High street struggles to meet demand of tech-savvy shoppers

Retailers face growing pressure to cater for tech-savvy shoppers, or risk losing out on sales, a new study reveals.

With Black Friday fast approaching and marking the start of the busiest shopping period of the year, new research from Barclaycard reveals tech-savvy shoppers are turning their backs on the high street. As a result, retailers are facing growing pressure to improve their in-store experience, or risk losing out on sales.

The study finds that although half (50 per cent) of Brits still prefer to buy clothes in-store, consumers are turning away from bricks and mortar stores in their droves, with almost four in ten (37 per cent) opting to buy online more frequently as demand for faster service and flexibility soars.

Increasingly busy and tech-savvy shoppers cite lack of time as a primary reason for buying online more often (32 per cent), with the high street falling out of favour due to crowded shops (45 per cent), queues at the checkout (42 per cent) and long waits for fitting rooms (29 per cent).

As a result, almost two thirds (63 per cent) admit to abandoning an in-store purchase – indicating the importance for retailers in improving the bricks and mortar experience, particularly during the upcoming busy festive season.

The future of British shopping: the high-tech high street

To give the high street a welcome boost, the research suggests that retailers need to bring their in-store and online offerings more closely together to create what is known as an “omni-channel” shopping experience. One way to do this is by offering a range of delivery options, such as Click and Collect for items bought online – which 42 per cent of consumers deem as a deciding factor when making a purchase.

In addition, two thirds of Brits (66 per cent) who stated they prefer to shop in-store do so in order to try items on before deciding what to buy, while a further four in 10 (38 per cent) choose to research products online before visiting the high street – demonstrating the enduring relevance of a high street presence and its role in complementing the online shopping experience.

Looking ahead, shoppers call for high-street retailers to introduce new technology to help improve and speed up service. Popular requests include touch screens displayed in stores to check stock availability when browsing (30 per cent), ‘digital changing rooms’ which allow shoppers to try items on through virtual reality (30 per cent) and apps to scan and automatically pay for items without having to visit the checkout (19 per cent).

Sharon Manikon, director of customer solutions at Barclaycard, thinks that time-pressed shoppers crave a personal experience that allows them to take advantage of technology and a high street presence, brought together seamlessly in a way that works best for them.

Manikon adds, ‘To drive sales in an increasingly competitive environment, retailers need to focus on aligning their digital and high street offerings so that they complement each other. By using technology such as payment apps to reduce queues and virtual reality tools that allow tech-savvy shoppers to visualise themselves wearing items of clothing, retailers can lay the foundations to survive and thrive during the busy upcoming festive period and well into the future.’

Further reading on high street shops

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

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