Sections of the UK high street are standing firm against the rise of online shopping

But consumers call for greater technological innovation to be brought in-store.

Research released today by Steria reveals that some sections of the British high street are successfully mounting resistance against the rise of online shopping.  Steria commissioned YouGov to explore the public’s attitudes towards shopping and marketing through a variety of on- and offline channels.

Despite a steady stream of reports pointing to the continued growth of internet and mobile commerce and advertising, the research found that the vast majority of consumers remain wedded to the high street for a significant proportion of their retail needs. Furthermore, there was a clear appetite among the public for technological innovation to be brought into the high street retail experience.

The future shape of the high street

The research provides a revealing insight into the type of shops that are likely to survive and prosper on the UK high street. Recent years have seen a host of high-profile retailers disappear from our town centres with bookstores, music, film and games retailers and consumer electronics stores all suffering.

However, the survey shows that other high street retailers offering DIY equipment, health and beauty or furniture and home wares are more immune to the pressures of internet shopping. There are only a limited range of goods and services that the majority of consumers were more likely to buy online: top among this list were travel (58% of people surveyed), insurance (52%), music (51%), film / TV series (48%) and electronics (39%). In contrast, only 12% of respondents were more likely to buy groceries or DIY equipment online, 13% health and beauty products or 16% furniture and home wares.

Desire for technological innovation on the high street

However, the research did show that, while many consumers still look to the high street to address their retail needs, they would welcome a number of technological innovations to improve the experience:

  • 40% of respondents said they’d like to be sent offers and discounts on their mobile device, online or in-store in real-time (i.e. instantly), depending on the items already in their basket
  • 69% said they’d like loyalty schemes that are more personalised, where rewards and offers are unique and based on their preferences or transaction history'
  • 33% said they’d like the ability to use their mobile as a personal shopping companion in-store (e.g. receiving information on products, promotions, checking previous purchases, etc.)

Importantly, some of these innovations could not only deliver customer loyalty but also additional revenue. A significant percentage of participants said they would shop more at a particular store if it offered the following services:

  • 35% – Click and collect
  • 31% – Locate the products in-store before you arrive
  • 29% –  Build a shopping list online or on a mobile phone with pre-ordered goods waiting for you when they arrive at store

“Despite a number of high profile causalities, today’s findings indicate that there is plenty of life left in the British high street,” said Geraint Evans, multichannel director at Steria.

“While the internet has clearly chipped away at the sales of physical stores, we now know that we are not facing the inexorable march to digital that many predicted. There are many items which consumers still prefer to buy in person, particularly groceries, DIY equipment, health and beauty products and furniture. However, it’s also clear from our research that consumers would welcome innovations brought from the web to improve the retail experience on Britain’s high streets. For a sector looking to re-establish growth in wake of a double dip recession, offering the option of innovative services like click and connect and easy product location could be significant.”