The future of retail: virtual is a reality Reply

by Oakley Kaddish

Virtual shopping with Sportsgirl is a mobile app away. Photo: Sportsgirl

“Since today’s consumer can buy anything online, what is the point of your store?” Chris Sanderson and Martin Raymond asked retailers at the annual Future Laboratory Retail Trend Briefing at the Art Gallery of NSW earlier this year.

Mr Sanderson and Mr Raymond, who are co-founders of the Future Laboratory, a research consultancy reporting on global retail trends, made a presentation called The Retail Transformation Age to introduce new concepts in virtual retailing.

“UK retail sales were down four per cent in the first quarter of 2011 and about 26,500 high street retailers will be forced to close by 2015. With traditional stores failing, more retailers are moving online,” Mr. Sanderson said. “UK online sales were up 11 per cent.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ retail report released in January, Australian retail sales dropped 0.1 per cent over the Christmas period.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia reported that online retail spending in 2011 increased 1.3 per cent over traditional retail. Concurrently, it forecasts that another increase of 1.1 percent for online retailing is again expected for this year.

“Our new Tomorrow Store concept offers solutions to retail boredom.  We will see consumers being more connected and then making more use of those connections in their purchase decisions,” Chris Sanderson said.The new concept splits the role of retail mediums. Traditional stores will be places to undertake ‘retail theatre’ and showcase products in a fun and interactive way, while the purpose of online stores will be to execute transactions. Mobile devices such as iPhones will use apps to channel customers to either the online store or the traditional store via maps and games and increase their connectivity and interaction with the retailer.

In February, Australian retailer Sportsgirl launched a virtual ‘Window Shop’ in their South Yarra and Paddington stores, a first for Australian retail. It allows customers to purchase products without entering a bricks and mortar store by using a QR (Quick Response) code. Sportsgirl products are displayed on the shop front allowing customers to scan the product’s code with their smartphone or iPad to make an immediate purchase 24 hours a day.

According to Prue Thomas, Sportsgirl’s Strategic Brand Manager, “this will allow the Sportsgirl customer to merge her offline and online shopping experiences”.

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