It’s been a blossoming romance throughout the decade, but 2014 was the year that technology and bricks-and-mortar retail really got into bed together. As online sales still hover around the 10 per cent mark of overall retail sales in the UK, it’s clear that shoppers aren’t going to swear off the high street any time soon – and so rather than fighting each other, retailers have invested time and energy this year in finding new ways to enhance our real-life and virtual experiences hand-in-hand.
From ‘virtual fitting room’ tools like Metail, Fits.me, PhiSix and Virtusize making sure our clothes will fit when they arrive, to whizzy delivery innovations like Amazon Prime Air getting our purchases to us in double-quick time, it’s never been easier to shop. New in-store experiences are gathering pace too, with augmented reality apps springing up to help us choose everything from Burberry lipsticks to a new hoover from the Argos catalogue.
Small independent shops have fought back against the giants this year, with schemes like Hubbub (for local groceries) and StreetHub (for fashion and design boutiques) rounding up the best of their wares and selling them in slick, reliable style. And the granddad of rustic e-retail, Etsy has continued to grow year-on-year, with smaller copycat platforms popping up to help give small-scale designers and handmade products a new global platform.
Local communities have been digitising their shopping in other ways too – The Bristol Pound is the UK’s first citywide currency using electronic accounts as well as hard cash, with mobile, online and text payment options accepted at business across the area. Then there’s the feel-good factor of Boris Johnson’s Penny for London scheme, which launched last month, allowing shoppers in the capital to donate 1p to local charities for young people each time they use their contactless card. Lovely.