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Where has all the shopping gone?

Retailers have re-imagined the way they appeal to shoppers. But what's on offer is just the tip of the iceburg.

We're living in a dream era for consumers. Retailers are scrambling to innovate, using everything from virtual reality to pop-up stores, from smartphone storefronts to deliveries by drones, to maximise consumer satisfaction.

Personally, I rarely have time to hit the streets for a spot of shopping nowadays. Instead, I use my device to, browse the shops via their mobile site or app; compare features and prices; conceptualise home furnishings via augmented reality apps; and track delivery etc.

That is just the tip of the iceberg - the way we shop is going to be totally re-imagined. These five technology developments are bound to shake up the retail sector and drastically impact the where, why and how we shop.

1) Offering app-only outlets

In case you hadn't noticed, there's a shop sitting in your pocket or purse - in fact, there are millions of them. Retail applications make it possible to purchase anything from a refreshing beverage to a new sofa - without actually stepping into a store or even visiting a website.

App-based shopping means that with permission, retailers can access data in your smartphone to automatically calculate variables like delivery times and stock availability to offer location-based deals.

2) Letting you try before you buy

You really need a new kitchen? How would you like to walk through the space, opening the cupboards and draws before you even order the shelves? Still deciding the best colour paint for your interiors? Simply hold up a tablet or smartphone in the room you want to renovate and change the colour of the walls with a click of a button. Virtual reality and augmented reality will give shoppers the ultimate power to see into the future and decide what they really want before booking a tradesperson.

3) Delivering what you want (before you know you want it)

Data analysis already lets companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Spotify proactively suggest products and services drawn from the collective preferences of millions of customers. By constantly seeking feedback, the algorithms that underpin such preference engines can create highly accurate suggestions for playlists, clothing, books and services, while maintaining a sense of discovery and adventure.

4) Making products just for you

3D printing and mass customisation are making real-time manufacturing a reality, allowing retailers to customise products for an audience of one - you. Warehouses and inventories will become 'so last century', replaced by digital product guides that tailor-make solutions perfectly suited for you.

5) Being where you are

One day soon the idea of walking into a retail store will seem passé and somewhat quaint, a bit like using a dial telephone. Retailers are already testing their ability to offer products and services at times and places that fit in with your lifestyle. Whether it's online, app-based, augmented reality, drone deliveries or a pop-up store in your neighbourhood, retailers are using every channel at their disposal to be where you are, rather than expecting you to come to them.

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