A shopping centre’s accessibility has always been an important factor in order to drive footfall. What are the transport links? What is the car park’s capacity? Is it in walking distance of a residential area? The list goes on. Driverless vehicles will offer the opportunity to gain footfall from a new pool of individuals who can’t drive or don’t have a car, those limited to public transport routes or only visit shops within walking distance.
A world with fully autonomous vehicles will be embraced by businesses quickly. They will offer new ways of transporting goods to stores and numerous opportunities to develop customer service, the consumer experience and compete with competitors.
Shoppers want free delivery and they want it fast. Click and collect is already a service offered by many retailers, but now the opportunities will stretch much further. You could order online and be driven to collect, or simply send the car to collect – or the store could pop the item in a car to be sent straight to you! Some retailers may choose to offer a luxury service, collecting consumers from their home, bring them to the store and take them home. Google is already testing the cars to offer same day delivery to compete with Amazon Prime.
People are time-pressed and these driverless cars could be the end of errand running. The vehicle could go and collect your food shop (I am not sure how the food will make its way from the store, into the car – but I am sure that detail will be ironed out), collect your kids from school and then collect you from the office. This means, at the end of the day, you can go straight home without having to manoeuvre out of a car park or rush around doing chores.
Some people don’t enjoy driving in city centres or struggle parking so chose to walk somewhere close or visit somewhere with large, convenient car park facilities. This problem will be solved and will open up the number of people visiting a shopping centre that want to visit, but avoid due to driving struggles. The autonomous vehicles will also allow consumers to enjoy the F&B offering and have a spontaneous glass of wine with lunch at the weekend with the comfort they don’t have to drive home.
The cars will, however, come with a challenge. Why would the shopper visit the store if they can look online, order, and send the car to collect and bring to them? Online shopping is already a challenge for bricks and mortar, so this could have a bigger impact. To combat this, we will see retailers striving further to produce innovative new ideas such as in-store events and discounts restricted to in-store sales only.
Personally, I enjoy the shopping experience and I think there will always be a need for the physical stores. The autonomous cars will be an exciting innovation and offer an abundance of opportunities which will change the retail landscape as we know it!