You arrive to be greeted by name by Pepper, the friendly robot who recognises you and shows you where to hang your bike and guides you over to the juice bar which is old-fashioned with a smells of freshly-cut wood in contrast to the high tech space you can see beyond it. The barman has your favourite smoothie waiting for you while Pepper asks you how the last pair of shoes turned out and are you looking for a new pair – or two -?. When you confirm, the screen alongside flashes up your preferences and asks how you want to design them. You and the barman play around on the screen with a number of options. You don’t have to worry about size – Pepper has already digitally assessed that you are still the same size and weight as last time. The screen beyond the bar shows you playing football wearing your new shoes with matching strip, all individually designed to match. You ask to see another option and when you are happy, Pepper brings out shoes for you to try out – not your final design, but to test the size and shape. You are happy, and agree that it would be a good idea to have a couple of new shirts and shorts to match. From what you have seen, you know you will look awesome for that next game of football.
Another smoothie later, and you collect your cycle and ride off home, knowing that your new kit will arrive within a couple of days, with automatic payment.
What is the future of retail in the modern internet age? At a time when consumers are focussing on experiences rather than everyday goods, how will the High Street respond? If the Retail Design Expo, running alongside Retail Digital Signage Expo and Retail Business Technology Expo at Olympia has any indications of the future, it is, on the one hand, immersed in technology, on the other providing an experience whether a sandwich bar in a park or in a mesmerising digital presentation. And, wherever you look, robots are on hand.
Technology is everywhere: easy efficient payments across the globe, whether internet or physical, customer management, preferences and profiling, stock control, automated goods selection and payments in the shop by phone, ipad or tablet eliminating the need for expensive shop assistants and storage as the customer, supported by technology, does more and more of the work.
How will retailers use drones, holograms or interactive media in stores, and counterbalance this with a good old-fashioned personal memorable experience for their customers? Creating an experience, individuality, using technology sensibly and in balance with nature – these are all some of the themes, against which queuing for a self-service machine in a supermarket does not represent the future. The future is walking out knowing the good have been scanned and the bill has automatically been paid.
Students from six art and design colleges across the UK competed for internships at leading retailers and design consultancies including Adidas, Pret a Manger and Majestic Wine. Here were imaginative ideas for the future of retailing, potentially taking these companies into new territory. It will be interesting to see how, in the next couple of years, the world of Retail will have responded to the ideas presented to them.
And, of all else fails, there is always table tennis and art…….