Comment: Is the high street really expected to fail in a digital-first world?

Published: 08:42:00 on the 16th Aug 2017

Author: Paul Lewis


Paul Lewis, senior director of marketing at VoucherCodes Paul Lewis, senior director of marketing at VoucherCodes, part of RetailMeNot, takes a look at the real future of the high street in a digital world.

The high street has long been under scrutiny from commentators. For a number of years there has been masses of pressure on the traditional bricks and mortar store, with many predicting it would fail due to the rise of online and, more recently, mobile shopping. However looking back as far as 2015, a report from Worldpay highlighted the intrinsic value that cross-channel shoppers hold for bricks and mortar retailers. There is something about the high street shopping experience that consumers just love, and brands need to embrace this.

In the report, Worldpay revealed omnichannel shoppers spend up to 300% more than single channel shoppers. So why are we still under the impression that the high street could be a thing of the past, when actually the digital-first world can encourage shoppers to spend more in-store?

Digital consumerism

It’s no surprise that technology has had a huge impact on consumerism, with one of the biggest trends being widespread adoption of digital browsing. However, many retailers and brands are missing the opportunities this offers them by neglecting to harness this behaviour in order to leverage in-store sales. Shoppers now have more choice than ever before and relish in the capability of being able to compare prices and competitors at nearly any time or place.

Earlier this year, research by VoucherCodes and RetailMeNot discovered something very similar to Worldpay – the greater use of technology and a more mobile-friendly shopping experience could enable UK retailers to unlock an additional £200 million in sales every year. This clearly demonstrates that whilst the shopping experience is now a complex one, the opportunities of truly embracing digital for multichannel retailers are huge. Failing to understand the value of a seamless online, mobile and physical shopping journey is detrimental to a successful business in 2017.

Consumers demand change

Mobile is now one of the most important components of the shopping experience, whether it’s using the device in order to make a purchase or ‘show-rooming’ whilst standing right there in the store. It begs the question, why is it that many retailers are struggling to take full advantage?

Figures released earlier this year revealed an astounding 60% of UK retailers find it challenging to connect the online and physical shopping experience. In fact, many are even struggling with driving customer loyalty through synchronisation and aligning prices across all channels. Two years on from Worldpay’s report, it is still often the case that consumers are leading retailers into change, not retailers influencing consumer behaviour.

Aligning online and offline to offer consistent pricing, promotions and content will ensure that customers look to a retailer’s brand as the go-to – it is something that consumers now expect rather than just desire. They want fair, competitive and consistent offerings across all channels regardless of where, when or how they are shopping.

Taking the reins to change

For the brands in the UK that foresaw shoppers heading in a channel agnostic direction, sales and revenue is already on the rise. VoucherCodes works closely with a number of leading multichannel retailers in the UK in order to send real-time, personalised promotions to over 4.9 million app users, allowing the retailers partnered with the channel to drive additional sales online whilst also increasing footfall to stores.

To avoid falling behind, retailers need to not just keep up with consumers, but anticipate what’s next in what is unquestionably a rapidly evolving industry. An area they could utilise to stay ahead of the shopper is online deals and vouchers. Digital promotions are a sure-way to connect with consumers, however surprisingly many retailers are still yet to incorporate these into their bricks and mortar strategies.

Leveraging mobile tactics like this, allows the in-store assistant to make the most of the impulsive shopper, provide great customer service and expertise whilst also building on the comfort and personality of a store environment. This is another key example of how digital innovation works alongside the high street to drive sales for the retailer and help foster customer loyalty. 

Key takeaways for retailers

  1. The high-street should not be taken for granted, but neither should omnichannel. Omnichannel has been discussed by experts for a number of years now, as has the death of the high street. By working together, the two channels can seamlessly integrate to deliver the experience consumers now want.
  2. Shoppers are now digital-first and they bare quicker to adopt tech than retailers. Therefore, business goals should be aligned around what the consumer wants and the best way to reach them.
  3. This is only the start, we are facing a huge transformation of the retail landscape. Whilst yes, it is digital first, this only looks to benefit the bricks and mortar store. By always planning for the future, retailers can ensure they are ready for any tech trend they might face and use this to their advantage. 

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