WorldPay research has uncovered that both consumers (75%) and small business owners (60%) are deeply concerned about the diversity of Britain's high streets in a new study. The payments processor warns that some sectors of independent retailers could become endangered as they struggle to adapt to changing consumer shopping behaviours brought about by technology.
The WorldPay Watchlist analyses perceptions of technology amongst independent high street retailers, as well as the rate at which different sectors are incorporating innovations such as ecommerce, social media and flexible payment methods to address the demands of today's shoppers and capitalise on the opportunities that technology also presents for long-term growth.
According to WorldPay's research, home furnishing stores, arts and craft retailers and bookstores are amongst those at the greatest risk of being left behind and losing their connection to customers as technology changes the way that consumers search for and purchase goods in those sectors. The research also reveals that travel agents and pharmacies are the most concerned about how technology fuelled changes to consumer habits are likely to impact their future business.
Commenting on the findings, Dave Hobday UK Managing Director, WorldPay, said: "Despite technology driving fundamental changes to the way consumers expect to engage with high street stores, shoppers still want independent retailers to succeed. Therefore it's important that small businesses recognise that technology offers them a way to compete with larger rivals on a level playing field.
"The type of change we are talking about is not beyond the reach of small business. We know for example that a quarter of independent retailers don't have a website, while one in ten doesn't take card payments. We're not at the point of no return yet, but retailers need to stop fearing technology and recognise its potential as the key to not only survival, but growth."
Independent fashion boutiques, privately owned hotels and guest houses top the charts of the WorldPay's Watchlist for using technology to stay top of customers' minds. In the fashion sector, this is driven by the progressive use of e-commerce, social media and flexible in-store payment methods like adopting contactless and mobile payments.
WorldPay believes butchers and bakers are likely to become the next sectors undergoing a technology revolution. These business owners have seen shoppers embrace easy payment and delivery services from larger grocery stores and know that they're well placed to keep their loyal customers with some updates to how they provide their services.
Hobday added: "We're already seeing incredible innovation on the high street. What excites me the most however, is the huge untapped potential for small business owners in every sector to embrace technology and reinvent themselves for the modern shopper as part of a diverse and thriving iStreet.
"Our High Street to iStreet campaign is about ensuring every small business owner across the UK has the confidence and support to realise their potential and turn a period of uncertainty and change into one of opportunity and growth."
High Street to iStreet is a national awareness campaign run by WorldPay in partnership with the Association of Town and City Managers to help all small and independent retailers understand how technology can help them run and grow their businesses.
About the research
WorldPay conducted and merged two surveys, 247 responses from the membership of the Association of Town and City Managers and 464 GB decision makers in small businesses from the retail industry by YouGov.
Fieldwork was conducted between 9th April – 5th May 2016. The survey was conducted online