Here at Barber we are interested in what makes the physical retail experience attractive for the shopper, now that there is so much available online. Our recent post on mannequins that beam information to passers-by is just one example of a way that retailers are attempting to ensure they offer both an entertaining in-store experience and easy access to online purchasing even when outside the home.
The Centre for Retail Research’s “Retail Futures 2018”, a guide to retailing in 2018, predicts a rise in online retail sales 12.7 percent to 21.5 percent in 2018, alongside a potential 22% drop in store numbers, from 281,930 today to 220,000 in 2018. They say that ‘with such a high number of transactions carried out online, retailers with a strong web offering now need just 70 high street stores to create a national presence compared to 250 in the mid-2000s’. The larger well-known chains cutting back their physical presence will lead to a rapid decline in many high streets, which are already struggling to keep up with the larger shopping centres as a result of changing retail consumer habits.
The report also points out that with the highest proportion of online retail sales, UK retail industry is closely watched by foreign observers as a “test bed for retail innovation.”
What will the future retail experience need?
So attracting consumers to the physical store is going to become even more about creating the right shopping and brand experience, which includes providing welcoming face-to-face expertise from sales staff as well as novel technologies. Though the balance between using technology and people to sell goods will depend on what is being sold, from phone purchases to wedding outfits, some consumers will always want that personal touch or advice from a personal shopper. Recent customer research from Dixons Carphone PLC showed that around 50% of potential phone buyers want to talk to someone in person and handle a product before making a purchase. It’s hard to reproduce that touch and feel online, and this is what keeps shoppers coming in-store – they can research online but still want to see the real product or try it on. Enabling them to then purchase immediately in-store or order online in-store is now seen as an essential part of retail.