Regarding Retail: What the Tech?

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The high street is a staple of any town and I’ll be the first to admit that I take it for granted. But just like any other millennial, I’m part of the problem… My enthusiasm for going online to order what I want, when I want it is impacting the health of the high street. There’s no doubt that this trend is having an adverse effect on our physical stores. Recent figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggest that footfall declined by 6% in March (year-on-year), meaning that visits have fallen at their steepest rate since the end of 2010.

As this way of shopping becomes the norm, we decided to reach out to some top retail influencers for their opinions about how technology can help turn things around for bricks-and-mortar stores, as part of a wider omnichannel strategy. We took to Twitter to gather insights:

Q: Do you think technology could help high street retailers keep up with their online-only competition?

@EricJohanssonLJ – Feature writer – Elite Business & Elite Franchise

A: In my personal view, yes. These closures are the consequence of old school retailers not really keeping up with the times and ceasing to innovate. Adopting new tech can help but has to be combined with a high-value in-store experience if they want to stay on the high street.

Following on from the news of Toys R Us shutting down, and Mothercare potentially leaving the high street, Eric’s point highlights the importance that technology plays in the future of retail. The brands that don’t recognise this are going to struggle to retain their place on the high street. Consumer expectations are changing and the “traditional” approach needs to evolve if it wants to remain effective.

Q: Could effective omnichannel marketing help drive customers back into bricks-and-mortar stores?

@nikkibaird – Vice President of Retail Innovation – Aptos Retail

A: Well, do you have a bricks experience worth driving to? I mean, short answer is sure it could. But only if the store exp is worth it. Otherwise, waste of money.

@barnettrichard1 – Global Software Sales Expert – Diebold Nixdorf

A: My belief is that an effective strategy, with the right tools, implemented in a way that the consumer can easily shop, regardless of the channel, will ultimately drive revenues and footfall.

If a retailer is going to adopt an omnichannel approach to their marketing then they need to make their store worth visiting – whether that’s personalised experiences, applying digital innovations to the purchase journey or otherwise. The brand will need to put some thought into an experience that will exceed their customer’s expectations. This ties into the point made by Diebold Nixford’s Richard Barnett, about an effective strategy playing a crucial role in making it easier for the consumer to shop.

Q: What were your initial thoughts when you saw Amazon’s Seattle checkout-less convenience store in the news?

@holly_uc – Account Director – Whiteoaks International

A: I thought it was great, and hoping that they bring it across the pond soon! Life is busy but it is getting more convenient because of technology across all areas and this will make shopping easier and help retailers bring people back to store.

Ironically, the future of our stores is now being shaped by online pioneer, Amazon. The launch of its checkout-less store in Seattle hit the headlines as it showcased a new way to shop. Whiteoaks International’s Holly Rees highlights the importance of convenience and why technology needs to be seamlessly implemented into the retail experience.

Based on these responses, it’s clear that retail is experiencing a turbulent time. The good thing is that brands do have options. There’s an opportunity to utilise technology in a way that it will improve the customer experience – combining shopping with interesting experiences – and increase footfall on the high street. Some retailers are implementing technology more cautiously and it will be interesting to keep up with those who are fully committing to this enhanced approach to retail.

Throughout the month of April, we’re reporting on all the retail news and trends, sharing our retail tech experience and insights about working with top providers on our social media pages. From case studies to blogs and reporting from the leading retail technology conference, RBTE, follow @WhiteoaksPR on Twitter for all the insights.