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Will Mobile Technology Save the High Street?

Friday, 31 August 2012.

Will Mobile Technology Save the High Street?

Whilst stores on the high street seem to be suffering from a growing number of customers staying at home to watch the Olympics, the world of online and mobile ecommerce channels is blooming, with a 359% growth in sales via mobile devices reported last year.

The reason for the boost could be down to an increased demand for retailers to start integrating digital platforms in the overall shopping experience. Being a portable, connected technology that can be easily accessed by customers, mobile phones seem the obvious tool to facilitate this.

However, conservative retailers may see utilising smartphones as a threat, as its digital technology when implemented into the overall shopping experience could offer options such as the ability to hunt the latest bargain and price check goods, with 25% of smartphone users already doing this. Though it is understandable why bricks and mortar retail houses are fearful of this, ignoring the trend could prove catastrophic.

However, even retailers with physical premises are not guaranteed success by embracing mobile technology. Google recently revealed that 95% of smartphone users research products via their mobile device, with 24% continuing to purchase items offline. This highlights that there is a positive connection between consumer research behaviour and instore purchase.

There are also an increased number of cases whereby virtual shops are now taking physical form. eBay presented a pop-up outlet last year in Soho over the Christmas period, as well as Tesco launching an interactive virtual store in Gatwick. Mobile technology and internet retailing are becoming a force to be reckoned with as they tightly collaborate and take on the digital future of spending.

lindapetersWe asked Linda Peters, Senior Advisor of Luxury Retail at Ariadne Capital, what she thought high street stores need to do to embrace the change. She divulged the following;

"Over a decade ago, when we were in the early stages of developing LVMH’s Sephora.com, the online prestige beauty e-tailer, we were deliberate about finding ways of leveraging both the online Sephora.com business and Sephora ‘bricks and mortar’ stores from the customer point-of-view.   At the time, this also involved convincing Sephora stores that we were not a competitor, but offered a new channel for internet-savvy customers with mutual benefits to both online and store businesses. This was before the rise of mobile and tablet technology, which are now enabling a more seamless and enhanced customer experience.

The points in this article are not only applicable to the UK High Street, but to all major fashion including luxury retailers – online and stores.  Customers are demanding a seamless, real-time, shopping experience with a retailer that is fast, easy and convenient and allows them to shop the way they want to shop – anytime, and anywhere."

So overall, why do retailers need to start implementing a digital strategy?

  • One of the mass appeals of mobile technology is that it offers retailers a real-time response. You also have an automated data collection method that will assist you in delivering personalised and relevant communication to enhance the consumer shopping experience.
  • Retailers need to have technology inbuilt in their stores to capitalise on customers digital behaviour. An example is the use of online coupon codes that do not require physical proof and you can harness the latest technology developments to reach that point of sale.
  • If you can blur the boundaries between digital and physical retail you can ensure increased footfall into the store. An example is PayPal inSTORE that allows customers to pay for items in store using their PayPal account.

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