Virtual reality, haptics, location-based marketing and personalised promotions are the emerging technologies that will shape the future of retail, according to new research.

New data from Hammerson and GlobalData suggests that the four tech advancements are those most likely to strike a chord with shoppers in the coming years.

Hammerson’s Retail Innovation: Past, Present…and Future report, shared exclusively with Retail Week, revealed that 57% of 25- to 34-year-olds find haptic technology appealing or very appealing.

More than a quarter of 45- to 54-year-olds (28%) also saw the appeal of the emerging tech.

Virtual reality was said to be appealing to 52% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 25% of 45- to 54-year-olds.

Almost half of 25- to 34-year-olds (48%) said location-based marketing appealed to them, but that dropped to just over a fifth (22%) for 45- to 54-year-olds.

And when it came to personalised promotions, almost one in every two female shoppers (49%) said they found these appealing, compared to 36% of male respondents.

In comparison, the notions of delivery drones and 3D printing did not receive the same positive reaction from consumers.

Just 36% of those surveyed said they would welcome drone deliveries, while 76% said they would worry about the security of using drones.

Two-thirds of shoppers said they would be unwilling to pay more to have their products delivered by drone.

Only 40% of people said they would welcome 3D printing, with 61% admitting they would worry about the quality of the products.

Future of stores

The Hammerson and GlobalData research suggests that physical stores will remain a central part of the shopping experience for both retailers and consumers despite technological advances.

Although the online shopping boom and the advent of technologies such as contactless payments have radically shaped consumer habits, 87% of non-food retail is influenced by a store.

The number of physical retail shops has halved since 1950, but they continue to play a key role in the shopping journey.

The UK had 583,132 retail outlets in 1950 – the equivalent of 12 stores per 1,000 people.

That number has slumped to 290,315 this year, which equates to four stores per 1,000 people.

But rather than shun stores in favour of online shopping, online and offline are increasingly working together.

While 68% of people surveyed said they used their smartphones to research products at least once a week, only 34% of shoppers said they purchased products using their mobiles on a weekly basis.

Indeed, compared with five years ago, 59% of shoppers said they were now more likely to check and compare prices before making a purchase in-store and 58% spend more time researching products.

“It seems evident that technology is not the enemy at the gate, but rather an opportunity for landlords and retailers to embrace”

David Atkins, Hammerson

Almost a third of those surveyed (31%) said options for delivery, collections and returns have a bigger influence on where they shop compared to five years ago, emphasising the need for retailers to retain a portfolio of physical spaces in key locations.

And human contact with shop staff is also high on customers’ agendas, the research suggests.

Some 59% of shoppers said they preferred to use tills staffed by shopfloor workers rather than self-service tills, which 44% of respondents claimed were “irritating” and “difficult” to use.

Furthermore, almost two-thirds of consumers (65%) said they worried about the security of contactless or mobile payments and would rather interact with and pay via a human interaction in-store.

Hammerson boss David Atkins said: “While the rise of technology is often characterised as a relatively recent phenomenon, our research demonstrates that innovation has been disrupting and shaping the retail industry for decades – and that this has benefited both consumers and retailers.

“Encouragingly, both brands and customers continue to see the physical store as central to the retail experience, and our retailers emphatically agree that the store portfolio will remain a fundamental part of their strategy in the future.

“Overall it seems evident that technology is not the enemy at the gate, but rather an opportunity for landlords and retailers to embrace.”