‘Digital will save the high street’

Digital is the answer to end the high street’s recent precipitous run of form, according to a report from Marketing Week’s sister brand Econsultancy – a view that flies in the face of Mary Portas’ Government-commissioned high street review, which omitted the digital integration from its recommendations.

Greggs Instore Wifi
Greggs: uses instore WiFi to encourage customers to visit its official site

Econsultancy’s “How the internet can save the high street” report recommends several ways retailers can increase footfall and improve their instore experience by using digital tools.

It follows The Portas Review, which was released last December and outlined recommendations such as introducing free parking, the creation of a National Market Day and reducing rates for new businesses in order to drive more shoppers to town centres. Retail commentators noted, however, that digital was only referenced three times in the report, despite consumer shopping trends shifting towards ecommerce and mobile devices.

The Econsultancy report advises that retailers’ websites are the key destinations to drive footfall, as 96 per cent of shoppers use the internet for research before buying products offline and almost a third (32 per cent) of shoppers in the UK have used their mobile to locate a retailer’s nearest store.

Online vouchers and coupon codes can also incentivise shoppers in-store, but the report warns retailers to “do the maths” before launching a campaign to ensure it can fulfil demand. Allowing customers to redeem vouchers by mobile can also be a tool to encourage footfall from shoppers who were not originally intending to visit a store, but are looking for bargains on apps like Vouchercloud, Groupon and LivingSocial.

The report says using Google Places for business can also help retailers increase their visibility among smartphone users. Google’s “Click to Call” service can help retailer’s mobile ads stand out. Starwood Hotels and Resorts in the US claims a combination of this format and location ad extensions resulting in a 20 per cent increase in mobile bookings month on month.

Retailers on tight budgets as well as large brands should use social media to provide more of a personal touch and add local content, the report suggests. It advises retailers to include a strong call to action on their signage, provide exclusive social media offers and to add humour to tweets and updates in order to increase engagement.

Digital tools should also be used to improve the in-store experience, according to Econsultancy, with mobile continuing to play a predominant role.

Free in-store WiFi, QR codes, barcode scanners, kiosks and iPads for in-store ordering and interactive mirrors are among the suggestions for retailers to embed a “wow” factor to encourage consumers into their stores and also help to increase the amount of products they purchase.

To read the full report click here.

You can hear more about the report and about how to join up online and offline marketing strategies at Econsultancy’s Jump London, which takes place on 10 October 2012.