Driverless cars and the future of retail

Retail stores are predicted to increasingly resemble product showrooms due to the impact of driverless cars

Driverless cars and the future of retail

You wake up in the morning, grab a quick breakfast and get ready for work. Meanwhile your driverless car is navigating towards your home from its overnight secure parking facility, to a pre-arranged schedule. You get an alert on your phone that the car is outside while you’re pulling on your jacket.  You pull the front door shut behind you, jump into your car, tap a few commands on a screen, then sit back and enjoy the radio news and a chance to catch up on your emails.

Welcome to the wonderful future of driverless cars. But what does that have to do with retail?

According to research undertaken by Epson, looking at the workplace of tomorrow, driverless car technology could have a key part to play in the future of retail.  Living by the simple high street rule that footfall is king, making it increasingly accessible via stress -free transport will be an important ally.

A new retail model

Despite high street retailers experiencing a very challenging decade since the financial crisis in 2008, over half of the respondents to our survey told us that a future without the high street is not plausible. In total, respondents estimated that 56 percent of purchasing decisions will be made in-store by the year 2025.

However, the future of the retail industry is undoubtedly changing, meaning that creating exceptional customer experiences has become an ever-greater imperative. Combined with another technology driven trend of bespoke or personalised product design, high street shops are likely to undergo a metamorphosis.  Consumers are far less likely to leave a store with an item in hand, but instead see them as venues for exciting product showcases, where they can see, feel, test and personalise items with the help of expert advisors, for later collection or delivery.

A driverless catalyst

Driverless cars will play a significant role in this evolution according to Epson’s research. Forty-six percent of respondents agree that driverless cars may be a major catalyst, thanks to improved access to and reduced congestion on the high street.

As any seasoned shopper will tell you, traffic, crowds and ease of parking are key decision-making criteria in your choice of shopping destination. The growth out-of-town retail parks, complete with endless car parking facilities, and the resulting loss of business on city centre high streets, are testament to that reality.

Driverless cars can play a critical role in improving the efficiency of high street shopping, by improving traffic flow, and dropping-off and collecting their owners on command. Rather than worry about the stress of parking in town centres, or the distance you will need to carry heavy goods to the car, driverless cars will automatically be able to direct themselves to available parking places, until you are ready to return home. They will also potentially be able to collect your purchase, from an out-of-town warehouse overnight, for delivery the next morning.

Local authorities will have an important part to play in ensuring this success. Supporting the emergence of driverless vehicles will require implementation of driverless car zones, and infrastructure to support this shift. Retailers will also constitute an important part of this conversation. If they are to support the evolution for their own benefit, it’s important they engage with authorities to advocate the implementation of supporting services that will bring people to their doors.

This driverless future

With predictions of 71 million driverless cars on our roads by 2030, that future is closer than we think. This brave new world of technological transport is just over the horizon, meaning the benefits it could bring are equally close to becoming reality. Ensuring success will require local authorities and retailers working closely to promote the positive landscape and infrastructure to harness the benefits of this driverless future.

The full report has all the insights, you can download it here.