In the days of the bobby on the beat, deliveries by bicycle and a time when everyone had a personal relationship with their bank manager, the high street thrived in this country. Why? Well because it was needed, it was the centre of a community it was the place where you went to do what you needed to do. If you didn’t think much of the area or there wasn’t much going on, that didn’t matter, you needed the high street and so you visited it.
This High Street necessity started being eroded by out of town supermarkets. Where previously supermarkets where part of the High Street, they suddenly became a destination all of their own, and the High Street became less of a requirement. Despite this threat, many high streets and high street stores didn’t really change the way they did things. In some instances it wasn’t affecting them, the pain was being felt by independent food retailers like butchers but not as much for clothes shops or sports shops.
And then online shopping came along…
For many businesses this was the opportunity they had been waiting for; too long they had been restrained by the geographic confines of their high street and the prohibitive nature of expanding a retail operation, internet shopping was about to provide them with the opportunity to grow.
For others, they didn’t really know what to do, they kept their online presence (if they had one), as a separate entity from their high street store and they dismissed the online retailer as all price no service. Now, one in every five pounds spent in UK shops is now online. New data from the Office for National Statistics show online sales rose by 15.3 per cent over the past year and now make up for a record high of 18.2 per cent of all retail sales.
And then came social media…
And all of a sudden these online businesses could interact with their customers, create a following and in some cases integrate their online and offline experiences.
This meant that the high street was now fighting for relevance. It had gone from necessity to fighting for relevance in 20 years. Not a long time… but still plenty of time to adapt and learn.
The point being, that the retail success stories of the past 20 years, John Lewis, Argos etc., have embraced the changes, adapted and innovated so that their offering is right for the new way in which consumers want to interact with the high street. The businesses which haven’t, Toys R Us, BHS and House of Fraser as some recent examples have failed.
Set against this backdrop, the high street retailer of today, whether they are one store or 100 stores, has an unbelievable opportunity. They can offer the products they sell online to a much wider audience than previously possible. They can interact with their customers not only in-store but also online. They can drive traffic to their on- or off-line presences through multiple media channels.
The key issue is harnessing this opportunity, to use the correct tools and mediums to get back to being a necessity again. You may be interested in reading our previous blog on “How to create a social media marketing strategy for your business” to get tips on how to use social media for your business.
And, what is more, consumers want the high street to be relevant. Lifeless supermarkets, out of town shopping centres and the web don’t deliver the one thing that the high street (when doing well) can do – and that is an experience. Consumers want this, but they need to know about it and they need to connect with it.
It’s my view that the high street and high street retailers have an amazing opportunity, they need to embrace ecommerce and social media and combine these elements with their in-store experience to give consumers what they want and allow their business to flourish.
In short they need to glue their marketing efforts together.