Identifying New Revenues Due to Changes in the High Street

For many years now, analysts and industry experts have been sounding the death knell for the high street and the ascendance of ecommerce to the retail throne. And while it's quite possibly true that things may be heading in that direction, it's certainly too soon to count brick and mortar out yet.

The high street presently outsells ecommerce by up to 20 to one — depending on the sector — but it's predicted that will all change during the next decade. Within that time, it's thought that ecommerce sales will account for 53% of total retail sales, compared to around 20% presently. The main factors driving this change are price, convenience, and digital natives forming more than half the population. Digital is the default setting for this demographic and there's very little that can be done about that fact.

However, this doesn't mean the high street is finished, just that its nature is changing — especially in relation to the ecommerce space.

High Street vs Ecommerce

While the ecommerce world has several clear differentiators over the high street, there are several ways brick and mortar stores can serve customers which simply aren't possible online. And it's these factors which will help these two warring sides of retail cooperate.

Even ecommerce giants like Amazon understand and appreciate the continued relevance and strength of brick and mortar locations, evidenced by its own foray into the convenience store market with its high-tech cashierless Amazon Go concept. Since launching to the public in Seattle in 2018, Amazon Go has proved to be a massive success, leading the brand to open or announce 18 locations just one year later. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, supermarket chain Sainsbury's has recently opened its own till-free grocery store.

This success demonstrates how valuable a physical presence can be to ecommerce brands and why a new symbiosis between them must be found for success to be achieved.

"For retailers to neglect the high street would be a mistake," said Executive Vice President EMEA, Emarsys, Grant Coleman. "Apple was the first to understand how to use a physical space to inspire brand loyalty, and ecommerce-oriented firms like Amazon are realizing the importance of building physical stores or pop-ups as a destination — which act as marketing tools as much as sales portals. Retailers need to acknowledge the shifting balance towards ecommerce and create true omnichannel experiences that are punctuated by personalized, contextual digital content across both in-store and online shopping."

High Street + Ecommerce

Creating partnerships between ecommerce and the high street could be the salve which saves the latter from annihilation. Hyperbolic language aside, these two seemingly disparate elements working together could have significant benefits for both.

Take returns for example. It's estimated that US customers are set to return a record-breaking $100 billion worth of goods which were purchased between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2019, and ecommerce purchases are around three times more likely to be returned than those bought at a brick and mortar store — roughly 20% of all online purchases. Combine this knowledge with the fact that 74% of customers will look to alternative retailers if they have a poor returns policy and it's easy to see the benefit a brick-and-mortar location for returns could bring.

By entering partnerships with high street retailers, ecommerce brands can make their returns process infinitely more convenient than forcing customers to send unwanted or damaged items back through the mail. For the brick and mortar store, it means more potential customers walking through their doors and increased footfall and chances for sales.

Click and collect is another way retailers can piggyback the success of ecommerce. One only needs to look at the proliferation of Amazon Lockers in many supermarkets and other retail locations to understand the success of this method. Working on the same principle as the in-store returns partnerships described above, the customer experience for the ecommerce side of things receives a boost due to the added convenience facilitated by click and collect, while the retail store gets a much-needed injection of warm bodies.

Final Thoughts

Partnerships are the future and ecommerce and brick and mortar brands that are willing to embrace them are the ones which will see significant boosts in both customer satisfaction and revenue as a result.

"The high street needs to work with those in ecommerce to grow and prosper, and vice versa, as both off and online have their strengths in the fast-evolving retail world," writes Managing Director at Xigen, Mark Fitzsimmons. "It's important both quickly realize the mutual benefits such a partnership could bring. Additionally, those in the high street should seriously consider partnerships with their neighbors to effectively compete with pureplay ecommerce businesses and drive sales."

The future of ecommerce and the high street are set to be hot topics at eTail Europe 2020, taking place in June at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London.

Download the agenda today for more information.

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