Could injecting a bit of technology save the bricks and mortar store?

Posted on 26/03/15

There’s no doubt about it. The high street store has become a rather dated concept compared to its flashier online counterparts. But, whilst the Government is busy reviewing business rates to potentially help them keep competitive with pure play retailers, the answer could lie within a simpler solution.

Lack of know-how costs sales There’s no doubting that the online shopping environment can offer a more varied, cheaper option to the recession-burdened, well-educated, savvy shopper. But, what about those retailers who don’t have the funding or the know-how to get on board with an online presence? How are they supposed to compete?

It’s not as uncommon as you might think. According to a survey by the Digital High Street Advisory Board, half of all small high street retailers and charities did not even have a website and one in four businesses did not have sufficient online skills to interact with customers or process online orders.

There comes another problem. With 60% of adults now using mobile phones to access to the internet on the move and more than £150bn of retail sales influenced by digital, retailers can’t ignore the facts; those which do not utilise even the simplest technology, such as a website or other digital services, could be losing out on around £12bn in sales every year.

Teach the bricks how to click In order to give these businesses a chance to fight web stores, retailers are urging the Government to come up with a plan to introduce workshops to help owner-managed businesses to learn the ropes in basic digital skills. In addition, there is the need to improve mobile signals, broadband and Wi-Fi access across the UK’s 1200 towns. Anticipating interaction and inspiration

But, are we being too hasty? We forget that in the same survey by the Digital High Street Advisory Board, there still appears to be a large percentage, nearly half in fact, of shoppers who prefer to use a high street store over online shopping. The bricks and mortar store still has its appeals – you can speak to a real person, and many customers find the interaction an important aspect of their overall experience. There’s also the time element – you can walk in to a store and choose an item from the shelf and have it in your home the same day, whereas the internet may make you wait a few days.

That could be why 45% of respondents to the Digital High Street Advisory Board’s survey claimed to prefer the high street environment and they would still choose to shop there instead of online. 38% cited finding inspiration as the main reason to shop on the high street, with online retailers losing out over ‘too much choice’. Also, the high street offers distraction-free shopping, with no banner ads to click away or frustrating pop-ups to sit through before browsing.

Customers speak when they are bespoken to This demonstrates that even in a world where the internet is king, all the consumer wants is something unique to them as an individual – and the bricks and mortar stores are still delivering that.

So, could injecting a bit of technology save the bricks and mortar store? When the tech behemoth, Google, opens its first physical store, you know the lines are truly blurring. Could there be more ways that the high street could learn from their online counterparts, or, is it the physical shops themselves that are the leaders of the retail landscape? Only time will tell.

Blog by Wilkins Kennedy

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