What’s happening to my High Street?

Change in the last 25 years will pale into insignificance compared to the next 25 months

Previously I discussed the impact of social media on retail brands and how the power of social media influence is having a greater and greater part to play in how we engage with our favourite brands and in turn they with us.

Much has been written and said about the changing face of our High Streets but it is a fact that currently the pace of change within retail is driving a seismic shift in the look and feel of the High Street like no other we have ever witnessed. Rates & rent and the associate space race, empty units etc . are a significant and perhaps most obvious part of that revolution but it is what’s going on in store that fascinates.

I recently attended the Retail Week 25th anniversary celebrations and apart from being a very convivial evening,  I was struck by the enormity and pace of change we are seeing today. On occasions like this it is inevitable that we take stock and reflect. 25 years means that there is a whole generation (Y) of consumers who have never known the shopping experience without smartphones let alone EPoS or chip and pin. In 1989 the first out of town Next store opened and yet they are now an anchor for most retail parks. Prior to 1994 there was no Sunday trading. How did Tesco keep abreast of consumer habits prior to launching the clubcard in 1995? And 3 years later Amazon launched in the UK, I doubt that even registered with the majority of us but just take a look now.

And amongst all this, the technology within retail has also been rapidly evolving bringing such as QR codes, smart mirrors, augmented reality, contactless payments, click & collect…..the list goes on. But what’s happened in the last 25 years will pale into insignificance compared to the next 25 months. It will truly be mind-boggling.

4G, GPS tracking, cashless, drive thru click & collect, secure fulfilment bins in every household, 3D printing, stores with zero stock, 100% personalisation, Klout score discounting, Google Glass – these are just a few which are with us today and with varying degrees of adoption.  And adoption of these and more technologies will drive a completely new definition of shopping where the complete experience will be the key brand differentiator as opposed to the more traditional retail measures of product, price and availability.

Measuring total brand experience will become a key metric for retailers striving to understand and retain customer loyalty. Perversely this will become harder and harder to do as consumer behaviour becomes ever more polarised and buying behaviour less easy to influence or predict. Beer and nappies is the most well known example perhaps but in the future Mulberry and £ stores will make easy bedfellows where smartshopping will be seen as cool and clever.

Something to make your friends and colleagues envious of?

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