The changing face of the high street
We’re used to stories of doom and gloom on the high street. The combination of the internet, out of town superstores and the recent recession have decimated the number and range of shops available in town centres, with many long-standing retail chains going into receivership.
However a new report from the University of Southampton’s Retail Research Group points to major, positive changes in town centres as shops adapt to the changing habits of consumers and reinvent themselves.
According to the research the key trend driving shopping behaviour is a desire for convenience. People want fast access to the products they are looking for, in a simple and seamless way. While this leads many to buy online rather than visiting physical shops, the high street has a significant role to play, both for the collection of internet deliveries and also to provide flagship showroom stores where customers can see a fuller range of products and get advice from helpful staff. 35% of people currently use click and collect, a figure that the report expects to double within five years, as more people choose the convenience and control of picking up their own orders.
The trend for convenience is also rapidly increasing the number of smaller grocery stores, catering to those that don’t want to visit a large supermarket. According to IGD, these convenience stores will be responsible for 24.1% of the grocery market by 2019, with the share of superstores and hypermarkets dropping from 42.2% to 34.9% over the same period.
So how can retailers embrace the changing needs of consumers and evolve to engage with them? There are four areas to look at:
1. Provide a consistent multichannel experience
Customers now think nothing of changing channels and devices multiple times during the buying journey. Make it easy for them to swap channels and provide a consistent experience and information, no matter how they contact you.
2. Integrate mobile
Some retailers have seen mobile commerce as a threat to physical sales, with the fear of consumers ‘showrooming’ – visiting stores to examine goods and then buying them online. However, by making it convenient and seamless to access further information, reviews and vouchers through mobile devices while in-store, retailers are likely to increase, rather than lose sales.
3. Deliver the in-store experience
Retailers such as Apple that have thrived on the high street have made their stores a destination, putting on training sessions, providing specialist staff to demonstrate new technology and generally creating a buzz. This model can be adapted by most retailers, with special events and product demonstrations to draw people in, backed up by knowledgeable and well-informed staff.
4. Make pick up seamless
If 70% of consumers are going to be using click and collect, retailers are going to need to differentiate themselves from the competition by making the process simple and straightforward. It also provides the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, providing accessories or other complementary items to shoppers, increasing revenues.
As the University of Southampton report shows, the death of the high street has been exaggerated. Still, in order to thrive, retailers will need to evolve to meet the need for convenience and embrace a multichannel world..