THE ROLE OF THE HIGH STREET IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Today, over three quarters of consumers use the internet to shop, with 22.4% of non-food purchases made online. Online shopping is also beginning to dominate key dates in the retail calendar which previously saw high streets bustling. For example, 71% shoppers carried out over half of their Christmas shopping online in 2014, compared to just 28% in 2013. In this same period, some of the UK’s best-known high street brands – such as HMV, Woolworths and Comet – have all but disappeared. In fact, 12% of the UK’s shops now lie empty, with over 10,000 closures estimated in 2015. In what has often been pitched as a battle between online and high street retail, eCommerce appears to be gaining ground. However, as revealed at The Guardian’s recent Changing Media Summit, several of today’s retailers no longer consider the two in “binary terms”. Instead, they are exploring the links between them.
In the past, discussions around internet shopping have conjured images of empty high streets, where shoppers browse the internet from the comfort of their own homes. However, with the rise of the smart phone – which has enabled people to access the internet and make purchases on-the-go – the division between these worlds has become blurred. For example, 76% of consumers admit to ‘showrooming’; a term coined by retailers to describe the activity of using a smart phone whilst in a store to compare prices online. Conversely, reverse-showrooming describes the act of checking prices online before going to a particular store to make the final purchase. To confuse matters further, a single transaction can span both worlds – as many retailers now allow online purchases to be collected in store.
In this way, today’s mobile world has made the relationship between the high street and online harder to untangle. Even if high street stores are not the site of the final purchase, they can still have a role in influencing the consumer’s decision. In this way, they have become a distinct marketing channel.
The Store as a
In a climate where online and offline shopping are converging, General Manager EMEA at xAd advises retailers to take an “holistic approach to the different touch points and media consumers have available to them today.” Digital agency Stickyeyes observes, “the high street is, for many, the most tangible exposure they have to a brand”. So, with hearts and minds to be won, stores serve a vital role in bringing a retailer’s brand to life. Even if the transaction does not take place in store, it still provides a profound consumer touch point. Some of today’s leading retailers are embracing this approach by using “their physical settings to articulate what they are about”, observes AdvertisingAge. Several of today’s most successful retail brands have harnessed the power of this by mirroring online behaviours in the real world. Just like social media allows a two-way conversation between brands and consumers, CEO of digital agency Amaze advises retailers to focus on “creating meaningful experiences that move the consumer from transacting to conversing with brands.” In this way, the high street is transforming from a place consumers go to make transactions, to an arena where they can interact with the brands that reflect their lifestyle choices. This becomes even more apparent when we look at some of today’s most successful high street brands.
The Power of
Consumer body Which? recently compiled a list of the 100 best and worst high street brands. John Lewis was in the top five. This position was based on its “memorable customer service and the ambience of its stores”. As a premium lifestyle brand that prides itself on customer service, this feedback confirms its stores faithfully reflect its brand identity. Continuing with the theme of premium lifestyle purchases, field marketing and experiential agency Fizz recently conducted a survey with regards to wearable technology. Fizz concluded that “the ability to touch, feel and try the products” along with “expert knowledge from staff” was extremely important in influencing an in-store purchase. These phrases highlight consumers’ desire for an interactive in-store experience when shopping for these high value, lifestyle products.
Reflect for a moment on Apple’s celebrated in-store experience, or that of mobile network 3 – which has been awarded Best In-Store Customer Experience at the Mobile Choice Consumer Awards for two years running. Both are characterised by open environments, touchable products, and one-to-one demonstrations by approachable and knowledgeable staff. These highly social environments aren’t piled high with visible stock. Instead, they give consumers free rein to live and breathe the products – and their brands. With research indicating 81% of shoppers would pay more for a better customer experience, it is clear that the high street still holds plenty of opportunity for retailers who can get their store environment right.
RetailTeam offers several services to help our clients bring their brands to life in the store environment. Our furniture and interiors division InteriorsTeam are experts in transforming interiors to reflect retailers’ brand visions. Our work on Peter Vardy’s car showroom on the outskirts of Glasgow is a prime example. The firm prides itself on providing a fresh approach to car sales. So, when it came to furnishing the store, it sought something special. We worked with the car retailer’s creative and marketing teams to bring this ethos to life through a range of comfortable furnishings in a selection of vibrant colours – including bean bags for the children’s play area. The result was a relaxed environment, in-keeping with the showroom’s fun features such as games consoles, pinball machines and freshly served coffee. Read the full case study here. Meanwhile, our print division PrintTeam fulfils the whole spectrum of point of sale print to help our retail clients keep their stores up-to-date with their latest campaigns. As part of our service for fashion retailer Store Twenty One, we fulfilled its Christmas campaign of 57 individual items, spanning window display backdrops, window vinyls, internal display graphics, shelf edge strips, swing tickets and hanging boards. We managed the printing, storage, picking and distribution of these items to over 200 stores nationwide, keeping their in-store experience consistent with their wider marketing strategy. Read the full case study here. Contact us to learn how we can help your store stand out from the crowd.