AI walk­ways and sen­sory gar­dens: West­field un­veils hi-tech fu­ture

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Ben Woods

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.”

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