Big brands left out of consumers’ ideal high street

Consumers want an end to predictable shopping destinations filled with the same brands – instead they want the high street of 2025 to offer unique shopping experiences that combine tangible products with the convenience of technology.

Almost half of consumers believe that big brands are responsible for ruining the high street.

According to new research by insight and innovation consultancy FreshMinds in conjunction with Respondi, 46% of people say these businesses are failing to deliver anything new or provide a reason to visit. Furthermore, when the respondents are asked to construct a vision of the high street in 2025, big brands are largely absent.

Almost two-thirds of the 2,000 consumers surveyed (63%) believe that high streets have lost their appeal.

The survery also reveals that more than a quarter (26%) of respondents believe they will shop less on their local high street in the next five years, while 16% believe that everything is moving online and therefore the high street will be redundant in the future.

“Retailers are fighting for consumer share of wallet and the high street will have to do so much more than be another channel,” says Natasha Wallace, director at FreshMinds. “It has to deliver something that is much more of a destination and experience.”

She adds: “If you want to be a successful part of the high street of the future and regain a position of strength, you need to be agile and listen to some of these consumer needs.”

The homogeneity of today’s high street contributes significantly to consumer dissatisfaction with large retailers. A third of those surveyed (33%) believe that it is difficult to find unique products or experiences because they continuously see the same brands.

Pop-up shops are noted as a catalyst for diversity, which could be encouraged by more flexible leases and by the rise in the number of empty retail spaces across the UK’s high streets. Consumers are already buying into the trend with 23% having purchased an item from a pop-up, rising to 38% of millennials (those aged 18 to 34).

In addition, a strong feeling of community will be an essential component of the high street of 2025 as half of respondents (51%) state that they try their best to support local businesses and independent retailers.

Wallace believes that community and collaboration between retailers is the future. She says: “It’s about offering an experience – within the store and on the high street more broadly. It is about acknowledging how retailers can work with other retailers and how they can work with the community to offer that experience.”

The need for a ‘community feel’ is supported by the fact that 29% of respondents shop on the high street for the social experience and 65% worry that without it society will lose face-to-face contact.

The report inevitably also shows that online and mobile commerce will continue to grow, as a quarter of people are shopping more on their tablets and phones compared to a year ago, rising to a third of millennials. Meanwhile, 28% of consumers and 31% of millennials are shopping more on desktops and laptops.

However, consumers still believe there are benefits of shopping in-store that cannot be replicated online, for example touching what they are buying (88%), taking products home immediately (83%) and the spontaneity of walking in to a shop (77%). Almost a third say they shop on the high street at least once a week.

“The in-store experience has to be something that cannot be replicated online, something that speaks to the consumer needs we are seeing of tangibility of interaction, human face-to-face contact and immersive and unique experiences,” says Wallace.

The study suggests that retailers need to adapt to the changing lifestyles of consumers and how this affects the way they shop. For example, 39% of people work in busy and pressured environments and 30% are spending more time in the office. This means that shopping is less planned and high street retailers need to make themselves convenient and available whenever consumers choose.

Technology and innovation are bound to be a part of achieving this, with 29% of millennials having already used a delivery locker and 27% having paid for items using a mobile phone while in-store.

In summary, the high street of 10 years from now will need to be a place where physical and virtual worlds combine in order to meet consumers’ highly personal needs that do not conform to today’s limited selection of brands.


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