Eqtr @ SxSW 2015, Day Four – eRetail, bricks and more t’ think about

Martin is now in day four at SxSW 2015, discussing the how smart High Street retailers are blurring the lines between physical and digital, creating a virtually-enhanced in-store experience.

Since we entered the dot-com era, the decline and ultimate erosion of the High Street has been much talked about. And given what we have seen over the last seven years, we have seen many town centres shrinking, reporting over 30 per cent of shop units vacant. In fact, the BBC reported just yesterday that the UK High Street is seeing 16 shops closing a day.

And yet, this belies a critical truth – everyone of us still shop in bricks-and-mortar stores, it’s just that the nature of the way we shop that is changing. Out of town is dying, city centres are becoming congested and difficult to reach and our time is ever more precious. Couple that with the onslaught of the discounters splitting up our shopping basket and the omnipresence of sales, our shopping habits are more fractured than ever before.

But the smart High Street shop is investing in bringing our online shopping habits back into the real world – just as we as consumers untether our browsing from the desktop and take it on the road with mobile, so too are the retailers blurring the lines between the online world and the storefront.

From the more modest click-and-collect services being offered by an increasing array of brands through to the more ambitious fully-digital storefronts being offered by the likes of Burberry in London and Rebecca Minkoff in New York, retail is venturing into relatively unknown world of online shopping in-store.

Savvy shop owners are recognising that, rather than be a threat to their existence, the mobile browser can actually empower brands, encouraging users to come into their stores more regularly, experience more products, improve conversion and continue the conversation after they’ve left the store.

eBay’s Healey Cypher offers some real insight in this area, explaining that the High Street can bridge the digital divide through initiatives such as smart digital signage, empowered and connected employees, useful tools and apps for the consumer and increasing digital interactivity in stores.

Whilst many brands may baulk at the potential costs of these approaches, early adopters have already seen improved in-store conversion, larger basket sizes and increased physical loyalty.

So, rather than just speaking to your digital agency about a new website or maybe an app, have a longer conversation about how they can help bring that digital expertise to the in-store experience.