Performance Networks director Will Evans looks at the lessons to be learned from recent High Street failures.
From Jamie Oliver’s restaurant crisis to Debenhams going into administration, Britain’s high street woes are dominating the media and show no signs of slowing down. With the number of shoppers declining at the fastest pace in five years, according to the British Retail Consortium, and the rise of food delivery apps like Just Eat and Deliveroo, thousands of UK storefronts and restaurants are being left empty.
That isn’t to say that people are snubbing eating out or going out to shop. 18.6 per cent of total retail sales are made online (source: Office for National Statistics). That means that 82.4 per cent are still made in person. While online giants are growing, customer demands and desires are changing and they want more of an experience.
The industry won’t stop for you – even if you’re as big a household name as Debenhams or Jamie’s, who both fell victim to the fact that they couldn’t keep up with the changing trends on consumer habits. It’s not easy, and nobody can predict the future, but you can look at trends and adapt – no-one is immune to the digital revolution. So what can other businesses do to avoid succumbing to the same fate?
Real-time offers and feedback
Some people are claiming that the Jamie Oliver chain collapse is down to poor management. One thing that restaurants could do is to embrace real-time feedback. Stop asking customers to fill out their feedback on the link on the back of the receipt when they get home. Ask them to log onto the free wi-fi and do it while they’re still in the restaurant, while they are in the midst of their experience and can remember everything good – and bad – about it. This way, restaurants are much more likely to get a larger pool of data to make feedback and changes that can make consumers happy.
Retailers can also leverage the fact that, according to an Accenture study, 60 per cent of shoppers want to receive real-time promotions and offers in-store, something which department stores, with their huge amount of product offering, could capitalise on and keep customers browsing for longer.
Food delivery services are now just as big a competitor to bricks and mortar food outlets as eCommerce is to High Street retail. While Jamie’s chain does offer food on Deliveroo, consumer tastes have changed. Casual chains and pop-up street food stalls are everywhere. People want experiential restaurants, and street food has risen up the ranks with the rise of the ‘grab n go.’ In fact, according to Kantar, there were a staggering 5m fewer trips to full service restaurants in the 12 weeks to 24 March compared with the same period in 2018.
People are ordering more food to accompany their Netflix night in, and going to restaurants where they can enjoy the experience (and sometimes post it on Instagram). Unfortunately, there is no longer space for thousands of Italian restaurants, and dining out is no longer just about eating and leaving. According to an EventBrite study, 75 per cent of people believe unique dining experiences are worth paying for, from digital menu boards to iPad and mobile ordering.
Predictive analytics are the closest we will get to predicting the future. PepsiCo recently launched its Digital Lab. The suite of solutions teaches businesses how to deploy and identify technology solutions that consumers want, whether that be Facebook ordering or artificial intelligence, it helps them stay ahead of the game.
It’s all about positioning, adapting, and changing. Similarly with Debenhams – it has struggled to follow trends and adapt. The fashion industry is fast evolving and Debenhams effectively stood still, whereas doing something as simple as having store assistants able to take payment at any point in the store could have worked wonders.
Personal service, reimagined
When we talk about user experience (UX), often it’s mostly associated with online stores. But retail and restaurants alike can use digital means to improve their customers’ physical user experience while in store. Many department stores like Debenhams haven’t changed in years and are very traditional in their offering. Their unique selling point – offering many different brands under one roof – has been dampened by the digital age.
These are clothing brands which can be bought elsewhere, so you simply need to give customers a reason to buy from you, and this is where technology merges with marketing. Even if you do offer the cheapest version, you need to shout about it. Tell people before they walk past your stand. Debenhams has always prided itself on its personal shopper service, but the smartphone has changed everything.
Mobiles are changing consumer habits, and businesses need to use this to their advantage. Let customers use their smartphones to scan items for review and provide additional content that can help them on their journey, and even direct them to specific locations where they can find the item. Install beacon technology to register footfall. Using the power of mobile, retailers can send notifications and advertising to their mobile audience, extending the experience of the store and driving engagement that they so desperately need.
Mobiles are the new personal shopper, and department stores need to install the infrastructure and make the investment to allow customers to have this experience.
Make the Investment
It’s difficult to keep on top of growing trends, and the financial aspect of going digital can be a concern, but the benefits will far outweigh the investment costs. Think of Apple – they have stores with interactive elements, store assistants that take payment wherever you are, and are always busy. I rest my case.