The UK retail economy remains stuck without growth and with inflation rising to 2.7% that stagnation is taking its toll.
The High Street has been particularly hit hard. News accounts remind us that town centres without free parking cannot compete with the out of town centres. The increasing number of empty shops puts off consumers and so lead, inevitably, to more empty shops.
There is a romance in the media with the High Street but the economic reality is that out of town shopping frequently offers more convenience and better prices for cashed strapped shoppers.
Retail is now an ‘Omnichannel’ experience. What does that mean?
It means that traditional retail stores can no longer afford to think of themselves as ‘Bricks and Mortar’ outlets only. Shoppers are using online for better prices and are using the shops as a free testing ground. Mobile technology now means that price comparison is in the pockets and handbags of consumers.
Digital technologies, when embraced by retail, means that rich data can be gathered. The increasing use of smart mobile devices by consumers means that interactions can be made that are geolocation and time specific.
Also, retail stores can more efficiently mine their existing data. All those records of customers, if properly processed can create new opportunities. For example, being aware that if someone is buying a lot of nappies, that there may well be a small baby in their life. So advertising can be more carefully targeted.
Added to this is the availability of other data sets. For instance, bricks and mortar stores should be analysing transport data to see where bottle necks occur and workout if there are particular times when new opportunities might present themselves.
Retail cannot continue as is. The High Street needs to start paying its way. Stores need to constantly find ways to add value to the customer experience. For example, are instore staff knowledge experts? Can they really help with purchasing decisions in a way Internet research cannot?
Also, the cost of the City Centre must be rethought. It is overvalued. Rent models are still in place from before the Digital Revolution. Why should you set up a physical store in a complex prepayment long-term rent deal when you can open an Ebay or Amazon store in moments and only pay when you make a sale?
For the past 5 years UK Retail has been an Ostrich with its head buried firmly in the sand. Too many in the sector have been trying to save a business model that is long dead. It is true that the Omnichannel is complex but companies such as John Lewis are reaping the rewards of making the transition.
3 Sheep are here to help you work out the best ways to approach the Omnichannel and connect with your customers in new ways. contact us online or call 3 Sheep’s Chief Shepherd, Stuart Smith on 0161 408 6626.