Ah, Oxford Street, you are known by so many names…

To some, you are the shopping capital of the UK, to others, a realisation of hell on Earth. 

This is particularly true for those of us whose morning commute takes them directly through the centre of Europe’s busiest shopping street. Here all the biggest high street brands rub shoulders next to endlessly ‘closing down’ souvenir shops and all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets 

For us here at Econsultancy, it is technically a second home, and therefore we can’t help but treat it as an ever-changing example of a digitally transforming retail industry.

We’ve come to realise that the high street’s survival isn’t dependent on competing with the internet, its dependent upon working alongside it. Integrating digital technology to improve the customer experience, through convenience, seamless multichannel customer service and personalisation.

So how is Oxford Street coping with this increasing need to integrate the offline world with the online one?

Yesterday I visited 18 different stores along the 1.5-mile long street (and was eyed up suspiciously by 18 different security guards) in order to find out.

There are many innovative experiences being offered in high street stores around the world, from virtual changing mirrors to augmented reality apps to the use of beacons, however here I’ll just be looking out for the basics. The fundamental things that need to be in place in order for a high street store to achieve digital transformation.

Does the store offer Wi-Fi? Is the website promoted inside and outside the store? Is click and collect available, and if so is it advertised in store? 

As you can see from the following, it’s a mixed bag...

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Aldo

There’s very little here to suggest much digital integration, however it does at least mention its website address in the window for the benefit of passers-by or those arriving after store close.

Clarks

Clarks has an excellent service where you can choose from its entire range in-store digitally and its also one of the few retailers mentioned here that offers the convenience of free WiFi.

Debenhams

There lots of examples here of Debenhams highlighting its click and collect service. It’s clearly advertised on every door, along with which floor to pick up your goods.

There’s also a giant screen inside advertising the same.

And there’s a sign on every door as you leave mentioning the service for a final time.

Be under no illusion that Debenhams offers click and collect.

Gap

Nothing at all. Much like its clothing range, it pretends that the last 15 years haven’t happened.

H&M

There is absolutely nothing in-store or outside to suggest it has a web presence. However bizarrely there was a touchscreen tablet that asked customers to fill in a survey.

It didn’t take too long to do, however at the end it missed an opportunity to ask for the respondent's email address. Not that I think that anybody would actually give it up, but with some kind of incentive they might do.

HMV

The retailer has obviously had a lot of problems, and it has only just been announced that its ecommerce website is about to relaunch. That being said, all the signs that say ‘trending now’ instead of ‘new releases’ made me want to leave immediately.

House of Fraser

There’s a nicely worded sign on every door saying that House of Fraser is online anytime you like, even on mobile.

However House of Fraser's online store offers click and collect, yet this isn’t communicated in-store at all.

John Lewis 

John Lewis offers a masterful example of integrating digital with its high street branches. There are plenty of detailed click and collect signs dotted around the store. 

The website address is clearly advertised directly behind till. There’s also a computer available that directly leads customers to the online store.

There’s a sign on every door when you leave stating that if you didn't find what you were looking for you can look online. Then outside on the ‘opening hour’ signs the website is clearly mentioned with its 24 hour-long operating hours.

Lush

Despite operating a fantastic mobile-optimised ecommerce site full of great editorial content, the high street branch doesn’t mention its online presence at all. Not even a web address in the window.

Mango

Much like Aldo, it does at least have a website address outside. Although I’m not sure why they both insist on hiding these in the bottom corner of the window at shoe level.

Next

There are plenty of signs dotted around the shop that say ‘free next day delivery’ if ordered by midnight, with goods available from 3pm the next day. Although none of these signs mention a website, and none of them offer alternative delivery options.

 

New Look

There was nothing mentioned in the window or on the door, so passing after-hours opportunities are missed there, but there is plenty of mention of its website and click and collect service inside.

Primark

Primark doesn’t actually have an ecommerce store, but it has redesigned its website to look a lot more modern and mobile friendly. Part of the redesign is a community called Primania where customers can upload and share their looks.

This is advertised on two massive video screens in both windows of the Primark Oxford Street store.

There also follows a message saying you can browse online and shop in-store along with the web address. So basically even though Primark doesn’t operate an ecommerce site, it is still joining up the digital experience as best as it can.

River Island

Click and Collect is advertised clearly on the security post sleeves with directions where to pick up goods.

However there is no additional information on how the service works for first time users, nor is there a website mentioned.

Behind the till there was also a large sign mentioning a campaign hashtag, with various symbols for social channels but no actual website address, Twitter handle or mention of click and collect.

TopShop

All of TopShop’s digital information is available here on each of its doors.

