The high street is changing…embrace it!

The changing high streetIt’s all change on the high street and not for the good. This is what we hear constantly in the media. The high street is dying, so much so that the government commissioned Mary Portas to come up with key recommendations for reviving it. The change has been driven almost exclusively by the internet.

Some shoppers adopted on-line shopping early, the majority took a little longer to trust it, but trust it they now do and it is a hassle-free, time-saving way to shop. We live in a world where time constraints are ever increasing and the internet provides the opportunity to help us in our daily lives by bringing the high street into our homes.

The high street itself will inevitably suffer, if we continue to take the view that the high street should remain as it has always been. Change, however, will come, whatever anyone does to try to stop it and however much everyone moans about it. We can see that these days, traffic is driven primarily by offers and sales. Customers wait for the sales, which happen at the same time at key points in the year. They know that if they wait, they can by it for less. Retailers are tied into these sales events, locked into them by the sales spikes they create and unwilling to take them out of their marketing calendar as they guarantee a certain level of sales. Yet the same pattern of marketing year in, year out will mean that customers grow accustomed to this and alter their behaviour accordingly. Retailers need to act smarter if they are to drive traffic throughout the year and to excite customers in other ways.

Similarly, the internet and its on-line opportunities should be seen as a key sales channel to enhance overall sales, rather than as a rival to the high street stores. The priority for brand marketeers should be selling the brand through all channels, so that the customer can choose the one which is right for them. This brings the customer choice and levels of service which will lock them into the brand intrinsically. If this is done well, the high street presence of such brands will benefit as well as their on-line arm, which should effectively to seen as another store, albeit virtual.

To save the high street, retailers need to focus on three things: the right product, genuinely high levels of customer service and specifically targeted marketing programmes, where they can address certain segments of their audience at key times to improve their return on investment for every marketing programme they undertake. The right product speaks for itself, whilst not always being the easiest thing to achieve. Outstanding customer service is vital for brands to survive in the future. Look at John Lewis, one of the few retailers turning a genuine profit in the midst of retail recession and a large part of it is down to their service provided by motivated and well-informed staff. Customers trust the brand and keep coming back for more. Finally, an  effective customer relationship marketing programme enables retailers to talk to segments of their customers in ways which genuinely engage those customers and their specific interests, regardless of which channel they use to shop the brand.

Change is inevitable. Instead of bemoaning the change, we must embrace it and listen to what the customer wants. After all, the customer is always right….. we just don’t always remember that!

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