Research incites fresh debate around the future of the high street

The debate around the future of the high street may have simmered down since the flurry of closures at the beginning of this year but physical stores are still under threat, as new insights reveal. 

Mindi Chahal

With a few weeks to go to London Fashion Week and as the countdown to Christmas creeps up on us it’s important that key insights are taken into account sooner rather than later. 

Amaze Generation, a five-year research study looking at the impact of technology on the behaviour and attitudes of 10-15 years-olds, reveals the latest findings into how digital natives view the decline of the high street and looks at how digital is changing UK shopping habits. 

Showrooming, where shoppers look at products in store but then buy online at a lower cost, is expected to be its core function as almost the entire group had shopped online and three-quarters show a preference for online shopping. They also perceive there to be more choice and believe the digital space to be easier and more convenient, with the main reason for shopping offline given as the need to see items before purchasing.

The group also expressed little loyalty towards traditional retailers and take the view that stores have had to close down due to massive changes in how people use technology. 

I agree with this view and although the age bracket represents a young demographic, their spending power will only increase and means this insight is a sign of things to come.  

However, I don’t agree that stores have to close down because of technology. Using technology and finding out exactly how people use technology for shopping will help stores stay open for business.  

Some retailers have already launched initiatives in store to reach out to potential online shoppers with digital kiosks and staff members appearing in aisles with iPads to search for products not featured on the shop floor. 

EBay has also just launched an app offering physical retailers online shopping data store assistants can see the customer’s shopping habits and preferences – a bit creepy but it’s opt-in and a step in the right direction. 

The future of the high street is still an issue. Without looking at the insights and what people want it will continue to be an issue. Despite research showing the value of mobile optimisation for retailers to allow consumers to browse easily in the store and out many still have not followed suit.

The high street needs to know what it’s consumers want and not just right now but in the future too whether it’s more technology, more choice, personalised offers via apps, mobile optimised websites, or collection in-store, retailers need to fulfil a role that consumers are looking for to provide a service that will hopefully instil loyalty and claw back customers. 

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