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Experian:Town centres must exploit technology

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UK retailers must exploit the online shopping boom by transforming themselves into “convenient hubs” for click & collect services, according to a new report.

As greater numbers of consumers choose e-commerce platforms over traditional high street offerings, businesses have an opportunity to engage with shoppers in a new way as their behaviour changes, according to data analyst group Experian.

Many more people now favour shopping online, its report ‘Towards 2020: an overview of drivers of town centre change’ states, with lower to middle income groups in ‘small town Britain’ using retail websites most.

By 2018, over half the population of over 500 towns will be frequent e-commerce users thanks to the maturity of the British market.

By 2015, online retail spend is expected to increase from 8.9 per cent to 12.1 per cent, though this is a slower rate than has previously been seen while from 2018, non-store retailing is set to rise in line with traditional shopping following deceleration for a short period.

Experian said in its report: “Technology offers many opportunities, and successful town centre management and businesses will pay close attention to how they can exploit these.

“Indeed, rather than replacing the role of town centres, the development of multi-channel retailing may afford a clear opportunity for them to place themselves at the centre of this emerging economy.

“Multichannel retailers hold the key to this opportunity, having already got to grips with the market by leveraging their offline power and brand awareness.”

As many as 81 per cent of town centre catchments in the East Midlands will contain a high level of e-commerce savvy households compared with only 18 per cent of town catchments in London, “reflecting the markedly different consumer makeup of London and the fact that people have a great choice of shopping on their doorstep,” the report said.

Meanwhile, m-commerce, of which UK consumers are pioneers according to the report, is increasingly popular in the UK with 73 per cent of smartphone users shopping in store while using their mobile.

Although last year, m-commerce accounted for only two per cent of e-commerce sales, this is predicted to rise to seven percent by 2016.

Despite growing modernisation, an ageing population is also a consideration in town centre rejuvenation and as such, Councils must consider ensuring the provision of vital facilities and maximising access while providing greater opportunities for socialising.

In order to improve the resilience of town centres, which were reviewed by retail guru Mary Portas on behalf of the Government with Experian noting her “unambiguous” conclusion that high streets have reached crisis point, it is important to consider what makes the area unique.

Experian urges “creating animated spaces” through design and theatre in stores, bringing a sense of fun and culture to local areas at this uncertain time.

The company added: “Ultimately, Town Teams need to cater to their people, and strike an appropriate balance between the five consumer drivers of value, service, experience, choice, and technology.”

Andrew Shufflebotham, Head of Retail and Consumer at law firm Addleshaw Goddard responded to the report, commenting: “If the rise of internet shopping continues as fast as Experian predicts, then by 2020 towns across the UK are likely to have different looking high-streets.

“The current pace of change in e-commerce and consumer shopping habits is enormous. Online retail offers huge opportunities to retailers, while also being a potential threat to their traditional bricks and mortar high street premises.

“With a predicted 12.1 per cent of all purchases being made via a screen by 2015, retailers will, more than ever, need to look at new ways to create, develop and promote the ‘real experience’ which shoppers simply can’t get online.

“ Retailers must, however, also embrace the internet if they are to survive. They need to think creatively and look at apps such as Quidco which rewards consumers for physically being in store.

“They also need to expand and refine their logistics capabilities for click and collect, thus increasing footfall with consumers coming into stores to collecting online purchases in store.

“If retailers need convincing of the power of in-person commerce, then they should remember that Apple and Amazon – the two biggest online brands of our time – are increasingly investing in bricks and mortar to offer customers the opportunity to ‘touch and feel’ products.”

Published on Tuesday 25 September by Editorial Assistant

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