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Digital innovation 'could rescue the high street'

Dec 17
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Digital innovation 'could rescue the high street'

The high street is still very much alive, suggests a new survey, but retailers need to embrace digitalisation to offer a comparable experience with online shopping.

This is according to a study undertaken by the BearingPoint Institute - entitled 'Will the Pre-Millennials Save Retail?' - which recommends that businesses take the initiative to push ideas out to customers, rather than waiting for the market to lead so they can follow.

Based on the responses of 1,000 consumers across Europe and the US, the report discovered that it[']s not just Amazon and online-only retailers that are threatening the survival and success of high street firms.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents didn't exclusively use either internet or physical retailers for goods and services, while nearly a third (32 per cent) view themselves as fervent supporters of their local shops.

However, less than one in ten (nine per cent) of those surveyed said they would completely abandon physical stores for their online-only counterparts.

According to the report, the biggest threats to the high street are in the control of business owners, such as being too cautious or restrained when it comes down to creating new dynamic experiences for their customers and the risk of moving more slowly than consumers in grasping the opportunities digitalisation can generate.

BearingPoint believes it has identified a critically important 'pre-millennial' generation of shoppers that has significant influence over the future of the pan-European retail industry. This group, which the report describes as "highly-connected young adults", is the first generation to grow up with the internet as part of their everyday lives.

Critically, this category of shoppers accounts for a high proportion of the 59 per cent of pragmatic 'swing shoppers' - those that have expressed no preference between shopping online or on the high street.

Bertrand Clémencin, partner at BearingPoint and author of the report, commented: "More notably, as this group provides little feedback on their expectations on the ideal shopping experience, retailers have to propose new experiences in a language that appeals to them.

"That means moving fast and decisively to take advantage of digital technology in-store, leveraging on smartphones, customer recognition, social sharing, augmented reality, etc using everything possible to drive differentiation."

He believes the winning retailers will be those that can quickly break organisational silos, gain operational agility and bring together physical, online and mobile shopping channels. Businesses should aim to provide customers with a hybrid omni-channel experience, which can consistently deliver the principle of 'whatever suits the customer best'.

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