Harnessing data to revive the High Street

‘Ghost towns.’ ‘Widespread cuts.’ ‘Vanishing shoppers.’ ‘Death of the high street.’

In 2021, retail news headlines can often read like the plot of a spooky Stephen King stocking filler, thankfully, however, the reality isn’t nearly as chilling

Yes, the past couple of years have transformed the public’s shopping habits, and the internet’s market share is growing larger than ever. But with the latest ONS figures showing that a huge 73.7% of retail purchases still take place in store, the doom and gloom surrounding brick-and-mortar might be a little unfounded.

In fact, there’s a lot that physical store leaders can do to remain relevant and compete with e-commerce. After all, while we know that internet stores see more traffic, in-store shopping brings much higher sales conversion. So, is there a way to combine the benefits of in-person and internet shopping, and create a ‘phygital’ journey that boosts sales, improves service, and creates the perfect customer experience? The answer is yes—and, as with much of the opportunities of the modern world, it lies within data. 

Improving CX through data

We all know that e-commerce sites are experts at leveraging customer data – to suggest purchases, monitor product preferences, and streamline the buyer’s journey. A classic example? Amazon’s chameleonic homepage, which displays different products to each visitor based on their unique interests and previous purchasing history. But all too often, the only useful ‘customer data’ held by brick-and-mortar stores exists in the memories of their shop floor workers. 

For instance, a sales assistant in an electronics shop might recognise a customer who bought a 4K TV a fortnight ago and be able to recommend the perfect soundbar to pair it with. But this relies on an unlikely set of variables: after all, what are the chances that the same employee will be on shift when that customer returns? And how can we be sure that the assistant will even remember them? But with emerging ‘phygital’ retail technology, like video-powered retail, we can give each employee all the customer data they need to create an exceptional shopping experience. 

With video retail tools, online shoppers call an in-store expert, who can walk them through the shop and the products they’re interested in, all from the comfort of the customer’s home. And for businesses, the software can connect callers to the most suitable in-store adviser based on their enquiry, show data on the customer’s past purchases to improve the adviser’s recommendations, collect invaluable aftersales surveys and star ratings, and much more. 

Harnessing customer data means bricks and mortar retailers are no longer shooting in the dark, giving customers exactly what they want and enjoying higher profits as a result. And data doesn’t just help to increase your profit — it can cut costs, too. 

Modern trends require modern solutions

Dark stores are traditional shops that business leaders convert into full-time ‘click and collect’ services, or 24/7 fulfilment centres for online sales. While they might look like regular stores from the outside, with aisles of products and groups of shop assistants, these outlets aren’t open for visitors, allowing more space for storing goods and processing orders. And over the last few years, the popularity of these dark stores has exploded—not just due to the rise of internet e-commerce, but also the advantages that ‘phygital’ shopping brings. Take technology giant HP for example.

When browsing the HP site, online customers can connect to a ‘Live Expert’ within HP’s dedicated dark store, who’ll talk them through, compare and demonstrate each product that they have an interest in, just like on the high street. Shoppers get to enjoy a VIP experience without even having to leave their home, while the adviser can provide an outstanding service without being interrupted to serve a huge queue at the till, or ‘clean up the mess on aisle 3’. And the results speak for themselves, with over a quarter of HP Live Expert calls ending in a purchase, customers spending 8x more cash than on a standard website, and shoppers leaving an average satisfaction score of 4.7/5. 

Dark stores and video-powered retail are just two examples of data-powered transformations that can help traditional retailers to enjoy higher cost savings, and free up leaders to invest in the digital tools needed to thrive in the modern world. Because while it’s clear that in-store retail is here to stay, the past couple of years have taught us that upgrading our technologies, and preparing to pivot our business models, is becoming a non-negotiable. So, now’s the time for the Highstreet to take a page from e-commerce’s book, by harnessing customer data and embracing the insights it brings. After all, as Stephen King might say, change is scary — but it’s not as scary staying the same.


About the Author

Andre Hordagoda is Co-CEO and Co-Founder at Go Instore. Andre has spent the last two decades chasing his passion for innovative technologies with a particular slant towards optimise customer experiences. His career has seen him hold senior roles at companies such as large enterprise companies such as Experian and Smart Focus, as well as working closely with early growth-stage businesses. Andre is passionate about entrepreneurial spirit and has motivating leadership style. Upon recognising the huge experiential gap between online and instore retailing, he decided to launch Go Instore with his long-term friend and business partner Aman.

Featured image: ©Classen Rafael

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