The Evolution of the High Street Retailer

Since the start of the year, each week see’s another high profile brand reporting ‘challenging trading conditions’ and a number going out of business. Bricks and Mortar retail is no-where near dead, but it is evolving at a considerable rate. Your strategy needs to include having an Omni Channel presence and in this blog we talk about what that means.


Is Brick-and-Mortar dead?

Despite what many believe, brick and mortar retail is not dead, its evolving. Recent surveys undertaken by senior analysis have shown that across multiple demographics (Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and Seniors) two thirds of consumers who purchase online use a physical store either before and after transaction.

These days, consumers have access to smartphones and tablet devices, which gives almost instantaneous access to information prospective buyers may want to know, such as, reviews, prices or even product specifications. On average, consumers spend between 10 and 15 hours per week researching products or services on smart devices. In fact, a massive 82% of these consumers completed their purchase in-store, despite starting their journey from a digital medium. (Stat’s taken from and

Why is this so interesting?

Well, with the current Retail Crisis on the High Street a lot of blame is being attributed to the growth of sales through online channels. Yet, what we are seeing is that consumer’s still see physical stores as important. We could theorise that most consumers are finding comfort in the traditional values, i.e. a friendly face, trust and even being able to touch and feel a product before buying.

Whist it’s a positive direction for retailers, it needs to be said that embracing multiple channels really is the key to success.  A synergy of these channels will improve accessibility, visibility and, in-turn, improve the likelihood of engaging with prospects. It’s already been identified that consumers prefer to use online mediums to research, before ultimately going into-store for the final stage of purchase. So, now is the time to adopt the Omnichannel strategy.

Even large conglomerates such as Amazon and eBay are acknowledging that shoppers want the best of both worlds, so they are rolling out popup stores to meet this demand. Not only this, they are going one step further by implementing a true mix between digital and physical mediums to improve the shopping experience for clients.

Ideas for running an Omnichannel store

Offering consumers offline and online services is the direction brick-and-mortars should look to improve their retail sales, there are numerous forms of these service, such as click and collect and in store pickups/ returns. Here are some ideas of offline and online services big brands use, to enhance the customer experience and path to purchase.

  1. Use of tablets for customer service – when a customer is looking something a bit more specific but they can’t find, using a tablet device to input information about the product can help identify if the product is in stock. With the option to order in from the online store on the customer’s behalf.
  2. “Seek and Send” – used by Oasis, customers shopping online oasis make it easier to source out of stock items and find the nearest store with the product in stock and ship it to the customer.
  3. Multichannel customer service access – Brands like Nike, Microsoft, Amazon, Vodafone allow customers to contact support through their phone, email and even live chat. Nike use social media accounts specifically set up to take care of customer support.
  4. Using an App – Stores like Tesco and ASDA use apps to allow customers to build shopping lists, either at home or in store. Using the product data base to show customers the cost of their next shop before they even get to the counter.
  5. Drop off Lockers – Used by Amazon their serve lets customers pick up their items from a self-service facility. Allowing customers to pick up items while they are out, instead of missing their home delivery.

Taking the guesswork out of retail

Bounie and Gille estimated that the world produced 14.7 exabytes of new information in 2008, nearly triple the volume of information in 2003. That was nearly 10 years ago. For many CEO’s, finding the answers to the challenges they are facing like;

  • What promotion should I do next?
  • What products to shoppers love the most?
  • Or what are the stores peak hours?

Are no longer based on guesswork, the answer is customer data. Paying attention to your Store’s analytics and reports will help your business grow.

Offline retailers can now track customer movement in the same way e-commerce sites do. Brick and mortar analytics can be implemented thought these solutions;

Mobile Tracking

Devices equipped with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth emit a unique code, this code or MAC address can be logged by sensors whenever a phone has Wi-Fi or Bluetooth turned on. This will allow stores to track the moments of customers and identify where they go, how long they spend in aisle, where they go after viewing an item and how long they spend at checkout.

Tracking can also give details on a pattern, these look at a customer’s movements or are they a repeat customer (this form of tracking does not include any of the customer’s personal data). By using the insight of tracking retailers will be able to make improvements to stores, though staff position, product arrangement or retail equipment positioning.  

People Counters

This analytical tool is used to measure a stores foot traffic. For some retailers, there may be stores in different locations resulting in different foot traffic for each store. By analysing trend for each branch, retailers can be given insight into what potential marketing strategies to use but also staffing. The data can help with planning staff rotas, to ensure a healthy customer to staff ratio, as well as putting the best staff on the shop floor at peak times.

This tool also helps retailers to understand the impact of its window display. Analytics can help determine which window merchandise brings in more customers.

Online Coupons

The use of online coupons help to provide retailers information on which coupons brought in the most customers, based on the number used at check outs. The use of online campaigns seen on social media can provide data showing how many consumers clicked on the link and then how many consumers used the coupon at the store. Retailers can identify through individual stores which social sites were driving the most traffic and when was best to push content.

So, how can you put data to work in your store?

Retailers should look to be more aware of their sales and inventory, by looking into a stores analytics and data retailers can determine what are the top sellers, most profitable items, peak hours etc. To look into more detailed data retailers could use in-store analytic solutions. These tools can be chosen to fit the need of a retailer.

Retailers should look to collect information based on what they need, this could be how long a customers is in the store, the average shop time across a particular time or say, which parts for a store do customers visit the most, where customers live in relation to the store as well as a cross store comparison.

Once the data is gathered, retailers must produce it in a format that can be analysed, for example the waiting time at one store could be slower than the industry average. This comparison can then lead to stores looking at their checkout process to find ways to make it more streamline. A retailer may wish to know which part of their stores are getting the least foot traffic, by presenting data that is easily analysed retailers can identify where the foot traffic is lowest and what action should be taken.

Using data to personalize customer experiences

Using data gathered retailers are able to provide customers with a more personalised experience. With e-commerce stores knowing if a customer is new or existing will impact what information they receive. With the use of data collection through mobile and social media retailers can send information to these customers providing them personal offers or informing them about new products.

So what should you do ?

So going back to our opening position, brick and mortar retail is not dead, its evolving. What you should consider is how to look at the bigger picture and ensure that firstly you have both an online and offline presence and then ensure that they are connected. Expect your customers to have researched your products online and also have done a price comparison before they come to your store. Lastly, ensure that your sales team are competent enough to be able to deal with this in terms of knowing your online assets and also aware of your competition. It should be part of your commitment to delivering excellent Customer Service to ensure your team are digitally capable.


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