Total Business Magazine

What Should High Street Stores of Tomorrow Look Like?

The sheer scale of closures, redundancies and bankruptcies of retailers that used to have stores on nearly every High Street is testament to the fact that many customers now prefer to shop online than in-store.

Below Tim Mason, Chief Executive Officer at Eagle Eye Solutions Ltd, discusses the high street stores of the near future.

Indeed, ecommerce sales accounted for 19.5% of total global retail sales in 2018. Meanwhile, year-on-year store sales only grew by a modest 1.6% to $421 per square foot in the same year.1

Amazon was also the only retailer to achieve double-digit growth of 25.3% in 2017 out of the ten biggest in the world by revenue. If it is able to maintain this rate, it will be second only to Walmart, based on 2018 sales.2

So, while retailers are past masters at refining the ‘look and feel’ of their stores, when it comes to fascias, fixtures and fittings, they should be asking: “What should the store experience of the future look like?”

The answer to this, more apt question is easy: it should deliver an experience that both competes with and complements online. Retailers are duty-bound to follow the customer, and the customer is moving online.

This does not, however, mean the end of the store. Consumers will always want the option to try before they buy, where the store is unrivalled for sensory selection.

But even though consumers are increasingly turning to ecommerce channels at various points on their shopping journeys, they are still completing 90% of purchases in a store (i.e. payment and collection).

The store is facing its biggest challenge in the search, browsing and discovery phases of the shopping journey, when seeking out expert advice, customer reviews, price comparisons or complimentary products.

If you consider that Google can help you find and navigate to the nearest store selling a product you’ve searched for, once there, that digital capability ends. Today’s traditional stores are like a digital ‘black hole’.

So, retailers need to equip the stores of tomorrow to be just as digitally enabled and data-driven as their ecommerce counterparts and rivals. They must deliver the same levels of relevance, choice and transparency.

Retailers must ensure their stores can be located in the digital world. There’s no point in having a Google search engine results page (SERP) if the contact and opening hour details are incorrect.

In this way, some of the most powerful ways of competing with online are often also the simplest, especially when proximity will always be a great proxy for relevancy, and certainly meets the need for immediacy.

After digital location comes augmentation, where retailers need to shine a light into stores that are currently digital black holes. Given how wedded we all are to our mobiles, use this connection to augment the store.

Secure public Wi-Fi is the foundation on which to build ecommerce-like capabilities that are accessible in-store, like wayfinding or interactive signage and shelf labels to access recommendations and reviews.

Think of this as a ‘mobile makeover’ that will work far harder than any investment in new fixtures and fittings. The ability to scan-and-go (or pay at table) can also add a layer of convenience that Amazon Go capitalises on.

Once a retailer can digitally connect with customers in-store, they can compete with and complement online by saving the sale on out-of-stocks and offer self-service access to product or service information and offers.

They can also enhance traditional store marketing to flag relevant products and offers that often struggle to be heard given the limited share of voice available with analogue signage and promotions.

In short, the store of tomorrow should offer digitally enabled and data-driven levels of relevance, convenience and transparency. Only then will retailers begin to master how to build winning stores in a digital world.

Omnichannel Retail: How to Build Winning Stores in a Digital World by Tim Mason with Miya Knights, is published by Kogan Page and priced £19.99.

1 Deloitte, Global Powers of Retailing 2019 report

2 Edge by Ascential (2019) Retail sales data estimates and forecasts

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