The digital high street: fact or fiction?

By Cin-Yee Ho, Director of Sales & Marketing EMEA for HiMirror

Technological advances are offering retailers the opportunity to reinvent the customer experience in brick-and-mortar stores and appeal to more consumers. Below we look at the truth behind the digital high street.

What a customer wants, a customer gets

The digital age has considerably influenced the change in consumer attitude and with it the evolution of the shopping experience. The rise of e-commerce was seen by some as a threat to physical stores but has now inspired retailers to consider how they themselves can use technology to transform the high street. The key to this strategy is the need to prioritise customers’ wants and needs. Spoiled by the convenience and low prices of shopping online, consumers expectations are high, and retailers must learn how to meet them if they wish to compete against rivals.

Reports have suggested that personalised shopping experiences are critical to inspiring customer loyalty and the subsequent increase in spending. E-commerce brands have done well in tailoring their content towards customer priorities of personalisation and promotions and high street stores must emulate these approaches. Keeping consumers engaged with targeted and tailored communication in-store should be a critical business goal for retailers.

Technology galore

Retailers must ensure they invest in the technologies that suit their own individual offering and don’t just spend money on flashy new technology. That being said, there have been key technological developments which will help the high street offer a new personalised and engaging experience.

Beacon technology is still in its infancy but is expected to become a handy asset in a retailer’s marketing and communication toolbox. Retailers can send personalised offers and information to customers via a wireless network as they near the store, making it easier than ever to engage directly with customers in a busy store and highlight any sales or new product lines.

Two other big technological advancements include Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) which have the potential to add significant value to the in-store consumer experience. This allows the customer to preview products before purchase, which can increase customer confidence. The technology can also be used as an interactive and digital advertisement of the retailer’s products, which can entice the user to buy more as they shop.

Future promise

This idea of a digital high street is even appealing to e-commerce brands, with some looking to build their own network of brick-and-mortar stores, refuting the assertion that we are living through a ‘retail apocalypse’.

While it must not be ignored that increasing footfall in physical stores does pose a serious challenge to retailers, it is clear that technology can become a valuable asset in helping retailers reinvent their customer experience in-store. It is up to retailers now to discover what technology can help them enhance their brand and stores, as a consequence to keeping up with the digital age.

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