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Underestimating Older Shoppers' Desire For New Technology Would Be A Mistake For Retailers

19/05/2017 13:20 BST | Updated 19/05/2017 13:20 BST
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When considering potential consumers and the emerging market of retail technology, it is unlikely that baby boomers and older generations are the first groups that come to mind.

Much more likely, is that younger and more tech savvy shoppers are at the forefront of decision makers' thoughts when investigating the best ways to bring assistive platforms like chat bots, or visualisation technology like mixed and virtual reality to market.

However, retailers would be wrong to underestimate just how hungry these older generations are for new technology and a more interactive shopping experience on the high street, and new figures have revealed just how big a mistake this could be.

Not only are older shoppers open to the idea of new technology in the retail sector, a report commissioned by us at DigitalBridge, "The Imagination Gap: Retail's £1bn problem", has found that they are, in fact, equally as eager as their younger counterparts to be able to use these platforms when shopping.

This is especially true of mixed and augmented reality technology - which allows consumers to visualise products in a virtual setting before buying them - with 73% of baby boomers saying they would be more likely to shop with a brand offering this kind of interactive experience.

This is exactly the same proportion as the number of millennials who are calling for a more immersive retail shopping experience.

The reason these figures should worry the retail sector is because the general consensus is that technology is an enticement best aimed at younger shoppers.

But this is clearly not the case, and with about 24m people falling into the baby boom generation - according to the ONS - added with other older shoppers who want to use visualisation technology, this is a significant customer base retailers could be missing out on.

Even more significant, and a demonstration of why retailers should look to implement this technology sooner rather than later because it relates directly to the bottom line, of the customers who would use visualisation tools, more than half (55%) say it would help them make a purchasing decision.

That is millions more potential customers who would part with their money, if they were allowed to preview products before they had a chance to buy them using technology that is now available to retail businesses to offer.

And, while it is younger shoppers who are more likely to think visualisation technology will help them make a buying decision, there is a substantial majority of older shoppers who feel the same.

More than half (53%) of consumers aged 35-54 say this kind of platform would help them make a decision on a purchase, behind the 68% of 25-34 year olds and 59% of 18-24 year olds.

Even among those shoppers beyond the baby boom era, nearly half (46%) of 55-64 year olds and 42% of shoppers aged over 65, think they would be more likely to buy something if they could preview it first.

Far from being afraid of technology, older shoppers clearly have much the same excitement and expectations about what mixed reality and artificial intelligence can offer them in a retail setting.

It is also clear that older shoppers have a much greater grasp of what technology can offer them than they are given credit for, and thinking that technology is only good for attracting younger shoppers is a mindset that needs to be debunked quickly, if retailers are to take full advantage of the opportunity in front of them.

Maybe surprisingly, older shoppers could even be enticed to move more of their retail shopping online if they were given access to better technology, with more than one in 10 saying they would be likely to take up this opportunity.

Technology in the retail sector is only going to improve in the coming months and years and the benefits it can offer are going to become clearer.

Visualisation technology, like that being pioneered by DigitalBridge, is already showing proven results for the retailers making the most of it, while these figures clearly show there is an appetite among consumers.

AI assistive tools like chatbots and virtual assistants are now making it possible for retailers to predict and pre-empt consumer decisions and enquiries by learning about shopping and browsing history and making suggestions and recommendations.

Looking to the future, there is exciting potential for mixed reality to be offered in a wearable format. Apple is one of the main tech companies experimenting with this and its acquisition of 3D sensor company, PrimeSense, in 2013 suggests the tech giant is working towards this goal.

Virtual reality headsets, like those offered by Samsung and Google, are already proving popular in the gaming and leisure industry so it is not a stretch to think this wearable solution can be developed successfully for the retail sector.

Then there is the possibility of combining AI and visualisation technology.

Having these technologies in one solution opens the possibility for retailers to not only predict and recommend purchases for consumers, but also show those customers what these products will look like - increasing the chances of a purchase being made in the process.

What is clear, is that there is a large consumer base of all ages eagerly awaiting the arrival of a more interactive and technology focussed experience, and retailers could regret not taking advantage of it sooner rather than later.

To view DigitalBridge's retail report, go to: The Imagination Gap: Retail's £1bn problem

For more information about DigitalBridge go to: http://digitalbridge.eu/