With the UK’s local town centres experiencing a 1.2% drop in visitor numbers in January 2015 compared with a year ago, the debate about how high street shops can continue to attract visitors is being hotly contested once again.
While experts at the recent Future High Street Summit suggested retailers needed to focus on how they deliver collaborative experiences, leisure pursuits and technology to continue to attract visitors, consumers themselves still regularly reference customer service in industry surveys as the unique selling point for visiting bricks-and-mortar stores, rather than shopping online.
However, new research commissioned by Dyn has revealed that, even with the consumer expectations around customer service provided in person, two-thirds of retailer now believe their customers receive the best service online (either website, mobile or app), compared to 25% of retailers who say their best customer service comes from in-store.
And despite a growing interest in joining the high street from large-scale pure-play ecommerce providers including Google and Amazon, the research also states that around 75% of retailers are more optimistic about delivering their products and future service via ecommerce platforms.
96% of retailers expect at least a 25% increase in online sales this year – and half expect online sales will increase by 50%.
Paul Heywood, managing director of EMEA for Dyn believes that retailers’ customer service capabilities are simply mirroring consumer shopping trends, which are leaning considerably on the side of ecommerce, despite the preference over the experience delivered in physical stores.
“Online and mobile shopping is on-the-rise in the UK, providing online retailers with a tremendous opportunity to grow their revenue and global footprint…The research shows that perception among retailers is, in many cases, aligned with what consumers are expecting and experiencing when shopping online and on mobile devices.
“Perhaps the biggest challenge: most retailers don’t have a clear understanding of exactly what’s getting in the way of delivering the fast, easy and secure online and mobile shopping experiences that consumers have come to expect.”
As well as the customer service element, research from December 2014 found that almost half of consumers (45%) prefer to shop in bricks-and-mortar stores because they often fail to find what they’re looking for quickly enough online.