Opinion

What does 2013 hold for the high street?

4 min read

13 December 2012

What does the next year hold for "offline" retailers?

The recent decline of once dominant electrical chain Comet has prompted questions about the future of retail, in particular that of high-street stores.

While e-Commerce and “connected shopping” have steadily risen, the rapid evolution ofconsumer technology has put many retailers on the back foot ascustomers adopt new technology significantly faster than most largeretailers can implement it.

In contrast, online retailers such as Amazon and start-ups Fab or Made.com quickly capitalise on the gap left in the changing market. With UK smartphone ownership at nearly 60 per cent and rising, the mobile shopping trends look set to accelerate.

It is widely accepted that show-rooming is an increasingly common consumer habit but it can prove difficult to track. Retailers cannot easily know how much business is being lost through customers ordering online after viewing in-store. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to isolate the reasons why consumers are choosing to buy online rather than in store.

Consumers’ impatience for change along with a new found power of choice; high-street retailers’ inability to adapt to the rapid pace of change, and online retailers reacting quickly to changing shopping habits, has created a perfect storm for high-street retail, which threatens its very existence.

Not realising the extra benefits of online offers, such as free delivery, seven-day return policies and wider product ranges, continues to cost retailers dearly. A key reason for this loss is the fundamental disconnection between businesses online and high street retail operations. Customers are forced to connect the two, creating a possibility for consumers to experience a change of heart on a product between browsing and purchasing.

However, solutions, such as slow lead time, are available to address the traditional challenges of rolling out new channels for large retailers. Agile enterprise grade, API driven cloud-based platforms, such as MESH by One Iota, enable companies to drive multi-channel without the time, expense and hassle of replacing existing systems. This integration point provides access to SmartPod, an in-store technology solution to in-store commerce.

New, integrated multi-channel in-store kiosks now allow retailers to bring e-commerce and their entire range to the in-store environment. The option of purchasing in-store with home delivery significantly reduces the time, whereby a sale could be lost or a cheaper alternative sourced.

2013 will see the launch of SmartPod mobile and tablet, a mobile POS and assistive selling solution. Store staff will be given the ability to assist customers and check them out anywhere in store with frictionless payment. With easy integration onto existing systems, these solutions can be implemented in a matter of weeks and the investment can be repaid in an extremely short timescale.

Retailers who do not take quick action on these technologies are losing sales to online. Attempting to launch long-term roll-outs for five years in the future does not address the challenges of today. Within that timescale, the more agile providers will have developed even further still as these developments are not standing still and are only set to increasingly evolve.  

Damian Hanson is CEO of One iota.