Saving the High Street: How sharing interests is attracting customers in-store

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Why go to the High Street?

As the online shopping experience has become smoother and easier, its a question more and more customers have been asking themselves. Perhaps they need something urgently or want to be sure it’s the right fit. But, these are features of necessity, not desirability. They’re more often than not choosing the High Street option as a last resort simply because there's no way more efficient way to achieve their goal.

Why can’t the High Street have its own complementary value alongside your online retail space?

We recently took a look at the top 20 UK retailers,  to measure their performance in five key areas of providing services in their stores. The results revealed a huge spread between those really making the most of High Street space to offer services and a strong reason to visit stores.

In a perfect world, customers choose to go to your retail space. And if you could inspire them to make that choice, perhaps it would be a source of competitive advantage. It could answer the question of how you beat Amazon by doing something they physically can’t. But to achieve this, retailers really need to think carefully about what they can do that just isn’t possible for its online competitors to copy.

When you sell goods, you share more than just a commercial relationship with your customers. You're both tied to the world of whatever product is changing hands. It's a shared interest that hosts your interaction. And within this is an opportunity for to make the most of retail space and play to its strengths.

More and more retailers are becoming aware of this shared space of interest and using it to offer services or experiences in store that will make customers actually want to spend time there. And more importantly, these experiences leave them better informed and in a position where they want to spend more money there.

For example, Pets At Home customers can now bring in pets for a free in-store nutrition consultation. The relaunched Jessops offers photography classes in its stores. Waitrose hosts a cookery school. Whatever your product, there’ll be something you can provide that tells your customers something they don’t know.

A more active role

These benefits don’t only manifest online or offline - they exist across both. Because you’re playing a card that is hard to copy, it can create value across your brand and be a key step toward a truly joined up online/offline experience.

Remember, customers don’t go to the High Street just because they have no other choice. The High Street still has a key role in our society - and, after a decade of decline, we’re now seeing a new normal emerge. People specifically go shopping, they specifically go out to meet friends, catch up and relax in public. They actually want to spend time and spend money.

Contrast this to online shopping (where the aspiration is often to save time and save money) and you’re looking at a customer with a different mindset. So why do many stores still just try and force their visitors through a glorified stockroom as quickly as possible?

Another finding of our research revealed that the highest scoring category for the top 20 UK retailers was the expertise of their staff. In almost every store, we encountered well informed and enthusiastic talent. But again, almost every store didn’t create any way for members of the team to provide value beyond basic product advice.

By contrast, the high scorers like B&Q unlocked the talent of their employees by offering DIY sessions - a simple way to create a new revenue stream based on their expertise and matching customers’ expectations. Why waste such talent? Or to put it another way, why continue to waste it as many are today?

The future of the High Street, and the future of the customer relationship, will be built on a shared ground. But until companies take a more active role inviting their audience to join them on that ground, they will be left, alone, while competitors reap the benefits.

Glenn Shoosmith is CEO and co-founder of BookingBug.

About Glenn Shoosmith

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