The future of the high street isn’t a debate that is set to run out of steam any time soon. From deliberations in Westminster about whether ecommerce is the saviour of bricks and mortar stores through to the financial results of some of the best-loved names on the high street being analysed or the implementation of Mary Portas’s recommendations, all eyes are on the retail sector.
Whilst most bricks and mortar sales have decreased, a lot of companies have seen their online sales rise. And with research from the Local Data Company showing that 48,000 shops in the UK are standing empty, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that the high street has had it’s time. But hang on there; perhaps don’t jump to that conclusion quite so quickly. If you stop and look around there is actually a lot of creative thinking happening in retail that could bring back some much needed zing to the physical shopping experience.
Rather than treating online and the high street as two separate entities, retailers that are looking to integrate the two channels are seeing some encouraging results. Take House of Fraser and their pop up stores. They were able to see that they were receiving a large volume of online sales from areas without a physical store so they decided to offer pop up shops in those areas to provide a more one-to-one service to their customers.
And its not just House of Fraser that is being smarter about maximising its high street presence. Brands that have traditionally operated only online, such as Virgin Money, are now investing in bricks and mortar “stores” as they seek to capture the hearts and minds of consumers via a more personalised service. And news that perhaps the best recognised online retailer in the world, Amazon, is reportedly planning to open stores across the US shows that surely, online and the high street can coexist?
And what of mobile? Research from the Centre for Retail Research and Kelkoo shows that Brits are set to be the savviest mobile shoppers in Europe for the third year in a row as shopping via mobile devices soars by 53% in 2012. Mobile is a massive opportunity and also has the potential to push people towards actual stores. For example, companies like Vouchercloud are providing people with the best deals to be redeemed in store. It’s also gone one step further and if you opt-in to the location-based elements of the app it will use your location to provide you deals and discounts in the stores nearest to you.
If high street stores can find a way to integrate these channels then they will be able to create a positive push and pull affect between all three. Performance marketing data too has an important role to play in providing the underlying insight needed to better understand what motivates and incentivises consumers to make purchases, thereby allowing retailers to be more responsive to consumer spending trends. For the high street to survive mobile, online and the high street have to start playing nicely together.
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