You'll be aware of the struggles that many high-street stores are facing as customers increasingly choose to make their purchases online. So what are retailers doing to entice shoppers back to the high-street, and what might the stores of the future look like?
The Price War
Online retailers have attracted business away from traditional brick and mortar stores largely by offering lower prices or greater convenience and choice. Online retailers can afford to charge less as they don't face the high premises and staff costs that stores do - and can of course offer their full ranges online, whereas it may not be possible to fit everything into one store. This means that most high-street stores simply can't afford to compete with online prices.
So what do retailers need to do to entice people back into their shops?
A digital/bricks-and-mortar hybrid
A study by Google’s Shopper Marketing Council found that it’s estimated that 84% of shoppers use smart phones in store to find out more information about products, read customers reviews and look for price comparisons. Savvy 'bricks-and-mortar' retailers are taking advantage of this by blurring the divide between the physical realm and the digital space and enhancing the customer experience in-store by making it more convenient, competitive and personalised.
Stores such as Marks and Spencer are using tablets in-store to order different sizes and product ranges. A forward-thinking move from Tesco is the development of an interactive virtual grocery store at Gatwick Airport where shoppers can scan products with their phone on the screen – these products are directly added to their Tesco account and can be ordered for same day delivery, meaning that their fridge is stocked when they get home from holiday! Other developments include iBeacon, a mobile application which sends you personalised information as you move around the store – this can be anything from promotions to information about the product. Keep your eyes peeled as Mothercare and Holland and Barrett are trialling out this technology in their stores next year!
Looking to the Future
Here's a few examples of what we might see hitting the high street in the near (and not so near!) future:
Smart changing rooms with iPads - request a different size to your changing room, see what products are in store and review product information.
Interactive shopping rails - flick through products and create/order outfits.
In-store personalisation and 3D printing – some shoe brands have already started allowing shoppers to design part of their product and print a prototype in store before ordering.
In-store maps – this will be a combination of iBeacons and clothing that contains internet sensors –this will make your smart phone vibrate and tell you which part of the store you want to head towards.
• Wearable devices – going above and beyond Google glasses, these may possibly even be integrated into our bodies – although these most definitely fall into the distant future category!
Robots in-store – instead of Googling something you will be able to ask those all important questions to a customer service app – e.g. what do you think of this? Or do I have enough money in my bank account?
Technology enhanced high-streets are good for sales, but what about the social implications?
Shop assistants will become more ‘tech savvy’ to help customers with any queries/issues that might crop up when using these new shopping apps
More jobs will be created within the technology sector
So all in all with the booming tech start-up market, the future is looking bright for technology entrepreneurs and our high street!
Tweet us your thoughts to @FMtalent on the #FutureOfRetail.