Retailers, struggling to connect with their customers, have been trialling new technologies to blend in-store and digital experiences.

Interactive kiosks, mobile-friendly websites and transactional apps have become the norm.

But shoppers are looking for deeper connections. If mobile is the glue connecting digital and physical retail, then location and voice technology are the bedrock of meaningful shopping experiences of the future.

How technology has shaped shopping

Historically, the first three rules of retail were always – “location, location, location”. Consultants pulled out that catch phrase at every opportunity, telling retailers that the only way to succeed was to secure the best spot.

Then the internet happened, which facilitated the growth of online shopping. Retailers soon realised that customers could reach them online, no matter where they were located.

By 2010, stores like Target and David Jones moved to set up their online platform, positioning themselves as a true “multi-channel retailer”, despite offering only about 1,500 products online.

Read more: Amazon drives a fifth city-shaping retail revolution

Since retailers initially operated their online and physical stores as separate entities, customer demand for a seamless shopping experience across all channels and touch points was not being met.

By 2015, terms like “seamless experience” and “omni-channel” emerged in retail boardrooms. An omni-channel strategy enabled retailers to offer a consistent experience, brand message and transactional functionality to their customers across all platforms: online, social media, mobile and in-store.

One way retailers moved toward blending their channels was by adapting their websites to be mobile-friendly, but even that is not enough to keep customers engaged.

Going mobile, going social

After decades of collecting consumer data, retailers know who their customers are, but not where they are. Customers are mobile. They are at work, at the gym, on public transport and sometimes shopping. But most have one thing in common – they have a smartphone.

In Australia, smartphone ownership sits at 88%, and purchases made via mobile phones have risen by 25% in 2017. In the United States it is predicted that almost half of all online shopping will be made via mobiles – m-commerce – by 2020.

While physical retailers have attempted to leverage this trend by blending a variety of technologies with their…