7 ways in which the retail landscape might dramatically change over the next few years

With online shopping at an all time high – the e-commerce market is in
fact set to grown by a whopping 320 billion pounds between now and 2018 –
and clothes design more innovative than ever, we’ve come a long way in
fashion over the past decade alone. But what’s in store for the future?

From virtual body scanning to ensure you always find the right size
online, to downloading your purchase and 3D printing it in the comfort of
your own home, a few of the possibilities on the horizon were discussed at
the recent Decoded Fashion London Summit.

1. Shopping social networks

Forget shopping via targeted Facebook ads or just liking the outfits
your friends have been tagged in – entire social networks are now being
dedicated to fashion lovers and their favourite pursuit.

Net-A-Porter has just launched its own invite-only social network app
called The Net Set, where people can follow their style icons, see status
updates direct from designers and fashion brands, connect with fellow
fashion lovers, and easily add any Net-a-Porter.com item shared on the
network to their shopping bag.

Similarly, Egyptian-based social network Slickr, which is due to be
available in the UK soon, is also dedicated to shopping and the sharing of
style inspiration, with images of products that can all be easily bought
direct from brands such as Levi’s. ‘Historically, shopping was a social
pass time,’ says Alexandra Hoffnung, Creative Director of Social Commerce
at the Net-A-Porter group. ‘E-commerce has since become less about the
social aspect – it’s now more about the what and less about the who. We
want to put the social back into shopping.’

2. Virtual shopping assistants

For a taste of what else the future holds for shopping, just look to
American fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff’s recently opened New York
boutique. Branded a ‘store of the future’, customers are met by a giant
touch-screen which lets them firstly order a beverage, and then browse the
collections virtually. Anything that takes their fancy can be added to
their basket, and after typing in a mobile number, shoppers will be alerted
via text message minutes later, when all their chosen garments have been
brought to a fitting room ready to be tried on.But the clever tech doesn’t
end there. Each garment in the store is fitted with tiny electronic tags,
which can be read by the digital mirrors in the cubicles.

As they try on garments, customers can ask the mirror for designer
Rebecca’s suggestions on how to style each item, or for other products that
would match well.
Uri Minkoff, company CEO, calls the concept Shopping 3.0, while revealing
that the system has seen the brand sell two and half times more clothes
than they had been previously. And while store staff are on hand to help
where needed, the next step for the ‘store of the future’ – according to
the Minkoff team – is customer self-checkout. If they can find an effective
way to limit the theft risks involved, that is.

3. Body scanning technology

Returns are the bane of online shopping for both customer and retailer
alike. But, new body scanning technology is on its way to eliminate the
sizing discrepancies which currently exist between different stores and

Pioneered by companies like Bodi.Me, the technology can work in two
ways. One – customers measure themselves the old fashioned way, and then
enter their details into their online Bodi.Me profile. The more advanced,
and likely more accurate option however, is that people visit a ‘body
scanner event’, where the dimensions of their entire body will be digitally
scanned into the system.

Once information is stored, they can then shop various brands through
the Bodi.Me site (for this to work, retailers will also need to have signed
up for the service), and when it comes to choosing the size Bodi.Me will
advise on best fit. For example, a shopper may not know that they’re a size
10 in Whistles but a size 12 in Topshop. Bodi.Me will though – thanks to it
having access to the specs of each size for each store.

4. Sensory technology for textures

Very soon, technology may allow for a sensory touch-pad, which will use
electronic pulses to recreate the textures of fabric on the skin of the
remote shopper. This is likely a way off yet, but at the Decoded London
Summit, journalist, author and consultant Katie Baron spoke about the very
real possibilities. She cited the Prototype Haptic Sensory Tablet created
by Fujitsu Laboratories as one key example, which has found a way of
conveying the tactile sensations of roughness, bumpiness and smooth,
using ultrasonic vibrations on the surface of the touchscreen display. In
other words, when a user touches the screen as an image is displayed, their
fingertips are treated to an electronic simulation of the real life feel of
that image.

5. At home 3D printing

Possibly one of the most radical developments of our time, 3D printing
is now being talked about as something we may all one day be doing at home.
Rather than buy a garment online and waiting for the retail company to box
it up and send it out to you, the idea is that shoppers will simply pay for
a downloadable file containing data about the product.Once it’s been
emailed, the thinking is that customers will then send it to their own
personal 3D printers, and a little while later there the garment will be –
freshly created in our own homes.

Shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood was keen to discuss the potential of
this technology at the Decoded Fashion London Summit, noting how it would
not only cut down on shipping costs, but also help push the speed at which
garments could be created. ‘I think [3D printing] is something we’ll all
adapt to. A problem in fashion at the moment is that as soon as something
comes of the catwalk it’s been seen everywhere, and by the time it hits
stores three to six months later it already looks old, or you’ve been
knocked off by high street stores.’

6. The return of catalogues

Shop Direct may have just called time on the old school Littlewoods
catalogue following 80 years of at home browse-buying, but that’s unlikely
to be the end of catalogues per se. Instead of hefty paper tombs being
delivered door to door, the catalogues of the future are heavily stylised
digital lookbooks, that can be emailed or simply shared via a clickable

As you browse the virtual book, images will move like videos, allowing
you get a more realistic idea of what the garment is like. Each image is
also clickable, so that you can buy it straight away and pay online. Brands
like Monsoon, Uniqlo and Matalan have already dipped their toes into this
kind of shopping experience, using platforms designed by creative tech
company Ceros.

7. Universal shopping baskets

Based on the technology currently being used by popular taxi booking app
Uber, the idea behind universal shopping baskets is that you could browse
an unlimited number of different shopping sites, and only pay once for
everything you want all in one go. It would require card details being
saved on devices such as laptops, phones and tablets, plus software that
could tie together a person’s entire session browsing together.

Naturally, data security will need to be paramount, and so it’s likely
that this form of shopping will be approached by many with trepidation.
Once a universally secure system has been created however, this could
revolutionise the way we currently shop online, by speeding up checkout
times and breaking down boundaries between different retail sites.

Written by Amy Lewis