The UK has been hit hard by a high street crisis, leaving many of our favourite stores facing closure or, at the very least, turbulent times. Recent share reports show that Marks & Spencer, which has been a staple of British shopping for well over 100 years, is one of the latest to lose value (10%) after a disappointing Christmas sales performance. Meanwhile, online fashion retailer, Boohoo, kept its head above the Christmas slowdown water, instead experiencing a 5% rise in shares as of Tuesday.
In turn, Boohoo has overtaken Marks & Spencer in value, aligning with the narrative that has enveloped retail for at least the last 20 years: online retailers are outshining high street stores.
Retail success is no longer down to price and product quality. Today, consumers are also measuring customer experience, perhaps more so than the purchase itself. Great customer experience is synonymous with personalisation, which is synonymous with data analytics.
Online retailers are in a great position to deliver this, given that consumers leave digital footprints as they browse. In turn, such retailers can gain greater insights into consumer behaviour (as customers as a whole and on an individual basis) to deliver a more personalised, relevant experience. Of course, other factors such as the fast fashion phenomenon do come into play, but ultimately, for retailers like Boohoo, their use of data-driven insights has helped them gain success in the gloomy retail landscape today.
Don’t get mad, get even
Traditional retailers have a number of advantages over digital-native ones. Firstly, you can try before you buy in brick-and-mortar stores. What’s more, customers often prefer to speak with an in-store human than a Twitter account or chatbot in the face of a problem or complaint.
However, digital retailers are still eclipsing the traditional ones, which means brick-and-mortar stores have got to take a leaf out of the online retail books.
Traditional retailers should also consider the potential of collecting data in-store. Collecting customer data can be a bit of a minefield; you want to collect what you can without being too intrusive (or creepy) and without making it a chore for customers to hand it over. Here, we explore some foolproof methods of doing so.
Utilising web analytics in store
Let’s go by the assumption that most high street stores have a digital counterpart. Businesses can use the data collected on their website to build a ‘trending’ or ‘most popular’ section in-store. By putting the most sought-after products in front of customers, it may encourage them to make quick purchases just as they would online.
Loyalty cards are a great way of gathering customer data. Customers can fill out a form upon signing up, meaning they willingly hand pass on their data. Then, once they start using the card, you can gain greater insights into individual user activity. As well as this, companies can collate all the data collected to identify trends and troughs. Simultaneously, you can give customers spending incentives by contacting loyalty card holders with exclusive offers through the email address they may have provided when signing up.
Social media polls and surveys
You can also use social media to encourage people to take part in surveys. Again, this is an effective way to get people to volunteer their information in a non-intrusive manner. This method is highly insightful, particularly if you allow partakers to answer open questions. Similarly to loyalty cards, you can offer incentives such as discounts or prize draws to participants. Thus, it’s a win-win for the business and customers alike.
Brick-and-mortar stores have long been considered the ‘old way’. However, there is no reason they can’t modernise through data and in-house innovation. The more technologically interactive stores are, the better an edge they have. High street isn’t dead, it’s just under construction.
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