With today’s consumers becoming increasingly pushed for time and in need of higher quality items, they favour convenience and often rely on online reviews and sources to inform their shopping decisions. With the number of technology users also on the rise, it’s not surprising that online retail has emerged victorious. The retail industry has been experiencing problems for a number of years now, with the BRC (British Retail Consortum) recently announcing a 3.5% drop-in high-street footfall year on year in December 2017, and from March to May 2018. Conversely, the online retail sector seems to be flourishing, with an increase of 14.5%.
This article, researched by field service software providers PragmatiQ solutions, will explore both high street retail and ecommerce, looking at what is currently working for consumers and what needs to be done to improve the shopping experience moving forward.
Immersive shopping experiences
It is fair to say that some consumers have fallen out of love with the shopping experience. It will be a challenge to get people back into physical stores, as convenience has become a key factor in people’s decisions to shop online. Some retailers have already taken action to create immersive shopping experiences to encourage shoppers in to their stores. John Lewis have re-introduced beauty treatment facilities, spas and other beauty areas in their stores to mirror the experience that they offered in the past. Sports retailer Nike has introduced a mini football pitch, treadmills and on-site basketball court to their flagship store, encouraging customers to try out their products before making a purchase. In store experiences such as these give the customer a reason to go in to the store, as they offer something unique that cannot be recreated online.
Offering a seamless service
As well as providing customer experiences in store, consumers also value a seamless service, whether they choose to shop online or in-store. Amazon’s Prime service offers next day delivery and special benefits for members, adding value and convenience in a fast-paced society. Statistics show that prime members spend nearly 2x more than non-prime members, so it’s a sign that this is enticing.
Modern consumers often switch quickly between platforms and activities, and this is reflected in their shopping habits. If the consumer browses products in-store, the power of the technology means they can compare prices, options, and even order from other retailers from their phone. For the high street to compete with this, brands need to ensure they do everything they can to engage the customer in-store, and make sure they have a clear presence online.
Dealing with changing demographics
With consumer demands on the increase, brands have to learn to adapt to consumers lifestyles. Older generations have gotten used to going into stores for a large weekly shop and this is likely to continue. Millennials on the other hand are generally more pushed for time and seek out convenience. As this generation also tends to spend a lot of time on their mobile devices, they also prefer online shopping. Another trend that has become apparent is little and often basket shops, decreasing the footfall and profits in physical stores.
Brands are starting to recognize that online shopping is here to stay, however click and collect sercices are on the uptake and according to Global Data, this will continue to rise, with click & collect sales to account for 13.9% of total online spend in 2022.
This gives high street stores the opportunity to provide additional offers to the customer when they visit the store to collect, however it is imperative that this is done correctly in order to ensure that customers are not put off as they may risk driving customers away towards ecommerce.
Future predictions for the high street
It has been predicted that nearly half of all stores on the high street will close down by 2030, however it isn’t all bad news – leisure facilities, hairdressers and coffee shops are all performing well. If the communities get behind these, footfall will hopefully increase on the high street and revive it again.
There will always be value in high street shops, where the customer is fully in control of their purchase as they can see, smell, hear and touch the products. Data has shown that this is not enough to drive consumers to the high street, so brands will need to adapt to the changes and discover new methods for driving footfall, retaining customers and attracting new customers.
Retailers should focus on bringing in-store experiences and ecommerce together to create a positive experience for shoppers. Brands should also learn from their online customers, taking the things that make the online experience so popular and applying the same methods to their physical stores. Online and in-store experiences were thought of as separate business models in the past, however, this is no longer the case. It is fair to say that the customer journey has to be re-evaluated and transformed into a seamless, omni-channel approach offering a variety of touch points.
For the high street to thrive once again, brands and retailers need to figure out how to attract the attention of their customers once again, prove that they can offer something of value in-store and remind them of the benefits of the physical shopping experience.