Information on delivery options and where to pick up orders, there is also happily a free WiFi signal too.

Click and collect is also advertised on this massive sign in-store.

Uniqlo

Uniqlo mentions its click and collect service everywhere inside and outside the store. 

There’s also really detailed and huge red text on white background sign right next to the till that fully explains the service.

Urban Outfitters

I’ve talked before about Urban Outfitters' high street stores practically existing as a separate business to its online ones, to the point where you would assume they were in direct competition.

In April its sole concession to the website was this tiny message on the window...

Lets take a closer look…

This month, Urban Outfitters goes so far as to cover the address entirely with a mannequin.

Less than impressive work there.

Zara

There are three Oxford Street branches of Zara, none of which mention its web presence at all.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 28 May, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (11)

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Morgan Jones

Morgan Jones, Digital Manager at Freestone Creative

Just shows you that for some businesses there is a complete disconnect between bricks and mortar and online. It would be interesting to see the attitude of the CEO's to those who don't focus on digital. i.e. what is the relationship between the CDO and the CMO? Do they even talk? I'd wager that they are given completely different objectives and told not to step on each other's toes.

about 3 years ago

Zsofia Kerekes

Zsofia Kerekes, Content Marketing at Whisbi

Thanks for this sneak peek, a delightful read - good to see that some retailers are embracing a stronger synergy between online and offline sales and don't consider them as a potential threat for 'cannibalisation'. An in-depth analysis would probably reveal much bigger differences between these retailers, actually...E.g. pity you didn't go to Oasis, are they still doing their interesting 'send from store' service?

about 3 years ago

Matt Robinson

Matt Robinson, Marketing Communications Manager at Acxiom

I'm afraid this is somewhat of a misleading article headline. Integrating digital, in-store is not the presence of signage of click and collect or of social media icons. Retailer’s truly integrating offline and digital in-store will be using technologies such as beacons, powered by their offline CRM data to recognise that customer and then serve them personalised, real-time offers, typically via an app on their mobiles. The most successful retailers will utilise technologies such as beacon and augmented reality not just to drive increased sales but also to deliver a greater customer experience.

about 3 years ago

Marc Dhalluin

Marc Dhalluin, Founder / Director at ideaz2b (www.dhalluin.co.uk)

poor misleading headline to this post - waste of time if one was looking for inspiration. but typical of what is happening as content generators fight for air with less than inspiring content. why not rather say 'can you believe these brands are so behind the curve and dropping the ball (intent meant - poor copy i know!).

about 3 years ago

Marc Dhalluin

Marc Dhalluin, Founder / Director at ideaz2b (www.dhalluin.co.uk)

agreed, Matt Robinson

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Matt, we're well aware that there's more to integrating digital in store than just signage, and we've written about that before and will do again.

As Christopher explains in the introduction, we're just looking at the basics in this post, and future articles will delve deeper.

@Marc, I'm not sure I understand your comment, but the article intro explains what we're looking at here, and that's what it delivers.

about 3 years ago

Marc Dhalluin

Marc Dhalluin, Founder / Director at ideaz2b (www.dhalluin.co.uk)

@Graham I hear you and understand your point. The headline led me, as indeed it did @Matt, to expect more ito what it revealed. It should have, as I mentioned, led us to expect to read how little most are doing. And it is an absolute reality that we are seeing more and more bullish headlines (often sensationalist) followed by drivel. Lesson - beware the best intention that floats in the same pool as the mess. It may be misconstrued.

about 3 years ago

Tim Wade

Tim Wade, Partner at Smith Co Consultancy

I believe we miss the point and have to look much deeper than a simple view of digital integration. Retailers need to be creating brand led customer experiences some of which will be about the integration of digital and physical but this shouldn't be the driver. Take Lush from your example - a true purpose driven brand with a clear proposition about freshness that is dramatized amazingly well through there retail experience. Freshness is about displays of wonderful products that play with your senses, sometimes we have to accept that digital won't always add significantly to this and isn't where a brand needs to focus

about 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Good report. Lot of work put in. BTW how did the nearby Regent Street trial go?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10875969/Regent-Street-to-deploy-beacon-technology-in-shops.html

I keep seeing reports like this of how shopping centres or main streets are installing new technology, then *crickets*. Seeing as you're in the area, any chance of a follow-up?

about 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Pete - Yep, that's definitely next on the agenda!

about 3 years ago

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Dan Parker, CEO at WiForia | WIfi Marketing

its a fairly sad wake up call to the many of us in the retail tech market, that at the very epicentre of shopping there's just so little real innovation actually deployed. Hard yards ahead for the agents of change

about 3 years ago

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