In a world where digital is all-consuming and evolving at such a rapid pace, shoppers have nearly unlimited access to information and alternative options to purchase items, from mobile browsers and apps, available on a multitude of different electronic gadgets.

OnBuy sought to find out how technology has changed over the years, and how much of an impact this has had on the retail industry. As a result, what can businesses in the sector do to ensure that their business is future-proof and thrive in the ever-changing retail market?

What is changing?

Mobile shopping rates are on the rise. Consequently, it is vital that retailers begin to enhance the in-store experience, through incorporating more meaningful and personalised elements. OnBuy looked into a recent report by PWC, regarding 'retail around the world'. PWC's survey asked a number of people from around the world what their shopping preferences are, and how they have changed over time: most specifically, five years.

Technology in retail

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Although in-store shopping is still the most popular option among weekly and daily shoppers, the frequency of mobile shopping has overtaken tablet shopping and is continuing to grow, perhaps due to the sheer number of readily available online discounts and coupons. Mobile shopping is just 'pipped-at-the-post' by computer shopping - this suggests that perhaps over the next five years, mobile shopping will overtake computer shopping too. As a result, it is vital that retailers make the most of the mobile experience to effectively 'future-proof' their business for the future of tech in the retail industry.

OnBuy conclude the following from the survey:

Mobile shopping

is continuing its steady gain on other digital channels

Shopping via PC

has become less popular

Shopping via tablet

has not seem much change over 5 years

Shopping via mobile

is climbing steadily

VR headset

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In an attempt to make in-store retail thrive once more, new technologies such as 'augmented reality' (AR) and 'virtual reality' (VR), are being adapted for use in the retail world. According to a recent study by KPMG, AR and VR are set to be “the next generation of disruption in the retail world”. In the near future, it is likely that customers will use AR and VR to explore products whilst browsing in-store.

OnBuy conducted their own survey of just over 1,500 respondents, aged between 18 and 40, on people's retail decisions, and found 54% of consumers will see themselves using mobiles more in the future to make the in-store experience better and more meaningful. A further 73% of consumers believe that retailers will have to keep up with new technology in order to improve their customer experience and retain customers.

For millennials, it is even more important to evolve and increase tech use in-store, as OnBuy found that a staggering six in 10 (61%) 25-to-34-year olds (millennials) find it easier to chat to stores via text, online chat or messenger apps, than go into store. Furthermore, half of millennials (52%), when in a shop, would even prefer to seek information online, rather than ask an in-store shop assistant. Furthermore, just under half of consumers (47%) agree that they are more likely to buy from brands with stores that are different or interesting - and this increases to a staggering two thirds (65%) for millennials.

What can companies do?

Utilising a report by KPMG, OnBuy concluded that businesses, particularly in retail, must enhance the customer experience, whether that be online or in-store, to engage the new generations whilst shopping, otherwise the UK may see the 'death' of the high-street. In KPMG's survey of more than 18,000 consumers, OnBuy found that only 23% of consumers prefer visiting shops, with the clear majority opting for mobile shopping options instead.

This is unsurprising, as the average person checks their phone 85 times a day - and a staggering 150 times for millennials. Thus, it is no wonder businesses are trying to retain customers by investing into the online marketplace, as well as trying to keep in-store retail alive.

Person on mobile phone

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These are the top 6 areas of investment OnBuy suggests retailers should focus on to help build a brand for the future:

1 Invest in a mobile site and app

The use of a mobile phone for online shopping is continuing its surge in popularity.

2 Adopt an 'Amazon' strategy

Amazon has set many new standards in retail through its creativity and disruptive innovations, to make shopping - and life - easier, more convenient, and more fun.

3 Focus on building a name on social media

Many consumers find inspiration for their purchases using “traditional” social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

4 Develop 'secure' platforms for online purchases

A number of consumers only use companies/websites and payment providers that they believe are legitimate and trustworthy to reduce the risk of a cyber-attack.

5 Retain loyal customers

Customers stay loyal when given incentives, such as loyalty cards or discounts.

6 Invest in technology in-store (e.g. VR and AR)

Invest in technology in-store to create a more inviting and comfortable experience for the customer, through using VR/AR, and touchscreen options for customers to search and browse.