How the Internet Can Save the High Street

You may well be aware of the recent ‘Portas Review’ (after Mary Portas) which was a Government-sponsored report on how the save the High Street.  It’s a free report which you can view on the Government’s website.  Whilst it recognises that the internet has completely changed the way in which we shop, it doesn’t consider using the internet as a tool for growth and stability.

The majority of people shopping for products and services in High Streets today have access to the internet and can choose whether to purchase online or research products and services to buy ‘in-store’, with ease.  Digital is now a big part of the shopping experience, so you should be using it to your advantage.

How can digital help your High Street business?

UK Digital Marketing Gurus, Econsultancy, have produced a supplementary report considering how digital approaches can be used by retailers to improve the in-store experience and to increase footfall.

It’s well worth a read and reminds business owners that the internet isn’t the enemy.  In fact it can be used in a positive way to drive more visitors into your premises and ensure they have a great in-store experience.  Whether you have a shop selling products or you’re in the service industry (hairdressers, pubs, solicitors, opticians etc) if you’re on the High Street, it applies to you!

To save on the cost of the report (it’s £295) we have distilled some suggestions for you to consider. Whilst not all will be suitable, some can be adapted to fit in with your situation so please feel free to call me to discuss any of them in further detail.

Let’s start with Reserve and collect

80% of UK shoppers have reserved products online for collection in store in the past year.

Would your customers be able to take advantage of this service?  It’s a time saving benefit for your customer and guarantees the product availability before they’ve spent money on car parks and petrol.  You can just put it behind the counter on receipt of an email or phone call if you are looking for a low-tech solution!

Online product research

44% of UK shoppers always research purchases on the internet before buying in store

Only 4% never use the internet for product research

Do you have an online presence and are your products or services listed?  Do all of your existing customers know this?  If you have then make sure that you tell them when they next come in.  You don’t need to offer online sales, but to have a list of your best selling products or services would allow those that do research to see that you offer the product/service locally.  The majority of shoppers would prefer to buy in their local town, rather than travelling a distance if they knew the product/service was available.

Your website

If you do already have a website, it’s important that it supports your physical premises.

Is it listed on Google local?  Does it contain reviews from your existing customers or product reviews?  Do you promote it within your premises?

You should consider offering online vouchers that can be spent in store, or promotion coupons (printable to reclaim in store).  Deals that can only be found on your website will encourage loyalty and are more likely to be shared with friends and family using Social media.

Mobile website

43% of UK shoppers now use smart phones whilst on the move to compare prices and read reviews.

Consider a mobile website or a mobile version of your existing website.  Mobile sites tend to contain much less information, but are focused on getting relevant information to the visitor quickly.  Key product or service information and reviews that are easily accessible could be the difference that causes the customer to buy from you.

 

Some of the suggestions above may feel a little too ambitious but by taking a step back and reviewing your options there will be some appropriate avenues to pursue.  Your business must consider how it can join up online and offline channels to take advantage of the internet which is so important as a choice for your customers.  You need to embrace the internet if it is to help in the battle to save the High Street.

Call me to find out how we can help you to implement any of the approaches above and increase visitors through your door.

(Data above has been taken from the Econsultancy report which you can view here.)

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Vikky Littlewood
I have specialised in marketing in a business environment for 20 years and am a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). I work with companies to formulate their marketing strategy, helping them to achieve the best return on investment.