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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.

According to a recent Econsultancy / TolunaQuick consumer survey, 43% of UK shoppers have used their mobiles to compare prices and read reviews while out shopping. 

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.

Chris Gorell Barnes

Published 1 October, 2012 by Chris Gorell Barnes

Chris Gorell Barnes is CEO of Adjust Your Set and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can also follow him on Twitter

12 more posts from this author

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Robert Walters

Robert Walters, Head of Ecommerce at The Furniture Market

I am convinced big companies are over emphasizing m-Commerce and its potential.

I would argue smartphones are more useful as a shopping aid to augment UX as this article suggests more than a stand alone channel.

about 4 years ago

Andrew Sutton

Andrew Sutton, CRM Manager at Jaguar Land Rover

Personally... I don't think they are emphasizing it enough.

Google's approach to design products 'mobile' first is the way many need to be thinking!

Yes, it's not always going to the primary channel where a consumer parts with their cash for goods and services. BUT the exponential increase in smartphone ownership is driving a different behaviour, one where we demand instant access and gratification for the things we want (not necessarilt need), one where we are instantly aware of others opinions and can price compare, and one that can really work to assist big businesses to deliver more products and services than ever before.

Smartphone sales outstripped PC sales 18 months ago... I don't think it will be too long until we will be saying the same about tablets!

about 4 years ago

Robert Walters

Robert Walters, Head of Ecommerce at The Furniture Market

Funny you mention that Andrew,

I took my iPad into Halford's the other day to demonstrate a price match and got some money back.

:-D

about 4 years ago

Andrew Sutton

Andrew Sutton, CRM Manager at Jaguar Land Rover

All part of the service ;)

about 4 years ago

Robert Walters

Robert Walters, Head of Ecommerce at The Furniture Market

When I think about that though I took my iPad because it was a bigger display and for some weird reason I felt it would emphasise the price match proposition as it was on a bigger screen.

Smartphones are maybe more suited to initial price research in the field. If is the case then the platform is more of an aid.

Tablets are maybe where the UX can be developed. If this is the case a Tablet UX is maybe the trigger for the shopping trip in the first place.

Maybe people just prefer looking at stuff they might want to buy on a bigger screen? Or am I stating the obvious?

about 4 years ago

Damian Hanson

Damian Hanson, CEO at One iota Limited

We all know mobile is the 'glue' between online and offline retailing for the high street. For pure online players its critical to get right.

In terms of bringing genuine eCommerce in-store we are engaged with many leading retailers right now on our SmartPod proposition which provides a digital experience to support in-store shopping (self check-out or assistive) with full chip & PIN integration. See www.itsoneiota.com/smartpod

Its already proving that many customers are happy to shop online whilst being in-store as part of their shopping experience.

about 4 years ago

Justine Arthur

Justine Arthur, Head of Marketing at BT Expedite & Fresca

Also just to add, that Oasis along with Coast, Warehouse (the Aurora Fashion brands), as they use our Point of sale system, now offer the ‘PayPal in Store’ functionality so what with this and store ipads, shoppers needn’t go anywhere near the tills! I personally haven’t tried it yet, but from what I understand, it’s as easy for customers as pushing the ‘Pay’ button in the app, which pops a barcode on the phone screen for the store staff to scan to take payment. Not sure what readers think, but I would imagine the majority of people feel ‘safe’ using PayPal – well the online savvy ones anyway.

With the continuous ‘webification of the store’ why wouldn't you want to start bringing the option of online payment into store too? In the Aurora Fashion brands, goods paid for online via PayPal can be returned through the store and refunded back onto the original PayPal account; And PayPal gives a single view of all receipts online, one less thing to bulge out my purse!

about 4 years ago

Damian Hanson

Damian Hanson, CEO at One iota Limited

Yeah good point Justine. I think eBay / PayPal have the right approach to mobile, e.g 'think mobile first'. eBay now transacts more than 25% of all transactions on mobile and I for one prefer this experience now than their online channel, it feels so dated whenever I use the website.

Consumers will shop comfortably on mobile if the experience is right.

about 4 years ago

Steve Rothwell

Steve Rothwell, CEO at Eagle Eye

I agree that the points raised in Mary’s report are valid, but somewhat lacking in forward thinking. We need to be concentrating on how all bricks and mortar retailers - both big and small - can respond to tech-led, changing shopper behaviours!

Step 1 - removing the ‘fear factor’ that is currently manifesting itself amongst retailers regarding technology – that it will destroy the bricks and mortar store! In a recent report from Economist Intelligence Unit, 55% of retailers expect their stores to become ‘expensive showrooms’, and 49% said they were ‘hostage’ to the next big innovation.

This negative tone isn’t doing retailers any good. When embraced, technology – whether used as a commerce channel or to enhance the shopping experience – can give retailers the competitive advantage! The upgrades to the UK’s 4G and Wi-Fi infrastructure provide any size of retailer with the opportunity to drive footfall into stores, and enhance the customer experience whilst in there. For example, 74% of smartphone owners who logged onto local or store Wi-Fi networks are happy to receive local offers. This provides not only route for retailers to create the incentive to ‘buy now’, but also a low-cost data capture route for CRM capability. It needn’t require huge monetary investment, it just takes a bit of smart, creative thinking.

Second step - Maybe the combination of Mary’s points for ‘Town Teams’ responsible for a visionary, strategic and strong operational management to promote their high street and the ‘large retailer mentoring’ around new technology can combine to take the lead on this?

about 4 years ago

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