New LDC data: what are the implications for online retail with UK shops sitting empty?

New data from the Local Data Company that has shown Britain’s high streets, shopping centres and retail parks have the highest number of empty stores in five years. What does this mean for online retail? Can technology help? Michael Schirrmacher, Managing Director UK, Bloomreach, offers his thoughts…

This new data won’t surprise brands and retailers operating in the UK, but it does offer food for thought. With independent stores flourishing despite this tough climate, we shouldn’t explain this away as solely down to cheaper rent. There’s a reason they’re getting enough custom to expand. Shoppers still head to the high street for the personal experiences they can’t get online. Brands should consider if they can do more to give their customers the tailored experiences they crave online – whether that’s through personalised homepages, remembering the customer’s interests, or displaying relevant items.   

With Britain’s retail space going through a transition, brands and retailers also need to evaluate the purpose of their physical stores. It might be that they are a delivery mechanism, or maybe they are simply part of the broader marketing mix – a physical presence to increase brand consideration. These considerations stem from the reality that today’s fickle shoppers are causing a lot of confusion for the retail industry. Which promotional channel should they prioritise? 

Should they invest in new technology rather than staff to man empty stores? Is Instagram shopping set to replace websites, mobile apps or the high street? The answer isn’t black and white. All these channels are part of the new shopping experience. For retailers, the real challenge is to identify new ways to manage the experience and build new, strong ties with the omni-shopper. Data can help here, connecting the dots between different touchpoints and giving customers the personal experiences that drive brand loyalty and retail sales.

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