We don’t believe the high street is dying, we believe it’s transforming. It’s turning into a new experience in which independent shops have a huge role to play. In verticals where inspiration is key and people still yearn for human contact, independents have the upper hand. Strength in numbers and access to technology will help provide an 11-star customer experience both online and offline.
Over the past two years it’s become clear that a community of like-minded independent creators, who have built beautiful offline experiences and have collections of distinctive products, can thrive when united and given the right technology.
In just 24 months, for example, we’ve generated more than 100,000 orders for our community of shops, with 20 per cent of those purchases coming from Australia and the US, opening up the UK’s best independent retailers to people around the world.
Fostering such communities is not just about buying a product, it’s about discovering product collections that have been put together by people who know best. It’s about connecting with and being inspired by beautiful offline spaces that showcase the latest in design.
Most importantly, it’s about being able to get your hands on that “lucky find” but with the same convenience as when buying from the big online players.
It’s becoming increasingly important to leverage technology across inventory, marketing, customer support and logistics to connect the dots efficiently and bring independents online. By bringing independent high street shops together it suddenly becomes possible to unlock economies of scale that in turn surface the unprecedented competitive potential that these independents have.
Levelling the playing field between independents and chains by deploying technology that works is what the past two years has been all about, and now we’re able to move to the next phase.
We envision a future where machine learning is employed to radically reduce any task-driven workload for independents, whether that is content enrichment, online categorisation or simple customer support resolution. What independents love is the personal contact with customers in their shops and they should be able to focus all their time on that.
We imagine a future where augmented reality is being utilised to extend the high street at home. Where the independent shopper is able to discover products from real shops run by real people and has the ability to build up relationships with the shopkeepers they are inspired by. We envision a future where technology is unlocked for independents faster than the chains, where agility wins over massive scale.
The high street isn’t dying, bricks and mortar shops aren’t doomed and independent shopping is not a thing of the past, despite recent news like the failure of Mary Portas’ “Save the High Street” campaign. On the contrary, such companies have a dominant position to play in a future of retail where stories and experiences really matter.
We just need to ensure that technology is utilised correctly to give bosses the leverage to thrive.
Alex Loizou is co-founder and CTO at Trouva