News & Insight

Can artificial intelligence save the high street?

Jack Oneill

Shoppers will come face to face with friendly virtual reality shop assistants within the next...

Shoppers will come face to face with friendly virtual reality shop assistants within the next 5 years, according to a new study.

The report, from and WBR Insights, claims that over 90% of retailers aim to have artificial intelligence and virtual assistant technology both in-store and online by 2023.

The majority of retailers said they wanted to simplify but improve the customer experience by investing in more technology and personalising the shopping experience.

Over the last year, a quarter of retailers have already invested in Augmented Reality technology. Other key priorities are online chatbots and AI-powered recommendation engines.

The news comes during a torrid year for the British high street, which has included the closure of House of Fraser stores across the country.

Debenhams has been under threat, calling in specialists to avoid collapse, and Poundworld also fell into administration. Carpetright and Maplin collapsed earlier this year.

Retailers are feeling the pressures of consumer apathy, increasing business rates and operating costs as well as the popularity of online shopping.

Jimmy New, director of marketing at, said:  ‘These latest figures highlight how retailers are continuing to adapt to the growth of online and mobile spending.

‘Technology and digital investment will be key to ensure this growth does not come at the expense of traditional high street spend, as Artificial Intelligence and other popular innovations transform the shopping experience.

‘To remain competitive and respond to customer demands, it is more vital than ever for retailers to evolve their in-store and online offering and create a sense of occasion and experience. Fortunately, thanks to the rapid developments in both AI and AR technology, retailers can create an even more immersive experience for customers – helping them to build stronger connections and encourage loyalty.’

Still, in all of the press around the future of UK retail, it’s easy to forget that human interaction and physical experience of shopping is still at the heart of what many customers want.

By truly understanding what your customer wants, how and where they make their decisions, it’s unlikely that customer loyalty will be lost. Technology doesn’t need to mean the death of the high street – it could be its salvation.