Is the Internet the high street store’s friend or foe?

Online shopping is the growth area of retailing, with e-tail sales accounting for almost a quarter of all retail sales. High street stores must choose to innovate or disappear, in this fast paced technology influenced market place. But what can high street stores do to keep pace with online retailer? Can the Internet actually be a useful tool for them to modernize?

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Innovating the high street

• Many customers use the Internet to research the products they want to buy. Once the correct product is identified, customers usually purchase online but could they be influenced to purchase the product at their local high street store instead?
• What factors influence buyers when making a purchase?
o How easy it is to return an item is often an important consideration.
o Returns for online purchases are often problematic if the e-tailer hasn’t given sufficient thought to their returns policy.
o Returning your purchase to the physical high street store is often simpler and a possible reason why buyers research on the internet but buy in-store.

High street retailers need to become Omni-channel sellers.
• Customers can find their products in online searches but have the choice to by the goods online, by phone or by visiting the physical store.
• Some customers may want to see the goods they wish to purchase at a high street store to see if it meets their needs. They are more likely to continue and buy the product from the high street store, if it does.

Click and collect services, where the customer buys online but collects from store, is another way draw customers into the physical store. Once there, they may make other complementary purchases.

Highlighting specific items or trends on the online website of a high street store will attract customers to the store. The goods should be available for online purchase, to avoid missed sales but the promise of other goods featured will make a significant number of customers visit the store too.

Showing items on the website that are only available in store may cause initial shopper frustration but if they are essentials and competitively priced many shoppers will head to the store to buy them.

Seamlessly integrating your online and physical store so that the customer has a great customer experience is essential for profitable business. Using the internet to draw in new business by click and collect and showcasing selective items only available on store are two ways that ensure the Internet is a friend rather than enemy of the high street store.

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