The Great Debate UK
–David Green is business development director at GB Group. The opinions expressed are his own.–
High street retail is in trouble; suffering due to factors such as the explosion of ecommerce. Recent studies show that more than one in ten shops lie dormant in the UK and online shopping has undoubtedly had a large part to play in this. But those that turn it into a competition between online and physical retail are missing the point. The companies which will be the most successful are those that can combine a strong online presence with in-store experience.
A recent study from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found that 11.3% of shops in town centres across the UK remain vacant. This is the worst figure since its nationwide survey began. The decline of high street brands like Woolworths, Borders and now Comet show that this is a serious problem. Brands such as ASOS, Amazon and eBay, which exist solely online, are able to save costs on staff and property and through smartphones, tablets and PCs these online stores are increasingly accessible.
Most high-street companies also boast websites, but this is only half of the solution. The companies which have the most success are not just the ones which have websites and in-store presences, but the ones which use the two avenues to build up relationships with their customers and encourage repeat custom. By encouraging registration, whether online or in the physical shop with mailing lists or loyalty cards, retailers can begin to understand their customers. As interactions with customers become increasingly fleeting in a global and diversified online marketplace, businesses must make extra effort to interact with their customers. This is crucial to encouraging brand affinity and repeat custom both online and in-store.