Market Insights

How technology in a retail space can change your customers’ shopping experience

The battle between the High Street and online retailers is often portrayed as just that; young, tech-savvy business disruptors versus their out-of-date, analogue rivals. In reality the lines are becoming much more blurred.

21 Jun 2018

Traditional businesses are now incorporating a range of new in-store technologies to win back a public that increasingly prefers the choice and convenience of the internet. But in this push to compete with e-commerce, do bricks and mortar stores risk losing one of the few advantages they still have – the human touch?

The technology fight back

High street brands know they have to adapt in order to survive. Worldpay research found 50% of consumers agreed with the statement “I will leave the store if I have to queue too long”. Also, 47% said that they find shopping in-store “much more stressful than shopping online” – those under 45-years-old even more so. Only 9% said they prefer shopping in-store to online while just 10% said they’d rather be served by people.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that retailers are responding by rolling-out self-service and Contactless payment technology. The value of contactless payments processed by Worldpay soared past £2 billion in 2015. It’s a great choice for businesses with high volumes of low value transactions where speed of service is of the essence, especially at peak times.

Losing the human touch

There’s a clear trend for High Street stores implementing more multi-channel, “technological” shopping experiences for their customers. But there are also concerns. By ramping up speed and convenience to compete with e-commerce stores there’s a real worry that these stores will end up losing the human touch. Shopping isn’t all about getting in and out as quickly as possible and your business may suffer if that’s the kind of experience it pushes its customers towards.

Busy High Street shops which process high volumes of low value sales are likely to benefit most from installing self-service options and Contactless payments, for example. Others, especially those stores which pride themselves on providing a more consultative service – perhaps selling high value items – will find this less suitable.

Best of both worlds

In the end the answer for most lies in that most obvious business mantra: understanding the customer.

Our own research revealed that UK shoppers are increasingly changing the way they shop – making use of their mobile devices to bring online into the High Street store. Some 32% said they “sometimes” or “often” get extra product information in-store, and 28% said they have downloaded app to get a better discount. A further 29% said they sometimes or often “showroom”, or research products on the High Street before buying online.

Put simply, mobile devices can speed service for bricks and mortar stores without sacrificing the personal touch.

Fashion retailers in particular are likely to benefit. According to our research, 62% of UK shoppers enjoy touching or trying on items in-store before a purchase. Yet they also want the convenience and choice offered by online. Freeing up shop assistants to roam the store with handheld tablets will allow customers to browse the entire stock of that brand quickly and easily online, trying on anything they like the look of. Customers can then pay for it there and then or order online if not in stock without ever needing to queue.

High Street favourite, The Entertainer has already invested in hand-held tablet devices where shoppers can browse stock in-store and even pay without ever having to queue at the counter. For the retailer it reduces the volume of lost sales – even if an item isn’t in stock it can be ordered and delivered or picked up at a later date. It also helps cut queues at the till, offering users a faster, and more convenient, almost “online” experience.

The next challenge is to get the message out there. Bringing online into the High Street via new payment systems can help your staff showcase stock more effectively than they ever could before. And these technologies also provide the essential management information you need to run your business better.

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