Are The High Street's Foundations On Stable Ground?

Due to a high upsurge of e-commerce sales, retailers with an online presence have really upped their game. They now aim to produce or obtain websites that are user-responsive, engaging and cater for their respective customer’s online purchasing needs.

A few examples of successful online shopping statistics, over the recent Christmas period, are as follows:

  • House of Fraser celebrated an incline of 6.9% in online sales- from last year- their ‘best ever’ Christmas.
  • John Lewis quoted 2013 to be its first ‘mobile Christmas’ as 75% of its site traffic, on Christmas day, emerged from mobile phones and tablets.
  • IBM’s digital analytics observed that across 800 US retailers, there was a 16.5% increase in online sales on Christmas day 2013 compared to Christmas day 2012.

You may be thinking that’s brilliant for the world of e-commerce, but how is the Brick and Mortar store coping?

According to a recent report, from RIS and Stratacache, “Today’s brick-and-mortar store is quickly evolving into a digital destination on the shopper’s path to purchase”, with the aim to provide experiences, both physical and digital, that an online-only retailer will not be able to match. This sounds very positive, however 70% of retailers would admit that the latter experience cannot be replicated by the technology they currently have available.

Research has suggested that younger shoppers are particularly keen on the digital experience offered by shops, such as the self-service scanner; to the extent that they start to expect that this type of service will always be available, to certain shopkeepers’ horrors. The overall requirement for the ‘self-scanner’ is debatable in itself; nevertheless it is certainly becoming a very popular trend among customers, whether we like it or not. Additionally, it is a fairly palpable way of introducing an in-store retailer to the digital world.

One question that particularly strikes me is how can the Brick and Mortar store compete with online stores when it comes to maintaining enough products in stock? From my personal experience, there have been so many instances where I have been into clothes shops and found that they don’t have my size in a dress. This has meant I have had to go home and order the correct size online. How will retailers solve this problem in-store? Russel Young, of Stratacache, says that “a virtual environment to send information” can be created through mobiles “in-store kiosks, digital signage, and tablets”, to provide shoppers with information such as “product comparisons” and “catalogues for out of-stock products”. An advantage of Young’s suggestions is that it combines the physical experience with the digital, bringing the Brick and Mortar store into a market of its own.

If these solutions are orchestrated so that they are able to take action immediately, I feel that this could certainly be a viable option; yet I still wouldn’t be surprised if customers decided to disregard the alternative paths and order their products online instead. I used to be of the belief that people like what they already know, which in this case I would assume to be the web, but I’m very open to new suggestions and as the late Steve Jobs said 'people don't know what they want until you show it to them.'

Good Luck then to the Brick and Mortar brigade!

Over and out :)

Steph - The Marketing Assistant

www.popcornwebdesign.co.uk