While ecommerce and online shopping continues to grow in spades, the majority of sales in the UK still take place in bricks and mortar stores and those retailers that aren’t investing in physical stores are risking ‘a lot’.
Speaking at The Drum’s Retail Breakfast earlier this week, Jamie Allan, group managing partner at Intermarketing Agency, warned that if the chunk of a brand’s business is on the high street, they better continue to invest their money there.
“Our clients are investing in retail space, and continue to do so. People are investing in bricks and mortar – 90 per cent of sales are still done in bricks and mortar, in Australia its 95 per cent, so there is still a huge amount of importance around it. Brands that don’t invest in that risk a lot…if the majority of your sales are in that environment you’ve got to keep investing in it.”
And it’s not just traditional shops that are investing in the high street. The ‘omnichannel’ strategy is seeing online giants such as Amazon and makeup service Birchbox take a stab at launching a physical presence despite starting life in the digital space. However, innovation is the key to reinvigorating the physical retail experience, with new tech-driven experiences dripping in to stores to better engage consumers.
“I think that the high street has been a little bit neglected in recent years but I think that people are starting to understand that to have a really vibrant, retail proposition the high street still plays a role in that,” said Patricia McDonald, chief strategy officer at Isobar UK. “Reinvigorating the physical store is a big part of that, along with offering a really streamlined and efficient online experience.
“One of our big focuses is on how we are removing friction from the in-store experience but also making it quite a delightful experience. We are looking at all sorts of things… One of our prototypes is a magic mirror that lets you pay with your face. That sounds extraordinary and out there, but you have major banks like Master Card experimenting with pay by selfie so it’s not that far out and you’ve got interesting brands like Macy’s experimenting with smart fitting rooms where you can use touch screen technology to order a product to the fitting room to try different colours, to try different sizes. We are going to start to see the store becoming a much smarter and connected experience.”
Elsewhere the panel, which also included Mark Hurst, sales director at Eagle Eye and Damien Bennett, head of strategy NMPi London, discussed the move away from retail websites becoming the main platform for commerce as the likes of Facebook start to build out commerce capabilities within messaging platforms.
“One of things that is going to become a hotter topic over the next few years is really the website becoming less important in terms of the customer buying experience,” said Bennett. “I think that you are going to see websites like Facebook and Google become shoppable.
“Amazon is going to play a wider role with retailers especially with medium sized retailers, so I think that actually where people purchase and their purchasing behaviour is going to be a really key topic over the next one to two years.”