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Going digital on the high street: Part One

In the first of a series of articles, Redberry’s Head of Creative Tim Pelling looks at how digital is shaking up the high street.

Online killed the high street. Well kind of. More realistically it shook it up showing that there are different ways for a retail business to operate.

For a long time there has been a separation of high street shops and e-commerce. Seen as enemies entwined in a battle to the death. But like all the big ‘killers’ (video killing radio, ebooks vs physical books and the ongoing debate over how we consume music) all that happens is a redressing of the balance in popularity and use.

Having recently worked with a major high street retailer on redesigning their digital presence it became clear that on and off line work best in harmony. Utilising the advantages of both to create the best customer experience.

With online you have ease of search and access to up-to-date stock availability. Shops are browsable. How many times have you come out of a shop with something you didn’t go in for? Shops also have the personal touch, the ability to ask someone who knows what they are talking about.

Why not bring all the good things together?

There have been some interesting developments on the high street with online businesses venturing into retail units with great success.

Oak Furniture Land, a dot com business, has been opening showrooms (in units vacated by Blockbuster maybe). With a retail business like furniture it is important that the customer can see, feel, even smell the product before purchase. This is a great example of on and offline working as one.

Beyond online businesses opening shops, there are further examples of embracing the advantages of digital within the retail environment. There are many retail businesses offering free WiFi in store, best implemented where by accessing WiFi you also gain access to useful information, help, shop layout etc.

‘Click and collect’ proved it’s worth last Christmas with lots retail businesses showing huge growth in this type of traffic online and in-store.

Companion mobile apps giving a more in-depth shopping experience. Showrooming happens so why not embrace it?

Looking forward there are a few retail businesses trialing technology like iBeacons. Burberry in their flag ship store have installed RFID tags in the clothing so that when you try it on and look in the mirror information will display on the mirror about the product.

It’s still unclear which high street businesses will and won’t survive in the long term, retail is a cut throat business. Yet it does feel that with a joined up customer-focussed strategy, the high street is in much better health.

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Co-founder of Redberry Digital with over 20 years experience in delivering digital solutions and leadership of teams of creative and technical experts.

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