The high street of the future
At O2, we have a keen interest in the future of the high street.
And as a high street retailer, one of the things that’s front of mind for us is how we can rise to the challenge of changing retail environments.
As we all know, those challenges are very real. Hardly a day seems to go by without news of another famous name disappearing. Or yet another set of figures published showing the seemingly inexorable rise of spend online.
Yet, as we discussed at the 2019 O2 Blue Door conference, behind the statistics and headlines, there is a future for the high street.
The high street fights back
By embracing high-tech techniques, the high street is evolving.
Fashion giant JD Sports for instance, has re-invested in its physical stores, with remarkable success. Their strategy of ‘smart stores’, has maximised in-store product availability thanks to a highly efficient purchasing system. Not only that, but they’ve also heavily invested in the ‘theatre’ of retail, making their stores the kind of places people want to hang out…social hubs if you like.
Burberry have taken a different tack in an outstanding example of a retailer going omnichannel rather than splitting physical and digital. Working closely with Apple, they’ve become the first luxury brand to have their own bespoke instant messaging system similar to WhatsApp. Store staff can invite a VIP client to chat, send emojis, exchange photos and even arrange store visits. And clients can buy whether they’re catching a flight or idly watching Netflix.
We heard at the O2 Blue Door conference that these brands have realised that to be successful on the high street, retailers need to think about what value they’re creating for the customer. What would make a trip to their store worthwhile? Why would someone travel to their store rather than just ordering products from home? What would enhance the brand for the customer?
From shopkeeper to entertainer
The simple answer is entertainment. The one thing stores do have over online is a physical presence and they can use that space as a stage to entertain the customer. To use a familiar phrase, to ‘surprise and delight’ them. Customers might pop in to buy a pair of sneakers but the quality of the service means they’ll leave with two pairs and smiles on their faces. Then they share that experience on social media.
The overriding message is that the high street needs to learn to work with online to deliver best possible customer service, regardless of the channel.
Because that’s how the high street will thrive for years to come.