Bringing Britain’s once bustling highstreets back into the digital fore

By Matt Redwood, Head of Self-Service at Diebold Nixdorf. 
 
It’s no secret, the festive shopping frenzy is in full swing! Retailers are still competing to offer good deals and a bargain on the high street, following a 12% drop in the value of Black Friday sales this year compared to 2017(1)
 
 
However, with the rise of social media-driven shopping, mobile shopping apps and even click and collect, consumers have been driven to shopping online purely for convenience. Leaving physical retailers with the only option but to transform their instore experience to capture consumers imagination and attention once again. 
 
Yet, if you walk along Oxford Street today, you will see very few stores enhancing the customer experience and overall in-store journey with effective transactional technology. There, I’ve said it. For every headline you read about magic mirrors in changing rooms, beacons flashing offers at customers, and RFID chips in handbags, there is a bricks and mortar store showing very little technology investment. 
 
Take self-service checkouts as an example – Zara is the only fast fashion retailer on Oxford Street using these as a method of giving customers more control over their shopping experience. But even Zara’s self-service option is relegated to a corner of the shop and barely used, while frustrated shoppers queue for the traditional tills – or worse, abandon the idea of purchasing that latest animal print bodysuit all together.
 
There is common agreement in the industry that experience is connected to new technology (like self-service machines, for example, which are proven to reduce queues and empower staff). So, why has the evolution of technology in fast fashion retail been so much slower than other retail sectors, such as groceries?
 
Just last month it was reported there were forty-two empty shops in Bath. If the popularity of physical stores is declining, retailers must do more to innovate, to drive sales, and therefore ROI.
 
Fast fashion retailers must prioritise the customer journey to survive, and customers must be at the forefront of everything they do. Consumers are already being provided with an easy way to shop online, yet the offline experience has become an antiquated process. It’s time that changed, and the introduction of effective technology will help them to evolve.
 
With such a need for innovation within the fast fashion industry, here are some points for retailers to consider:
  • Get smart with data – record the footfall of customers in-store, and of customers that use additional services such as self-service checkouts, click-and-collect etc. and make use of the data to adjust and personalise services accordingly.

  • Consider customer incentives for shoppers using additional in-store services – why not offer coupons for shopping in store or using instore technology, such as Click and Collect services?

  • Personalise the experience – make product recommendations to consumers based on their latest purchase, to encourage them to return to the store, or to make an additional purchase before they have left the store. This will benefit both the shopper and the retailer.

  • Consider investing in new tech that will entice customers – for example, in its Oxford Street store, has invested in express checkout capability. A round table top is used with a mobile tablet and electronic payment, to speed up the sales process. By using new tech such as self-service or express checkout, retailers have the potential to not only improve choice and reduce queues, but they can also free up staff, so they aren’t trapped behind a counter, and can freely move around the store to engage with customers and drive personalised sales. Retailers could also allow online purchases to be returned using self-service tills to avoid queues.

  • Familiarise your customers with these machines – consumers often don’t register machines in a retail environment, they will often need a prompt, so the support from shop floor staff is imperative as well as good signage in store to indicate there are self-service tills in use.
Retailers shouldn’t assume that if a customer can’t buy something in store because it’s not in stock that they will go onto their website to buy it later. They need to provide interactive technology, so they can make the purchase simply while in the store. It’s a lot easier for a customer to find what they want on a kiosk that uses RFID tags or even bar codes than any manual search functionality on their phone or online. It’s time retailers got serious about innovating in their high street stores. If they get smart with their approach to implementing new technology now, they may be able to drive customers back into their stores.
 

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