10.07.2012 High street must go mobile to win back customers

Could mobile phones be the answer to declining retail footfall? Beth Ridgewell blogs.

A recent report on the future of the British high street made for worrying reading.

It revealed that high street stores are now increasingly likely to go into administration and, in just five years time, 4 out of 10 shops will have to close their doors for the last time as consumers cast off traditional shops and opt for online shopping, an increasing amount of which is happening on mobile devices.

Let’s take a look at the current situation for the retail giants:

  • With the huge rental fees that Arcadia is facing for its Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Burton stores, Sir Phillip Green has said that he may be forced to close 10% of his 260 outlets within the next three years.
  • Retail consultancy Verdict Research revealed that, since over half of CDs and DVDs are now purchased online, Game and HMV are currently in trouble while Borders and Zavvi have already gone bust.
  • With the internet seeing so much growth in the sale of electrical goods, Dixons is also being forced to cut its UK stores from 650 to 450.
  • Fashion chains Peacocks and BonMarché both went into administration in January of this year. Peacocks was subsequently sold to Edinburgh Woollen Mill while BonMarché was sold to Sun European Partners, although 224 Peacocks stores and 160 BonMarché stores were still closed.

Contrary to these bleak facts, statistics show an impressive 359% growth in mobile phone based sales of goods in the UK.

To ensure that it is not defeated by ever-advancing digital technology, it is vital that the high street adapts itself to meet the changing demands of social and smartphone savvy consumers.

Instead of seeing this technology as competition that stops people visiting traditional retail centres, the high street must work alongside mobile shopping channels in order to break down the barriers between digital and physical retail.

So how do they go about doing this? A good start would be to follow in the footsteps of Aurora’s Oasis, Warehouse and Coast who have all launched PayPal inStore; a mobile app which allows the customer to pay in store using their PayPal account. Not only does paying with this app improve transaction convenience but it also encourages more engagement with customers as sales assistants are able to move around the store as opposed to being tied to the till.

 

To succeed in getting more feet through the doors, high street retailers should seriously consider using more mobile discount coupons. The great benefit of these is that the discounts are only applied when the customer physically presents the mobile coupon at the till. These coupons are also a great way of collecting customer data and therefore, allowing retailers to send out more offers and store news.

How to tackle mobile shopping may be one manageable issue but with the approaching prospect of a new kind of interactive TV, which involves being able to purchase the exact outfit that is being worn in that exact moment by your favourite celeb with just a click of a button, it’s difficult to imagine what the high street will have to do next in order to compete with such an effortless approach to shopping.

If there is always to be a place for the high street, retailers must get creative to ensure that they are keeping right up to speed with digital technology and using it to encourage people out of their armchairs and into stores.

Read Deloitte’s ‘The Store of the Future’ report in full here.