For many years, strolling a bustling city’s main shopping district has been a social event, a place to convene with friends and take in the sights and sounds while doing some window shopping. But the toll online retailers have taken on in-store retailers is making its way to high street shopping districts, which in addition to drastically reduced foot traffic, have seen some high-profile closures in recent years, including Marks & Spencer, which recently announced plans to shutter more than 100 stores over the next 4 years.

E-commerce giants like Amazon have successfully caught the wave of a changing retail environment, establishing themselves as a low-cost, high-convenience alternative to traditional brick and mortar shopping. In the process, these behemoths have actually changed the retail landscape themselves, forcing traditional retailers to re-think their strategy and in some cases completely transform their business models.
Brick-and-Mortars Shifting In-Store, Online Strategies
The competition for retail consumer dollars is stiff and fragmented, with customers having more options than ever before through mobile devices, apps and even social media. The price and convenience factor offered through online shopping are strong temptations, and represent an uphill battle for retailers looking to hold onto their customers and attract new ones. Increased use of in-store technology to make an impression on shoppers can come with a hefty price tag, and some retailers have been reluctant to make that investment, in some cases at their peril.

The push for the new and different has led to some interesting in-store innovations, and retailers capitalizing on the inherent advantages physical space has over online shopping, leveraging their physical space in a way they never had to before. Most successful brands these days are laser-focused on delivering a memorable, personalized and sensory experience to shoppers, and that’s being done through everything from personal stylist services, high-tech in-store displays featuring augmented reality and holograms, and a bevy of bespoke products that customers can create before their eyes.

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Brick-and-mortar retailers have, as part of a multi-pronged competitive strategy, beefed up their own web presences, offering perks like same-day shipping and easy returns in an effort to digitize their operations and offer customers some of the convenience benefits the e-commerce giants offer as a matter of course. But retailers need more than just a slick website to attract today’s shopper with an online presence, apps have become table stakes for brands that wish to remain relevant.
According to TechRadar, a recent report by Visa said November 2017 was the busiest month ever for mobile shopping, and the percentage of consumers browsing and shopping via mobile app only continues to grow. In today’s retail environment, apps can’t be just a bolted-on afterthought. A successfully deployed app doesn’t just provide a platform to buy goods, it nurtures and builds relationships with customers by learning their preferences and making relevant suggestions about products, driving engagement and loyalty.
High-Street Fighting Back
High street stores aren’t slipping quietly into that good night, however. Save The High Street is an industry-led campaign to resuscitate high street shopping, helping businesses find success independently of a digital presence, according to Metro. A focus of the decline of high-street is the loss of that social aspect. In an era where social media and texting have replaced much of our face-to-face interactions with fellow humans, the retail store has lingered as a public square of sorts, where shoppers can interact, in real life, while browsing or waiting in line.
The retail store also offers customers the opportunity to interact with their products that online stores cannot match. The ability to try on clothes, feel materials, smell scents and other tactile or sensory experiences are not (yet) possible through online shopping, so it’s another area brick-and-mortar stores are using to their advantage.
Time will tell how the epic battle between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar will shake out, but longstanding brands are unlikely to simply take their ball and go home in the face of the rising e-commerce juggernaut. The movement to save high-street from fading into obscurity is on, and the future of retail itself hangs in the balance.