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Comment: Death of the High Street?

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Spending has increased by 3.9 per cent within the retail industry over the last two months. But while high street retailers could be forgiven for thinking the worst of the economic crisis was finally behind them, this increase has been attributed to a rise in online spending.

So does the future of the high street remain unchanged? Will favourite stores risk turning into empty shells like former high street giants HMV and Blockbuster, their fate serving as a stark reminder to those retailers who do not adapt to the changing retail landscape.

There is some way for the High Street to go in attracting shoppers out of their homes, with the figures from the Office for National Statistics recording a 7.1 per cent increase in online sales last month alone. With the meteoric rise of personal consumer tech in the last decade, the social act of going into town for a shopping trip has been replaced by pressing the online ‘buy now’ button, with almost one third of all sales in Q4 of 2013 being made on a mobile device, according to IMRG research.

Even with this technological evolution in the way we buy, retailers are still being hampered by the fact that, according to the Baymard Institute, 67% of online shopping baskets are being abandoned before checkout, the figure rising to 97% while browsing on a smartphone.

The rapid growth of both mobile commerce and contactless payment demonstrates the way that consumers are demanding greater levels of control and freedom of choice, in how they find and purchase goods.

Showroom shopping

The growth of online retail has been seen as a major challenge by many physical retail operations, particularly with the issue of ‘showrooming’, where shoppers use the physical store only as a place for browsing, to then purchase online at a later date. As a result, there is now a growing scope for mobile and bricks-and-mortar retail strategies to work in concert, rather than being seen as separate and competing fields.

With new mobile technology available that allow consumers to walk up to an item in-store, a window display or even a billboard and purchase the promoted product with a touch of their smartphone screen, more people will pay on impulse. The act of combining these shopping experiences will allow retailers to improve customer experience, reduce queues and boost engagement in stores, with a view to winning more customers. This should spur retailers on to add simple, next-generation platforms to support tablets, mobile phones and enhanced personalisation in their premises. Retailers looking to integrate mobile and in-store strategy in this way must ensure they have agile, robust supply chains in order to quickly fulfil orders and complete in-store collections and home deliveries.

So how do you make a sale?

With such a clearly defined movement on the part of consumers towards tech involvement in their buying process, retailers should be changing their strategy by adopting new technologies and using innovative techniques to tempt reluctant consumers back through their doors. It is important retailers learn from the success of the online traders and tailor shopping to the individual preferences of the consumer, with an emphasis on making sure shoppers follow up that initial interest to the checkout. For example, customised recommendations and click & collect initiatives are good examples of those successful options offered by online stores, and something which bricks-and-mortar stores should offer to evolve the shopping experience on the high street and enhance customer engagement. But with footfall remaining a priority on the high street, retailers should look to implement a personalised digital plan, sooner rather then later, to entice shoppers back out onto the high street.

Published on Thursday 15 May by Editorial Assistant
Tags: online

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