Can the High Street Still Thrive in a Digital World?

In the not too distant past shopping only existed on the high street. As access to the internet has moved on from what seems like the dark ages of dial-up to a culture of being constantly connected with mobile devices, online retail has seen huge growth. How can the high street survive increasing pressures of this digital culture?

Online Shopping in the UK

According to Econsultancy, ‘Online retail sales are predicted to reach £52.25bn in the UK this year, a 16.2% increase on 2014’. They also report that on average, consumers in the UK are the most frequent online shoppers in Europe. This has undoubtedly had an effect on the high street and retailers have had to adapt keep up with this exponential growth. Many have decided to create an online offering as well as their bricks and mortar shop floors.

Despite this, the high street continues to survive and draw a crowd proving that we should not underestimate the personal and social benefits of traditional high street shopping. Whilst online retail offers convenience and a time saving to consumers, shopping on the high street can offer quality, experience and service. In terms of price, many small to medium retailers will struggle to compete on price with the likes of Amazon due to buying power and the overheads of running a high street shop. So instead, business owners have to focus on giving advice and selling a high quality product.

Creating an Experience

Retailers today realise that their high street offering needs to focus on the overall experience, the expert knowledge of their staff and the benefits of being able to see and feel products before purchasing them.

More attention to detail has to be taken to provide a memorable shopping experience on the high street. Everything from the shop front, the decor, layout and the staff need to contribute to an experience that benefits the customers and makes them feel like they are getting a quality service and product.

A shop front needs to be unique and inviting to potential customers, which includes the branding and signage, products in the shop windows and the windows and doors themselves. Inside a shop needs to offer a space which shoppers feel inclined to spend more time in, which displays the products effectively. There is also the opportunity to do something unique that an online retailer can’t offer, such as testing stations, interactive features, bespoke fitting rooms or personal shoppers.

The Future is Bright

The high street retail sector has survived a harsh economic downturn in recent years and despite many casualties it has recently started to recover and grow again. The main winners being the businesses who differentiate themselves from their online competition. The high street will always offer something that you can’t buy online – human interaction.

Whilst the threat of huge competition on price and convenience from online retail is not going to go away, high street retailers must remain positive that they can offer something unique with added benefits and capitalise on this.