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Recently it seems like we can barely go one day without a big name high street brand announcing closures, staff cuts or simply collapsing. With retailers facing rising costs, the development of retail parks and economic changes, as well as keeping up the development of technology, it’s safe to say traditional high street sales are fighting a constant battle to survive.
It’s relatively well known that the ecommerce or online retail world has led to many of the problems that high street retailers are facing, with ecommerce growing by around 15% across Europe each year and on average around £1bn being spent per week online.
With HUGE brands like BHS, Marks & Spencer, New Look, Poundland and even House Of Fraser joining the ranks of fallen high street stores, it can be concerning for smaller businesses looking to stay afloat both on the high street and online. But the future isn’t all bleak, there’s hope for many businesses and while it might be too late for some of the aforementioned brands, there’s still plenty of opportunities for retailers to keep up with the online retail world.
The way we shop is changing, people don’t just shop based on price, they shop based on convenience, experience and of course value. These days consumers want to make purchasing decisions whenever suits their schedule best, with online shopping this allows people to shop at any time of day and lets them choose when’s best to have it delivered to their door, something the high street simply can’t offer.
However it’s not just convenience that drives people to shop online, there are two other significant reasons people are opting to shop online, reasons that high street stores may be able to compete with…
Ecommerce allows businesses and marketers the opportunity to explore more personal ways of communicating and engaging with shoppers. Through discounts, email codes, personalised vouchers based on shopping behaviour, through digital tracking and monitoring personalisation has never been so easy to achieve.
The high street, however, can’t track this, it can’t offer customers the same personalised content or discounts, with many simply resorted to sales to try and generate a profit. Whilst great for bargain hunters high street sales events aren’t targeted, most of which is old stock that’s been discounted in order to get rid of it, a lot of which doesn’t even get sold.
It’s so easy to receive a personal level of services online with brands, it can feel like a bit of a let down walking into a high street store and being treated exactly the same as every other customer. For larger brands, it can be difficult to offer a personalised experience in real life but for small businesses and stores, you can provide questionnaires, engage on social media, request feedback and even offer free samples in order to get to know your customers better and tailor your services.
It’s not only a personalised experience customers want, they also want a better experience overall, no longer do customers want to walk into a shop and leave, they want to experience the shopping experience.
Think about the layout of your high street store, is it fun to walk around? Do you have wifi? Could you offer refreshments? There’s a number of outside the box ways you can provide a much more comfortable, refreshing and enjoyable shopping experience without simply offering an online service.
It shouldn’t be a matter of the high street being wiped out by online retail, in fact, it would be beneficial for most brands for the two to co-exist, with brands operating a consistent service between the two, allowing customers to move seamlessly between a high street store and the brand's online store.
Those brands who are able to keep up and master this new kind of hybrid retail experience are the ones that are likely to stay on top where others have failed.
Many of the brands who have struggled in the high street in 2018 perhaps aren’t adapting as well, or as quickly as they should have. Poundland, Marks & Spencer and Maplin for example, all struggled to create diverse ecommerce experiences that could compete with huge online brands such as Amazon and ASOS.
While we can’t offer you any advice on how to beat the out of town retail parks or how to combat the high commercial rent costs, there is hope for businesses looking to compete with ecommerce businesses. The way we shop is changing and your store, high street or otherwise, needs to adapt!