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REPORT: Consumers voice view on store tech

By Retail Technology | Friday November 1 2013

New research outlines consumer wish list for future of the UK High Street, revealing opportunities for small and independent retailers, including technology expectations

A new report has found 71% of UK consumers would visit their High Street more if there was a greater range of independent shops, while technology figured in both positive and negative terms as far as their ‘wish list’ for boosting local commerce.

Following the release of research earlier this year predicting over a fifth of UK High Street stores could close in the next five years,  The Future of the Great British High Street: Voice of the Consumer report, published by group buying discount site Groupon and analyst Kantar Retail, examines what would bring consumers back into these retailers’ stores.

Independent retail opportunity

Based on responses from 2,000 UK shoppers, only 38% would welcome the introduction of more large retail chains to UK High Streets, suggesting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and smaller retailers have an opportunity to boost local commerce.

When it comes to technology, 31% liked the idea of virtually seeing products and items on themselves or in the home environment before buying, which bodes well for a new local e-commerce network launched this week. While some were open to having more self-service facilities instore (37%), almost half also said that having more of this type of technology instore is a negative thing.

A personalised experience is still very much in demand, as 46% would like High Street businesses to know who they are and what they want. This even emerged as true for online retailers, as nearly half of shoppers would like them to have physical stores, so they can touch and see what they want to buy and have human interaction.

In terms of service, the majority of shoppers are still hungry for a good deal with 57% wanting more discounts and promotions, as this is what almost three quarters (73%) of British consumers spend their time looking for. Despite an industry push for self-service, consumers are fighting back. 

Store still trumps online only

Echoing the views of retailers, who still see the store as a physical ‘hub’ for the customer, 58% of those questioned said they still preferred the instore experience, versus 42% who liked the convenience of online shopping. At the other end of the scale, more traditional catalogues are dying a death, as less than a third said they never use them and just 0.5% were planning to use this channel in future. 
Richard Jones, vice president of national accounts at Groupon UK and Ireland, stated: “Despite the rise in online shopping and self-service technology that businesses should support, it seems that the back to basics approach of having physical stores and specialist staff on hand is critical, as consumers want to emotionally connect with the brand, talk to experts and physically see and touch products. Consumers also want more bang for their buck. 

“As such, independent businesses must consider how to make their offer stand out both on and offline to deliver better value, quality and customer service. By acting on what customers want, they can boost footfall and local commerce – we are helping small businesses do just this, so that they thrive on the High Street.”

Winning and losing sectors
The findings also uncovered a strong desire for certain types of business. Specifically, shoppers wanted more clothes shops (31%), artisan food and drink shops (30%), bookshops (20%), bakeries (17%), leisure facilities (14%) and restaurants, cafes bars and pubs (15%) on the High Street. Shoppers also identified which businesses they thought had the shortest shelf life, predicting that betting shops (26%), mobile phone shops (18%) and estate agents (18%) will cease to exist on the High Street between five and 10 years’ time.

Bryan Roberts, director of Retail Insights at Kantar Retail commented: “The future High Street is shaping up to be very different to how it appears now – the fact that shoppers demand to see a wider variety of businesses matches what we are seeing in the industry. High Streets will be less reliant on retail, and more focused on broader hospitality, leisure and service facilities to encourage people to meet socially and interact more with the local community.”

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