Could a Digital Transformation Revive the High Street?

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Could a Digital Transformation Revive the High Street?

By Mustafa Khanwala - 02/08/2019

Over the last 12 months, it seems online shopping has continued its strong growth, while more and more high-profile retailers face up to difficult trading conditions on high streets and in shopping malls around the world.

However, there’s absolutely no denying that the High Street still offers inherent qualities that online shopping hasn’t been able to replicate – the pleasure of genuine shared experiences, the empathy and emotion of interpersonal relationships and one-to-one knowledge sharing. In short, the human touch.

In fact, it might seem counter-intuitive if you read the news headlines, but shopping in-store is actually on the increase. A recent PWC report found that 44% of consumers said they shop daily or weekly in-store. What this same report found is that “experience is everything” – what customers really want is the human touch, enhanced with the efficiencies of digital technology.

What’s more, it seems that as human interaction becomes more scarce, people value it more – as 75% of those surveyed believe that as technology improves, they’ll want to interact more with a real person.

The problem is that High Street stores clearly aren’t getting this right at the moment. The same report found that 59% of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. So how can High Street retailers harness the power of digital and combine it with the personal touch to create an irresistible combination for shoppers?

Plugging the data black hole

One of the biggest disadvantages that High Street retailers face versus their online equivalents is the amount and quality of data they have access to. Online retailers know what their customers view, what they put in and take out of their basket, how long they spend browsing, how frequently they visit. Most High Street stores have a data black hole when it comes to insights like this.

Smart retailers use this data to create a much more personal experience, with tailored communications and based on each individual customer’s shopping habits. Customers have become so used to this level of personal experience that they now expect it from all their shopping transactions. So, embracing technologies that allow them to collect, harness and utilize data in a similar manner from in-store visits will allow High Street retailers to transform their marketing, and create a personalized customer experience that is scalable.

Harnessing digital solutions

Another way that online shopping currently trumps in-store is the amount of information customers can access about a product – with a click of a button shoppers can not only get all the specifications for a product, but also the reviews of other like-minded shoppers.

However, studies show that 83% of consumers in the UK carry a smartphone while they shop, so this same information could be at their fingertips even while they are in store. Digital solutions such as MishiPay have been developed to help retailers with this, allowing shoppers to scan the barcode with their smartphone and access all the information they need. If they are happy with what they have seen they can checkout with a tap of their smartphone, but when they do need more information or advice, in-store staff are freed up to help, creating an experience that’s the ideal mix of tech and human interaction.

Utilizing digital also enables retailers to make the very most of their available floorspace. At a time when soaring rents and rates are in focus, it's clear that more efficient use of every available square foot of retail space is vital. Again, mobile self-checkout can be used by shops to be more efficient, as it enables retailers to reduce their checkout space, giving them more space to utilize for stock storage, experiential development and display experimentation.

The challenge is that lots of the world’s most famous retail brands have been established for so long, they lack the ‘digital DNA’ of many of their younger competitors. However, there’s no denying that digital transformation could be the tool that can help to revive their fortunes. What’s key to its successful implementation is that retailers must first focus on understanding their clients and what they want not only today but also in the future, and then use digital to help give it to them – without losing the all-important elements that still make shopping a favorite leisure activity for millions of people around the world.

-Mustafa Khanwala is the founder and CEO of MishiPay, an award-winning British company whose “Scan, Pay, Leave” innovative technology enables mobile self-checkout, so in-store shoppers can simply scan, pay and leave without having to ever wait in a queue. For more information go to www.mishipay.com