Is High Street Shopping Coming to an End?

It is no secret that the retail market is in tough times. According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), high street footfall decreased by 3.5% year-on-year in December 2017, and between March and May 2018 it has seen the same decrease. However, the rise of ecommerce means the online sector has seen an increase of 14.5%.

Consumers today are increasingly stretched for time and demanding more value. They’re favouring convenience, and coupled with the increase in technology users, it is no surprise online retail is coming out on top.  

This article will review areas of both the high street and ecommerce, what works well and what needs to be done moving forward.  I will look at possible ways to bring shoppers back to the high street, what consumers are demanding and how they are changing and attempt to conclude whether or not this is the beginning of the end for the high street. 

Busy British high street in London - PragmatiQ Solutions

Experiential shopping

Getting consumers to fall back in love with the experience of shopping is a challenge, as convenience has taken over. Some companies have recognised this and have created immersive in-store experiences to drive the shopper in. Department store John Lewis are ensuring a great shopper experience is at the centre, and re-introducing spas, beauty centres and other treatment areas in their store – mirroring the experience they provided shoppers with many years ago. Fitness retailer Nike, has a flagship store that includes an onsite basketball court, mini football pitch and treadmills, allowing the consumer to trial the product before purchase. These experiences add value for the consumer and give them a reason to go into the store as opposed to ordering online. 

Demand for a seamless service

Consumers not only want an experience, they also demand a seamless service from wherever they are, whether that be in-store or online. Amazon have introduced a Prime service, offering benefits and next day delivery for members, adding value and convenience in a fast-paced society. Statistics show that prime members spend nearly 2x more than non-prime members, so it’s a sign that this is enticing. 

The modern consumer switches between activities and platforms in minutes, and their shopping habits reflect this. If the consumer browses products in-store, the power of the technology means they can compare prices, options, and even order from other retailers from their phone. For the high street to compete with this, brands need to ensure they do everything they can to engage the customer in-store, and make sure they have a clear presence online.  

Changing demographic

With the consumer demand rising, brands need to fit in with the consumers lifestyle. The ageing generation, have grown up going into stores doing a big weekly shop, and will most likely continue to do this. However, the millennial generation are increasingly time-stretched, look for convenience, and spend a growing amount of time on their phone, therefore prefer to shop online. Another trend that has become apparent is little and often basket shops, decreasing the footfall and profits in physical stores.   

Brands are recognising that consumers like shopping online, however click & collect services will continue to see a rise, as GlobalData predicts click & collect sales to account for 13.9% of total online spend in 2022. This does present the high street store with an opportunity to up-sell and offer additional value to the consumer when they collect in store, however it is essential this is done correctly as they may risk losing customers to ecommerce altogether.  

It’s not all doom and gloom for the high street

It is predicted that by 2030, nearly half of all high street shops will close. It isn’t all bad news, as other sectors, such as coffee shops, hairdressers and other leisure facilities are taking over the high street and are thriving. If the communities get behind these, footfall will hopefully increase on the high street and revive it again.   

High street shops will always be able to offer tangible value, where the consumer can see, hear, smell and touch the products, putting them in control of their purchase. As the stats show, this is no longer enough to drive consumers into stores, therefore brands need to figure out new ways to drive footfall into stores, attracting new customers and retaining current ones.  

It’s now time for retailers to bring ecommerce and in-store together in order to make shoppers positively perceive their products during the entire purchase process. Brands should take learnings from their online consumers, and just as they use them to enhance their online shopping experience, should also apply it to brick and mortar stores. In the past, online and in-store have been considered as separate business models, this is no longer the case and the consumer journey needs to be re-evaluated, where the key is consistency across multiple touch points, and an omni-channel approach is the outcome.  

I don’t think the high street is dying, I just think brands need to understand how to capture the attention of the consumer again, prove value, and remind them of the benefits of going in-store.

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