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Comment: Retailers need to adapt or die in the modern technology landscape

Retail is being changed by technological advancements to make the shopping experience more efficient and innovative than ever before.

Interestingly, some argue the internet has not hindered the more traditional physical forms of retail, but it has forced it to compete with its rapidly expanding online competition.

Take, for example, Appear Here’s partnership with Transport for London – which has transformed Old Street Station into a dynamic and ever changing retail space, reflecting the ever-changing personality of London’s tech capital – Shoreditch.

But this is not a sustainable option for many independent businesses. The majority of physical shop spaces are expensive, time consuming and, most importantly, no longer a critical component of the online retail business model.

We are firmly in the digital age. Therefore, it is no surprise that online shopping is at the forefront of the retail revolution.

Technology has increased the access brands have to customers and vice versa. Through its international outreach, it permits brands to display an unlimited selection of products and allows consumers to access them via the creation of a virtual shopping reality.

Fits.me’s is a piece of technology that enables users to virtually try on clothes by uploading a photo of themselves and entering a few basic measurements. This piece of shopping technology has recently secured €4.2m to expand a client portfolio which includes brands such as Hugo Boss and Thomas Pink.

Technology is driving greater efficiency in retail that traditional retailers must adopt to compete. For instance, Fits.me solves the common drawback online shoppers’ previously faced – “try before you buy”. Additionally, data from technology services are providing unprecedented insights allowing retailers to continually improve their services.

This is then amplified by the fact that technology can enable brands of all sizes to communicate to any audience in any language, taking on board different cultural preferences that would have previously stunted a brand's worldwide appeal.

Just look at the retail tech company Farfetch, which its CEO and founder José Neves describes as a “curated centralised and global marketplace” that takes care of the entire experience of shopping – regardless of language or culture. The platform allows independent boutique designers to have access to a global market, that was previously off limits.

Last month, Tech London Advocates  ̶  my network of tech experts in the capital  ̶  launched the TLA RetailTech working group. We’re seeing a critical mass of retail tech entrepreneurs operating in London and developing innovations that are transforming the practices of existing players.

It is my belief that retail tech will become one of the emerging success stories of the fastest growing sector in the UK – technology. Companies such as Shopa, Orpiva, Reward Technology and NotOnTheHighStreet.com are the start of a new generation of digital disruptors that will dominate valuations and headlines in the years to come. The message to the retail market is clear – adapt or die.