The retail industry has been on shaky ground for a number of years now, ever since the introduction of the now-commonplace e-commerce websites. With a wider selection of products, usually at a lower price, available online without the need to shift out of your pyjamas and head outside, it’s no wonder the digital high street has fared so well. In particular, fashion shoppers are loving the online world, with the sector making up almost a third of online purchases in the UK.
So, how can the physical high street stores adapt for this? Is there a future for ‘offline’ stores?
The industry at present
High street stores have been struggling through so many challenges. In the last twelve months, approximately 87% of UK consumers have bought at least one product online – with online sales increasing 21.3% in the year 2016, and forecast to increase by 30% by the end of 2017. Consumer buying patterns have shifted a great deal. Consumers are choosing to shop in their spare time, usually on an evening or during the night, making it difficult for retail high street stores to compete with their limited shopping hours.
There are so many perks to online shopping, with offerings such as speedy delivery and high competitive prices. The need to physically try before you buy is fading away. This is influencing the success of high street stores – driving some of them into the ground.
The running costs for an online store are also significantly less than offline. If online retailers are taking away sales from the high street, it’s no wonder that new companies are choosing to start online, and existing fashion giants are starting to make the transition to digital.
Is digital the future?
Now more than ever physical stores need to look to the digital world. That’s right, the future is digital for the retail industry. With many big brands already marking their territory online, smaller brands need to consider digital if they are to stay in the game. High street retail, made with bricks and mortar will be no more – the technology revolution is here and it’s time to make the transition.
There are many stories of brands finding success without a physical presence on the high street. Many of which have found success solely on online platforms, using e-commerce websites and social media apps to drive business – with big high street names following in their footsteps and favouring digital platforms over high street stores.
The digital world is home now to some of the biggest high street stores, with the likes of premium brands like Trilogy Stores and CT Shirts enjoying the benefits of the platform. Customers appreciate the convenience of e-commerce and the beauty of being able to shop whilst sat at home, on their sofa, in their pyjamas – they aren’t limited to certain shopping hours, such as 9-5pm in a store.
The impact of social media
Social media has its own power and influence over retail, particularly when it comes to fashion and trend. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have become essential marketing tools for fashion retailers, evolving from catwalk shows and big shop window displays, retailers now capitalise via their social media profiles.
Brands can be promoted not only through the retailer’s profile, but through other channels within the social media world too. The fashion industry is extremely competitive, and social media apps have provided a platform to help brands stand out from their competitors. Instagram in particular, has over 700 million active monthly users, with over 40 billion photos shared. With this in mind, the app has become a platform whereby celebrities, public figures and social influencers are used to endorse a brand’s product, guaranteeing a certain level of exposure and success depending on how many followers they have.
Look at Kendall Jenner, with her 99.1 million follower count on Instagram. When she is asked to endorse a product, or be the face of a brand campaign, she is securing exposure to all those 99.1 million followers – guaranteeing more exposure than most other forms of marketing. This then encourages users to redirect to the brands profile, or their website – if one picture can reach millions of people, then isn’t that more successful than a shop window display?
As the face of denim designer PAIGE jeans, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has a follower count of over 8.6 million. Therefore, the fashion brand is guaranteed exposure to those 8.6 million followers with every picture that Rosie posts on her Instagram account – tagging the brand in each photo. Fashion brands know that the success of a campaign can be influenced by the level of followers the endorser has. Using a celebrity endorsement encourages a certain level of user engagement.
What the customer wants
In order to keep their customers, surveys show that going digital is key. When it comes to customer service, interactions across social media app, Twitter, has increased by 250% in the last two years. Customers are looking for a service which reduces their effort is quick and convenient. Is social media the answer? With over 32% of respondents, in a recent survey, admitting that phone and voice communication is the most frustrating customer service channel, it’s no surprise that social media has become one of the most popular customer service channels. Customers want a quick response rate, without the need to wait in line, or on hold. Social media provides a platform for customer communication, and with the opportunity to offer quicker responses, this could equal higher willingness for customer spend.
If you’re looking to go digital, creating a social media account for your brand is a good place to start. For high street brands to remain, maybe it’s time to take the plunge and secure your presence in the digital world.