For some time, we’ve been hearing about the decline of physical retail, spurred on by the digital age and our growing preference for the online marketplace. In the 10 years between January 2010 and January 2020, for example, the UK lost over 50,000 shops.
Despite that, physical retailers still hold much of the market share. And there remains plenty of opportunity for physical retailers to set themselves up for renewed success. One such opportunity lies in the very thing that’s blamed for their decline – digital technology.
It’s almost impossible for online shopping to replicate the most experiential elements of buying something in-person. For this reason, physical retailers should play to their strengths while also exploring how digital technology can give customers the best of both worlds in-store.
Take Amazon as a case in point. Its Amazon Fresh brand has launched its first till-less grocery store in London, which sees shoppers simply scan their phone on entry and receive a bill automatically on departure – without a need to scan products individually. This ‘effort-free’ mode of shopping, however, relies extensively on technology and connectivity, with hundreds of cameras and sensors working seamlessly.
Other retailers have focused on transforming their fitting rooms through the use of augmented and virtual reality. Imagine being in a fitting room, putting on a jacket you like the look of and being able to change the colour or size in the blink of an eye. That makes life easier for the customers, but it also saves time, allowing more people to make use of the changing room and thus generating more sales.
Technology can also be used to encourage passers-by to step inside through interactive window displays, as Ted Baker has shown to great effect.
Perhaps most importantly, retailers can use digital tech to better understand consumer behaviour. By harnessing data, they can make informed decisions such as what merchandise to prioritise and how to lay out the store to encourage sales or make them more profitable. Stock levels can even be tracked, helping keep unneeded stock to a minimum and saving money on warehouse space.
These are just a few of the opportunities presented by digital technology for the high street. And while the cost of some of these technologies may be prohibitive for now, that will change as the tech becomes more ubiquitous – meaning it won’t just be major retailers who can reap the rewards.
However, data hungry technologies need connectivity they can rely on – without that, any positive customer benefits could easily be undone by a glitchy experience. They need the best possible digital foundation which is why CityFibre is building a new full fibre network in Portsmouth.
Designed for the digital age, full fibre networks use 100% fibre optic technology to carry data at light speed all the way from the home to the point of connection – a pristine open highway with no bumps in sight. This gives users consistently faster speeds, near limitless bandwidth and connectivity you can depend on.
Most importantly for retailers, full fibre underpins 5G connectivity, which will be crucial to their ability to adopt cutting-edge technology and encourage shoppers to flock to the high street. Think of it as a high-capacity public wifi, connecting consumers with digital tech in shops, restaurants and on the streets themselves, and creating an experience that just can’t be matched in an online-only world.
So whether it’s friction-free shopping, interactive displays or smart fitting rooms, full fibre and 5G helps to power all of these advances. To find out more about the work that CityFibre is doing in Portsmouth to provide full fibre, please go to cityfibre.com/your-street.
Now, who’s for some retail therapy?