Posted: Thu 19th Mar 2015
A recent report into high street performance found physical traders could add millions to their collective bottom line if they were to embrace the digital world - and their tech savvy customers.
The Government-backed Digital High Street Report 2020, suggests independent retailers should be offered access to a one-stop 'digital lab' where they can learn how to harness technology in order to stay relevant to today's shoppers.
The recommendation comes as the Local Data Company revealed statistics that the creeping shop vacancy issue that has long-dogged the fortune of our beleaguered high street, has at last begun to wane.
It found the average vacancy rate was 13.3% in the second half of last year, down 0.8% on the same period a year earlier, and well below February 2012's 14.6% peak.
Good news - and what came out loud and clear from the Digital High Street Report was that those that are left must innovate. It also recommended that infrastructure such as broadband, mobile and wifi were crucial to underpin this retailer revolution.
Centralised high street labs, offering to up-skill retail entrepreneurs, should offer dedicated town-by-town digital skills training and crucially the whole lot should be measured by a new UK High Street Digital Health Index, the report said.
Gone are the days when it was enough to offer a flagship high street brand like M&S or Debenhams to attract customers to the high street. The digital world has redefined the way we shop, and importantly what the word convenience means in this context. The report suggests 'integrated digital and high street services, like ecommerce channels, parking apps, extended hours and click and collect to help the high street elevate its convenience.'
The boundaries between shopping, services and events will be blurred in the future, the report predicted. 'People are drawn by the offer of connections whether via high street services, public services, community activities, entertainment or special events. With the help of digital tools, engagement can reach a new standard harnessing online, in-store, mobile and social platforms.'
Pop-up shops, street markets and mobile trading will all feature heavily in the future high street, while remaining authentic and faithful to local history and culture.
So will big data, mobile wallets, omni-channel retailing and in-store experiences. We can't wait.