it - and use their inherent strengths that online retailers can't match.

This could mean personal shoppers armed with tablet devices, equipped with a full knowledge of a customer's purchase history, and additional services to enhance the shopping experience; for example clothes store Hackett already has haircare and shoeshine services at its flagship store in London.

In grocery retail, the battle for convenience has already seen retailers move away from the extra-large hypermarket in favour of smaller stores in key areas such as train stations. The Future Shopper shows how this could be taken further if a concept developed by Tesco in Seoul takes off, where commuters using their smartphones scan QR codes of their favourite groceries in virtual stores inside stations. These are then delivered when they get home.

However, changing technology is only part of the story, according to Kantar Retail and The Futures Company, as the real key for retailers is understanding and meeting shoppers' changing priorities.

Today's savvy shoppers are increasingly considered in their shopping decisions. Hard economic circumstances have given further impetus to their quest for value and the recent horsemeat scandal is just the latest issue that has given shoppers reason to look for assurance in the quality of their purchases.

At the same time, long working hours and demographic changes - including an ageing population and an increase in people caring for relatives - have led to a demand for more convenience and a simpler path to purchase. The result is a changing definition of e-commerce - where the "e" stands for "everywhere", whether on the high street, convenient locations for commuters, the home, or on the go.

Henry Tucker, Deputy Managing Director for The Futures Company, said: "A lot of people think that the changes in attitude and behaviour among shoppers is down to the financial crisis, but it's much deeper than that - some of these trends started well before the economic crisis, and we're also seeing them in emerging markets which haven't been affected in the same way.

"What we have found is that this is down to the intersection of changing social attitudes and technology. It's a clash between the old and new. The shoppers themselves are largely unchanged, but their expectations of how businesses will meet their needs are changing." Steve Mader, Senior Analyst at Kantar Retail, said: "Retailers need to understand more fundamentally what their shoppers need and then think about how they can deliver it. It's not about online or physical, it's about how those two worlds interact and how you can use that to your advantage."

About The Future Shopper

The Future Shopper is part of the Future Perspectives series of thought-pieces with concise, focused insights into important issues of interest to marketing and business strategists. The Futures Company and Kantar Retail are holding webinars covering the highlights of The Future Shopper on Tuesday 19 March. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif] To register for the global webinars, go to

Other titles in the Future Perspectives series include Succeeding in low-growth markets and Women 2020: How women's actions and expectations are changing the future.

About The Futures Company

The Futures Company is an award-winning, global strategic insight and innovation consultancy. Unparalleled global expertise in foresight and futures enables The Futures Company to unlock new sources of growth through a range of subscription services and research and consulting solutions. The Futures Company was formed through the integration of The Henley Centre, HeadlightVision, Yankelovich and most recently, TRU.

The Futures Company is a Kantar company within WPP with teams in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia.

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