Revisiting digital on the high street

Marketing Week’s sister brand eConsultancy has this week published a report relooking at Mary Portas’s high street review from earlier this year through a digital lens.


I wrote about the alarming absence of digital in Portas’ report when it was first published. You’d have to have lived in a bubble since the turn of the millennium to not grasp how integral digital is to every aspect of life and the opportunities it has opened up – yet Portas’s Government commissioned report failed to make the link and even suggest the internet was a threat.

EConsultancy’s report, borne out of this absence of digital in Portas’ review, offers more than 50 ways that retail marketers can turn to digital to complement and boost a high street retail business.

Some of these recommendations are the kind of ‘store of the future’ concepts such as interactive mirrors that have been heralded as the next big thing for almost a decade.
While they are technologically possible and being adopted by some retail brands, they’re unlikely to become mainstream for a while.

The majority of recommendations though are easily adopted digital solutions to the high streets problems such as mobile apps and optimisation, in-store WiFi, digital vouchers, social media and click and collect.

What’s most pertinent is that these solutions are not out of reach for small organisations.

Gone are the days when only large scale retailers or organisations could access the latest digital marketing technologies. Technology has democratised so much that an organisation of any size or shape can adopt mobile, digital and social tools to create and experience that lives up to the demanding expectations of consumers.

A good example of a retailer using digital to boost a physical retail chain is Kiddicare. I ventured to Nottingham earlier this week to take a sneak peak at the first Kiddicare superstore being opened since the formerly online only baby wear retailer was bought by Morrisons.

It previously operated one store, in Peterborough where the commerce site is headquartered, but by and large it has been a pure play retailer until now. Starting out in the physical world, it is up against the same challenges that other physical retailers face but Kiddicare has used all its experience as an online retailer to develop a truly multichannel strategy.

It integrates a vast array of digital platforms; mobile, online, geo-location campaign, in store screens, social media and digital point of sale labels, so that its online presence drives people to the store while the store allows customers to use digital channels to make their shopping experience easier.

Customers can browse the range and test products out in-store but opt to buy online and have it delivered. They can use in-store WiFi to read reviews that other parents have left on the site to influence their decision in-store.

Far from threatening the high street – digital used in harmony is likely to be its saviour. It can help drive footfall and getting shoppers in store as well as improving their experience once there.

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