AI walkways and sensory gardens: Westfield unveils hi-tech future
WALKWAYS fused with artificial intelligence, an on-site farm for picking vegetables, and smart lavatories that offer a health diagnosis.
It may not sound like an average trip to the shops.
However, Westfield claims these innovations are only 10 years away from becoming part and parcel of a shopping centre visit.
The retail giant has created a vision of how people will shop in 2028, which it claims will match the latest technology with the demand for extraordinary experiences.
Shopping centres of the future will be “hyper connected micro cities”, according to Westfield. “New technologies are fused with back-to-basics, including gardens and ‘classroom retail’, where people watch and learn from their favourite retailers,” it said.
“Further innovations will include smart loos that can detect hydration levels and nutritional needs, alerting visitors to top up their vitamin C or re-hydrate.”
Hanging sensory gardens, mindfulness workshops, and farms where shoppers can pick produce will also become a key feature.
Meanwhile, eye-scanners will tell customers what they last bought, and smart changing rooms will show shoppers a virtual reflection of themselves when choosing clothes.
The vision underscores how retailers are searching for ways to stay relevant to customers following the rise of
‘Smart loos will detect hydration and nutritional needs, alerting users to top up vitamin C or rehydrate’
online shopping. Game Digital is trying to revive its fortunes by pushing into the esports market, creating in-store gaming zones where customers play each other for a fee.
Elsewhere, supermarket giant Waitrose has teamed up with supper club start-up Wefifo in a bid to lure in more customers.
The grocer has been hosting dinners led by top home cooks and chefs, with plans to roll out the concept into more stores.
David Bassuk, managing director of Alix Partners, said retailers need to reassess how they measure the success of their bricks-and-mortar stores.
He said: “People come into a store, look around, get acquainted, then buy online. Or, they buy online and use the physical store as a place to pick up a purchase or make returns. The store plays a valuable role in both cases. Yet for many retailers, these activities are not being considered in determining store performance.”
Mr Bassuk believes retailers need to focus on total sales rather than the profitability of their stores, as more customers shift their shopping online.
“Retail is not dead, and neither are physical locations,” he added.
“But unless you’re measuring them properly, you’ll never fully understand the value they bring.”