We are well into the Christmas shopping season and most foresee a tough time for retailers in the UK.  Visa reports spending for last week was down 6.2% against the equivalent week last year, and 2.3% down over the past 4 weeks.  Given higher fuel and food costs, rising unemployment and little hope of a New Year pay rise for those in work, it’s not surprising that UK consumers feel they need to cut back on Christmas spending – and they are looking for great deals to drive their purchases.  The response from retailers has predictably (and necessarily) been to slash prices – but some have also taken more innovative approaches to attract customers.

Research by Virgin Media Business uncovers how flagship stores in London’s Oxford Street have been using technology to enhance their customer experience.  Niketown has staff taking payments on mobile devices, Debenhams are offering a “free coffee Friday” via Foursquare and nearly a quarter of the stores are taking online orders instore via touchscreen terminals.

Meanwhile, following on from Tesco’s innovatory approach to shopping in South Korea, the retail giant is now set to trial AR (Augmented Reality) online and instore.   Customers will be able to see AR images of a product before they purchase – so, for example, could compare how different TVs look in their living room, or see how a Lego model will look before they buy the box.  In store, Tesco will be able to showcase additional products that there isn’t physical floorspace to stock.  You can get a flavour of it by viewing the video here.  Personally, I find the robot rather patronising, but it’s a first for retail, and a great development to use AR to practically enhance the customer experience.

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