It’s the end! We are always reading that high street shops dying and that only online stores can survive. There is no doubt that online stores have had a huge impact on brick and mortar, and that they have forever changed the retail landscape. But it isn’t all doom and gloom and there is no need for retailers to run to the hills. Times are not as dark as our sensationalised media friends sometimes like to portray. For example, TimeTrade found that 85% of consumers prefer physical high street shops to online shopping. Customers like to feel and see what they are buying. Particularly if it’s something exciting and they want it now.
This year the e-tail giant Amazon opened their first physical shop in Seattle and a second store in Southern California. Amazon have an army of analysts and innovators driving their business forward. Would an online giant really open brick and mortars if they thought that there was no benefit to be had?
Common feedback for e-tailers is that their website is great, but ‘I like to see what I’m buying in the flesh’. Some sectors are more prone to this type of feedback than others, but this is a common theme for the majority. In addition, if I am pumped on the idea on a new shampoo that is going to cure all of my problems, I want it now! It would take one heck of a sales pitch to stop me going out and getting my new bottle of miracle hair immediately. I’m not one to wait around 5 days for my free delivery.
One would think that it’d be easy to predict which items would drive customers into high street shops, and which customers would be happy to click to. But it isn’t actually always so predictable. For example, it is quite normal for customers to want to feel and see clothes, but you might think a computer game would not need to be viewed. Once a gamer has decided which game they want to play, there is little difference between which particular copy they pick up. In addition, one might suspect that a tech savvy gamer might be more inclined to purchase online.
Well, you might think it, but actually high street shops are playing the game well. Despite the release of Amazon’s same day delivery service, it has struggled to compete for game sales. High street shops have been holding a massive 77% of the market, which is the highest share it has seen in 5 years. Tesco, ASDA and Game took the lion’s share of this.
Many gamers cite the experiential element of a trip to the game store as the clincher. This is particularly important to them when they are changing console. They want to get excited about their investment in a new console. Who can blame them?
This leads me onto the next, and one of the most important, reasons high street shops are here to stay.
Those of you who visit our blogs often, will have read some of our items on experiential marketing. It is a fantastic tool that is loved by big brands and pop-up shops alike. They love it because it works. It’s all about capitalising on human emotion. Humans remember things that engage them emotionally. Whether it’s your favourite weepy film or remembering the time you laughed so hard you nearly fainted, you are bound to have memories stitched with emotional thread. Compare that to remembering what time you brushed your teeth last Monday, and you’ll catch the jist.
Essentially, mundane things are just that; unmemorable and no one wants to talk about it. But the time you and a group of friends won a basketball shooting game at the local sports shop? That’s going straight on facebook and into the memory bank. Even more, it’s going in there with a fond memory of that brand.
Shoppers are choosing to spend more money on experiences, rather than products. Things like going to the cinema and going out to eat are really on the up. Don’t worry – I am not about to tell you that this article is going backwards and that actually it really is the end. I am going to say – capitalise on this. The online competition could have the most amazing, dancing website that paints virtual rainbows on your screen. But you can’t smell it, taste it, touch it, probably even hear it because everyone is on silent these days. Great. That means that your store already has an advantage. It has an atmosphere, glowing staff and such potential.
Ensure that you are bringing your high street shop to life by truly engaging your customers and harnessing the power of the experiential. Buck up your shop fittings and displays. Make sure that they are heralding the joys of your store and reflecting the lifestyle that you are asking people to buy into when they buy from you.
And for goodness sake – get creative! Build window displays that customers can get excited about. Host events that are educational or competitive or just plain exciting! Let your customers engage with your store on an emotional level, let them love your store. They’ll keep coming back.
We have all been driven crazy by an ever so polite, yet ever so irritating robot voice at some point. It’s that bleak, hopeless feeling as you endlessly trawl through automatic responses. It’s an epic journey that makes you feel as though you have stumbled into Frodo Baggin’s life. And after 15 minutes of soul-less number pressing you are still no closer to an answer. You’ve wasted 15 minutes of your life listening to a robot – and you want those minutes back!
And this is where a hero arises from the post-apocalyptic disaster zone. A glorious shop assistant who has all the answers and even uses different inflections and tones of voice to express them! Even better, they actually seem pleased to see you! Two real life humans, having an actual conversation about a mutually interesting product. Excellent.
A lot of consumers would rather talk to a shop assistant than navigate the Narnia that websites consider to be “help” and “information”. This of course will only fortify your store if your staff are well trained and motivated. Great members of staff ca be a retailer’s biggest asset. Particularly when it comes to high priced items that customers need a little extra confidence to buy. If I like the John Lewis tech person, there’s a high chance I’ll buy in store. I would rather ask them, than trawl the internet for 4 hours.
I am one of the lucky few who can have items sent to my work place. But for many, hoping that Jupiter is aligned with the right star, can be a bit stressful. Not all e-tailers are like this of course, many have excellent delivery services. But you can usually only pick a cheap delivery or a fast one. The golden nugget that does both can be hard to find. Particularly, if you are worrying about whether the tiny image you saw online is going to live up to your expectations when it actually arrives!
But once again my high street retailer has the chance to play the hero’s role. I know that if I drive down the road and get what I need, there will be no trauma when my Grandma’s birthday present arrives the day before, and it’s awful.
To make this really work, retailers need to make sure they have everything in stock and that their products are merchandised in a representative manner. There is nothing more irritating than finding your dream pair of shoes, only to hear they don’t have your size in stock. The halo around your favourite high street store is somewhat shattered, when you are told to look online instead. Okay, it might work out this time, but next time the balance may tip in favour of starting online and not bothering with the store.
These are just a few reasons why high street shops are here to stay. There are plenty more of course. If you want to keep track of them sign up for our updates in the footer below.
Of course not every store ever is going to last and we have to accept that some will fall. But retailers who strive to keep up with the pace and who understand what their customers love; they will survive. High street shops are a part of our modern lives.
Yes, we may also love the internet, but a world where there are no physical stores is not one that we are going to see anytime soon. In the meantime, we can all just calm down and try not to listen to everything the sensationalised headlines shout. Shops are here to stay, and until I can feel the texture of a cloth on my screen and truly be immersed in an online store, you won’t catch me worrying about the innovative retailers that are looking after our high streets.