Best of both worlds: how to revive the High Street

Best of both worlds: how to revive the High Street

By David Buckingham, CEO, Ecrebo

In the face-off between internet retailers and the High Street, the real winners are consumers. The online shopping experience delivers convenience, endless choice and the ability to compare products and prices; while the in-store environment delivers one key element that is completely missing online: the human touch. Shoppers are effectively getting the best of both worlds.

For physical retailers, while the personalised service element is an excellent differentiator, in a fast-changing landscape it’s just not enough. In addition to the intense competition, shoppers are more demanding than ever before, and it is becoming more difficult for High Street retailers to meet those demands.

As a result, retailers are searching for ways to make the in-store shopping experience a better one. For many, this means replicating the online experience offline; delivering the same choice and convenience while maintaining the personal touch.

More technology

Ironically, technology can help achieve this, from customer experience and Point of Sale, to personalisation and delivering choice. 

Retailers can use technology to streamline the shopping experience, especially when it comes to paying. Sales staff with tablets circulating throughout the store not only deliver the human touch to shopping, but can also process payments and take the hassle out of queuing. 

When it comes to Point of Sale, whether that’s a mobile terminal or traditional desk set-up, retailers can also use technology to drive better engagement and boost personalisation. Point of Sale software can capture data during the transaction, process it instantaneously and return a personalised offer, promotion or value-add message on the receipt —all based on past buying behaviour or what’s currently in the basket. 

Increasingly retailers are also using endless aisle technology to bring more choice to customers in-store. Shoppers use an interactive kiosk to browse the retailer’s product range viewing items that are in stock, out of stock and those that are hard to find, with the option to order them for delivery to the store or home.

Partnerships and collaborations

Another way retailers can give customers choice, is to work with other businesses with products complementary to their own and incorporate them in-store. Not only does this help them maximise their investment in floorspace, but it broadens their offering. There have been numerous examples of this from finding Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Tesco stores, to Jack Wills incorporating Bear coffee shops into its stores.

Give them a reason 

Customer retention is a key factor in retail success but attracting customers initially and then encouraging them to return is a challenge. Moving beyond personalisation and relevance, customers need a reason (beyond buying something) to come in to store. But how do retailers achieve this?

This line of thinking spurred the growth of “shoppertainment” or experiential retail; selling customers on experience instead of product alone. This tactic is about giving shoppers something extra; making shopping an experience, and making the environment more engaging and entertaining. 

Many retailers have deployed this approach with much success. This includes smaller, independent retailers changing aspects of their operations, as in the case of Falmouth-based Beerwolf Books that combines the traditional coffee and bookstore environment by day and transforms into a book store pub by night.

It also includes large-scale efforts such as building an entirely new flagship store, such as Nike’s House of Innovation on New York’s Fifth Avenue that features immersive experiences, opportunity to design personalised products, streamlined payment options. 

Moving forward

There’s no crystal ball for retail. But as competition increases retailers will have to use all the diverse tools at their disposal – from technology and experiential marketing, to partnerships and collaboration with other retailers – to address the changing needs of their customers and get them (and keep them) in-store.

While focusing on these new approaches is important for High Street health, retailers can’t neglect what they’re already doing well or forget about the importance of customer service and the human touch. Ultimately, they need to find a balance between all elements to differentiate themselves and ensure success. 

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