You don’t have to choose between ecommerce and the High Street, any more than you have to choose between communicating in just one language and reaching out in many more.
The High Street is dead
How many times have we heard those words in recent years? This week’s report from the British Retail Consortium won’t raise the spirits of those who remain committed to the traditional shop-front.
The town centre vacancy rate – the indicator of empty retail units in prime locations – has risen to 10.3 per cent. High street footfall in July was down 2.7 per cent year on year, and shopping centre footfall slipped by 3.1 per cent.
Apart from the obvious impact on retailers, there’s an argument that this can have negative consequences for communities. If people aren’t shopping in these familiar locations, they’re not socialising in nearby cafes or leisure facilities. There’s also a knock-on effect for government spending. Retail currently makes up five per cent of the British economy but retailers pay ten per cent of all business costs and twenty five per cent of all business taxes. Less customers mean less tax revenue, less tax revenue means less investment and less investment means less prosperous communities. Not a pretty picture.
What’s the answer, if indeed there is one?
For all the power of ecommerce to literally deliver the goods, both efficiently and increasingly interactively, the surest way to get customers to buy into your brand is to give them an immersive experience. Online shoppers have multiple distractions from the screen they’re using and the environment they’re using it in. Stores that welcome shoppers with appealing branding, technology that showcases their products and, crucially, the opportunity to pick up and use those products still have an edge. Big, cinematic screens to welcome you in. Smaller, interactive screens to engage and inform you.
Not every product or service fits this approach, but many fit it very well indeed. So much so that increasing numbers of online retailers are now choosing to invest in physical premises.
Made.com is a major ecommerce success story, and its innovative approach to furniture selling has included offering online customers a virtual reality experience. Recently, though, it has also invested in thriving store premises in Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Ecommerce evangelists who’ve successfully disrupted the retail sector are now recognising that the best way to sweep a customer off their feet is for them to be standing up in the first place.
And standing on your premises.
At Conversis we relish tech disruption and we embrace advances that enable us to communicate, recruit, buy and sell across languages and borders. But we never turn our backs on what works. Building human relationships works. Enhancing human communication works, whether you’re communicating a customer’s message to new audiences in new languages or giving them the most positive service experience possible by inviting them to walk around your store. You don’t have to choose between ecommerce and the High Street, any more than you have to choose between communicating in just one language and reaching out in many more.
You can spread your options. You can explore every avenue to give customers what they want.
You can pick and mix.