How many times have you walked past a shop window to see a mannequin with only one arm and clothes draped haphazardly?
This has become an all too common sight on today’s British high street and one that today’s consumers are more conscious of given the increasing online retail market.
Smart retailers need to do more to enchance the in-store experience for today's tech-savvy shoppers.
The High Street Review from the Government revealed that retail spending in town centres has fallen to 42% and is projected to fall further to 40% by 2014.
Mary Portas’ own report analysed the issues surrounding the decline and suggested various recommendations to improve the British high street. However, Portas’ report was more in-tune with ‘old retail’, Sunday markets and better parking.
When, in contrast to the drop in high street spending, online shopping has risen to 10%, doubling since 2000, it is these digital initiatives that should be considered to rejuvenate our high streets. This is a topic covered in Econsultancy's recent 'How the Internet can Save ther High Street' report.
As technological innovation starts to become the norm for many consumers in their homes, their use on the high street by both big and small retailers can create a visionary ‘High Street 2.0’. Those already taking steps to integrate innovative shopping tools are now ahead of the curve.
Last week Marks & Spencer opened its new Cheshire Oaks store showcasing an array of digital innovations to aid shoppers from staff equipped with iPads, to Wi-Fi, QR codes and virtual counters.
Earlier this year Oasis, part of the Aurora Fashion Group, won ‘Technology Initiative of the Year’ for its use of iPad PoS in its Argyll street store at the 2012 Retail Week Awards.
For the size of the Oasis store several iPads were used to create a professional customer experience, however for a smaller, independent retailer, a modest one-off cost of an iPad can be far out-weighed by the ROI.
This innovation demonstrates how technology can be used to provide customers with a seamless, truly ‘omnichannel’ experience.
However, there are many technological advances out there to reinvent UK stores and they can be surprisingly cost-efficient. From intelligent and engaging video content on in-store screens, to a more rewarding customer journey via QR codes and mobile vouchers. These innovations can help break down the barrier between on and offline, and are adaptable for a retailer of any size.
With advances in Cloud software there is no need for the installation of costly DVD players. Content on in-store screens can be quickly and efficiently updated, even personalised to the location of the store or the weather outside.
While the one-armed mannequin would have to be re-dressed in rain-proof clothing, an in-store screen can easily change the display to show the discount on umbrellas that store currently has.
Social media too can create a more personalised customer shopping experience. Over the past 12 months many retailers have been experimenting with F-Commerce and while opinion varies on the success of it, there does seem to be an array of small businesses promoting and selling their products and services through Facebook in a successful way.
For larger retailers Facebook is just one channel in a multichannel world, but for smaller businesses it can be a very significant part of their marketing and sales.
Consumers buying behaviour has evolved over the years. Technological innovation has enabled customers to research products and deals prior to going in-store; whether at home on a PC or even while out shopping on their smartphone.
Have you used your mobile to compare prices and look at product reviews while out shopping?
Together with the ability to search for and download vouchers and coupons, the smartphone has become an indispensable shopping aid. Juniper Research has predicted that by 2016, more than $43bn mobile coupons will be redeemed each year.
In December 2011 Mary Portas issued her report on the British High Street with 28 key recommendations for retailers. She is working hard with both the Government and a consortium of retailers to try and rejuvenate our high streets, but there are simple and innovative tools that many can implement themselves to increase footfall and ones not even considered in the Portas review.
While market stalls and better parking may be considered by many as a means to boost our ailing high street, I think that a merging of web, mobile, social and physical retailing channels, can harness the potential of the High Street 2.0.