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Wednesday 17 July 2019 Shopping Behaviour

Bob Shearwood's picture
By Bob Shearwood

Remember Demolition Man?

It’s a cinematic tour de force of 90’s cinema boasting all the excessive swearing and violence you would expect from a film starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. (How they got Nigel Hawthorne to star opposite these two clods is anyone’s guess).


Anyway, by the time we are acclimatised to Sylvester Stallone’s enunciation we are treated to a grotesquely egregious scene involving virtual reality.


If you haven’t seen the film and have limited knowledge of late 80’s/early 90s action cinema, you are doing yourself a huge disservice! But you will also be unfamiliar with the Hollywood money man’s demand for a little bit of rumpy-pumpy. These scenes are unnecessary at best, and laughably ridiculous at worst. In the case of Demolition Man, going for high concept and featuring gurning man mountain Stallone, the scene is firmly in the ‘laughably ridiculous’ camp.  


This part of the film is set in 2032, and it’s a wonderful glimpse at what our future holds (ahem). Not that we might be re-animating the frozen bodies of excessively psychotic criminals of the past, but that we might be using Virtual Reality for more than just simulating walking a plank at 2,000ft.


Please rescue my cat!! Wait - that's just a bin bag.


And so, I reach the fifth paragraph and finally get to the point. Virtual Reality technology is advancing quickly. Coupled with our growing understanding of the changing behaviour of customers, could we be on the cusp of a Virtual Reality shopping revolution?

The Virtual Reality market is expected to grow from USD 7.9bn in 2018 to USD 44.7bn by 2024.


A Time Crisis

A lot of high street brands are still targeting the most time pressured demographic – the family unit. But for this group, there is no such thing as an enjoyable family day out to the shops. It’s a complete fallacy. Take this from someone who has young children. Keeping tabs on the little tear ways while I try to judge if this wonderfully expensive leather jacket makes me look like the bees-knees, or a complete douchebag is both stressful and depressing.


The family unit is deserting the shopping experience for this reason – since 2014 the 35-64 age demographic has disappeared from retail centres by as much as 14%.




But it’s clear that a ‘shopping experience’ is still something consumers want to do. Virtual Reality meets the demands of both. You can shop with a minimal time investment and still get a streamlined ‘shopping experience’ (and better still – no crowds, no stock shortages and no hellishly hot changing rooms!).


Retailers need to innovate. Shopping is boring when you go to any high street in the UK and are faced with the same brands and the same range of products. 75% of UK retail centres have the same brand profile, so this is a real concern. Those brands with large store networks will bear the brunt of this discontent – they just can’t outfit their stores to keep up with changing customer behaviour quick enough. This is where the independent stores win.


But a virtual store is just code. You can change the store anytime you like – even when people are ‘in’ it. You can already tailor the ‘store’ based on your customer data. In your virtual store you don’t need to serve the customer with your full range. Just show them the stuff they are interested in. I don’t wear shorts (it’s a long story and before you ask, there’s nothing wrong with my legs, they are very nice legs), so don’t show me a load of pastel coloured shorts and boat shoes. I live in the UK – I don’t need them and I’m not going to buy them. But in a physical store I must wade through all this chaff because I’ve got to share this space with everyone else.


You get my point.


Retailers are playing catch-up with technology. One might even ask if the subject of innovation is taken seriously – especially when the focus is on a contracting market.


But ignore the opportunity to innovate at your peril. It’s no surprise that some of the biggest names that used to occupy the high street now have powerful online alternatives. Netflix offers the same service as Blockbuster Video. Spotify does the job of HMV. If you want anything else, you often go to Amazon, meaning generalist and specialist stores alike suffer - think Toys R Us, Woolworths, Maplin etc.


Is the future of retail Virtual Reality? It might be one day. Maybe 2032? It’s not that far away!


It won’t just be shopping that we’ll be doing in virtual reality:

(So says action cinema)



Going on holiday – Total Recall

Experiential taken to the extreme. Want to go to Mars posing as a secret agent? Well now you can. Just don’t expect to know quite what’s real and what’s not. Austrian brute turned American Governor cracks some skulls. Or does he!?


Entertainment + a solution to an overcrowded prison system - Gamer

Gerard Butler robotically (figuratively and literally) responds to the controls of a ‘gamer’ in a state sanctioned murder game featuring real people! They’re criminals so that’s ok – right!?


Save a world gone to ruin – The Matrix

Prefer to live in a waste land ravaged by a man vs machine war to recapture the freewill of humans? Or live in perfect oblivion inside the matrix (all the while being harvested for your juices by said machines)? If you don’t like leather and skin-tight PVC you might want to opt for the latter.



CACI isn't just about making tenuous links between naff films and the future of customer behaviour. If you'd like intelligent analysis of your store network - analysing catchments, customers and locations supported by up-to-date mobile app and spend data appended to Acorn demographics - please get in touch.


Sci-fi films try to predict a realistic future - not Demolition Man - it's as mad as a bag of hammers. But it did get me thinking...