In recent years, the internet has quickly become the destination of choice for savvy shoppers looking to find a bargain. In turn, this has heaped tremendous pressure on High Street retailers who are struggling to compete with their online counterparts that have fewer overheads and greater profit margins. Town and city centres across Ireland and the UK are most certainly in a state of flux.
In recent years, we’ve seen big name brands such as HMV and Blockbuster go to the wall. That’s because the likes of Amazon and eBay have made it easier for consumers to purchase the latest music and even stream the latest movies to their mobile and tablet devices with online subscription services. In today’s impatient consumer world, the ability to purchase products online and get them delivered to your door the very next day – sometimes even the same day – makes it even harder for high streets to compete; particularly if shoppers don’t need to leave the comfort of their own home to place the order.
It’s even proving beneficial in medical industries such as eye health, where people can purchase cheap contact lenses online and place an order by 8pm to receive tomorrow. It’s especially popular with those who wear contact lenses with no prescription, allowing them to just place an order with one or two presses of a button. It’s the same story for most industries, if the truth be told. So, how can our high streets have a future? In this ‘evolve or die’ crossroads moment for brick and mortar retailers, is it yet possible e-commerce could save the high street and help to change its identity? The rest of Europe is also experiencing a significant reduction in physical footfall, so retailers are having to think outside of the box to survive and thrive.
The key is to re-involving the high street stores as part of a shopper’s buying cycle. One thing on the side of brick-and-mortar retailers is that sometimes buyers can be subject to too much information about products, leading to a concept known as ‘show-rooming’. Consumers are increasingly obsessed with reading reviews and feedback on products and services before sampling for themselves. What brands need to do is to reach out to those show-roomers and seek to put their minds at ease online. The rise of frequently asked questions (FAQs) has allowed retailers to put users firmly in the picture before sign-posting them to their high street stores for product demonstrations or one-to-one consultations.
Of course, high street retailers without an e-commerce presence need to be more creative about running exclusive offers. Social media is proving increasingly popular to generate interest in high street offers, with offline discounts and competitions available to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users that engage with retailers online. Having a unique point of difference to faceless e-commerce sites is also important for high street retailers. Don’t underestimate the demand for artisanal goods and services still, with bespoke goods that you simply can’t get elsewhere online. Retail as an industry will never cease to exist. People will still need to make sure they buy the correct size shirts or trial a piece of tech before they hand over their hard-earned cash, but giving customers a reason to visit a store is vital to avoid high streets looking more like car showrooms.
Feature Image: Pixabay.com