For the high-street, it’s time to tech-up
It seems that barely a week goes by without another death knell tolling for the British high street.
And there seems to be no break in the clouds for traditional retailers, who need to use data and technology more effectively to make the shopping experience more interactive, targeted and personal to ward off intense competition from e-commerce giants such as Amazon and upstart newcomers.
Many of the famous stalwarts that make up the quintessential British high street are clearly feeling the pressure. Recently, Marks & Spencer (M&S) chairman Archie Norman made some dramatic, but fair comments, on the general state of the high street, and M&S’ position within it.
Labeling the high street a “burning platform”, Norman made apparent what many traditional retailers have long understood, but been reluctant to act upon: the British high street will not survive in its current form.
Without a change in tack, many household names could well join the likes of Woolworths and British Homes Stores, which disappeared from our high streets to be forever banished to the realms of nostalgia.
The retailers that are serious about survival, however, are those that are pushing the boundaries, embracing technology and prioritizing shopping as an experience. The high street needn’t be replaced by the growing e-commerce sector, but M&S’ Norman is right to say that M&S and its peers don’t have a “God-given right to exist”.
They do, however, have the right to control their own destiny, with technology playing an integral role in the revival of their prospects and that of the British high street.
For many traditional retailers, the bricks and mortar store is considered a separate entity to the fast-paced and dynamic world of e-commerce. This dichotomy sets them apart as competitors – with each vying for the same pool of savvy consumers – when in practice they should function as collaborators.
Omni-channel shopping has gone some way towards marrying the physical with the virtual in retail. Yet, this could be extended further with real-time data analytics and location data creating a seamless shopping experience for customers, whether they are online or offline.
By making better use of data and understanding how customers interact with the high street, and how their shopping preferences online can be replicated in the physical shop, high street retailers gain the insight needed to turn shops into experience-driven entities.
For instance, if a frequent shopper uses their Topshop phone application to browse clothes and accessories, leaving desired items in their virtual basket, there is a set of actionable preferences created that stores can be realized through their physical shops.
By using location intelligence technology, Topshop would be able to identify this specific customer when they are in the vicinity of the store and deliver contextual communication in-feed to let them know that the item in their basket is available in the store and that they’d like to offer her an extra five percent off the item.
By being hyper-personal and highly targeted, retailers can bring the online and offline worlds together seamlessly.
In a world of targeted adverts and curated marketing content, the high street’s demise may be partly due to it losing that personal touch.
Real-time analytics and location data can serve a dual purpose for the ailing retailer, providing them with empirical insight into how customers use and interact with their store and allowing them to bridge the physical and virtual, creating a shopping experience which is both seamless and personal.
If the high street wants to flourish in the 21st century it must do things differently. If not, it will face extinction.
Contributed by Sam Amrani, Founder & Executive Chairman of Tamoco.