Experts Predict High Street Resurgence in 2019

RetailTechNews has asked industry thought leaders what they believe 2019 will hold for the retail sector. Today’s topic sees experts take a closer look at what next year has in store for the high street.

The high street isn’t dead, it is just in a period of change

“It is true that the traditional high street is no longer fit for purpose, but it won’t just be empty shop units forever. The high street will continue to reinvent itself in the coming years, not only offering a location to buy products or experiences, but also click-and-collect, facilitate returns, and pre- and aftercare services. What we believe is needed is for someone to take ownership and control over the transformation. We’ve seen some local councils, such as Doncaster, step up and make the high street an experience destination. We can’t keep waiting for something – anything – to make the high street better; it needs a leader to show the way, make a plan, and make it happen. If the high street can truly react to the changing consumer need and behaviour, then it can see brighter days ahead.”

Angus Burrell, General Manager, UK, Omnichannel Solutions, Valitor

Mobile POS in 2019

“When it comes to in-store retail, it’s likely we are going to being seeing less of traditional till-points, and more devices like iPads and iPhones being used as mobile point-of-sale (POS) devices.

“The beauty of using mobile POS is the freedom and flexibility it gives staff. It allows them to move freely around the store and take transactions directly up to the customers themselves and eliminates the need for customers to queue up, ultimately giving a more enjoyable in-store experience all round.

“In the next few years, we’ll also see a change, not just in the in-store technology itself, but also in how high street retailers choose to pay for it. Instead of costly one-off payments, we’ll see a rise in the number of retailers opting for subscription models to access the digital equipment they need. This move to an OPEX approach is not only more financially viable, but having a rolling contract means equipment can be regularly updated to keep retailers at the forefront of innovation – and to continue delivering a better experience for customers.”

Chris Labrey, Managing Director, Econocom UK & IRL

A renaissance of the brick-and-mortar store on the high street

“2019 will be a positive year for in-store retail, as retailers build their key advantage over online-only retailers. Shops will get smarter, with retailers using technology such as in-store heat maps and aisle planning to ensure better traffic flow and shorter queues. 2019 will also bring the opportunity to take part in the ‘gamification’ of the shopping experience – creating an unforgettable way to shop that simply cannot be replicated online.  

“Apps that bring online and in-store together in aisle-hunting challenges, for example, will start to make their way onto our high streets and supermarket shop floors. Take the Pokemon-inspired AR project we created which uses micro-targeting and gamification, known as ‘Shopemon’. This is one example of how retailers can use technology to create a unique shopping experience, which will make the customer value a visit to the store – and make e-tail seem distinctly old fashioned by comparison.”

Manu Tyagi, associate partner, retail & consumer goods, Infosys Consulting:

Making the most of your estate

“2019 will be a pivotal time for high street retailers. More stores are having to adapt in order to survive and utilise new technologies that not only enable them to improve daily operations, but drive significant sales and generate profits.

“A key to this, is for retailers to utilise their entire estate of inventory to provide a seamless shopping experience. Retailers currently lose USD$49bn (£38.47bn) due to inventory shrink, through either lost or stolen items, demonstrating that many don’t have a clear view of their overall inventory. With shrink holding such a significant monetary impact, it’s no wonder some high street retailers are currently struggling.

“As more retailers and brand owners are aware that RFID technology is transforming retail operations, we will see more global users rollout item-level RFID across their brick-and-mortar stores to effectively track stock, reduce inventory shrink, and deliver on the promise of omnichannel in 2019.”

Dean Frew, CTO & SVP, RFID Solutions, SML

Target cross-selling

“The high street has been in a state of flux for the past few years; and this will no doubt continue into 2019 as more consumers choose to buy online. To help drive shoppers back into stores, we can expect to see more retailers investing in technology to help deliver unique, innovative in-store experiences. We’re already seeing the prevalence of AI, machine learning, and robotics throughout the back office and supply chain, but we can expect to see greater take-up of those customer-facing technologies that can positively influence the customer experience, particularly at the point of sale.

“There will also be more opportunities to cross-sell or upsell, with value-added complementary services. Some retailers are doing this already, with the obvious examples of Sainsbury’s including Argos concessions in-store, adding Patisserie Valerie click-and-collect counters in 70 of their stores, and their recent partnership with Oasis, the fashion retailer.”

David Buckingham, CEO, Ecrebo

Personalised shopping experiences

“Retail is ever-changing and it’s difficult to predict what might happen next year, let alone further ahead. There are emerging trends and technologies that are already impacting how customers interact with high street retailers, and might one day play a vital role in how we shop.

“We’re already seeing growth in people searching for products by voice and expect that this will continue throughout 2019. The next phase of voice search will enable people to find items, however they describe them, and in any language.

“Personalised shopping experiences will also become more popular, as we move into the year ahead. We have already seen AR introduced by various fashion retailers, as well as services such as afterhours private shopping, but one day we’ll get to a point where smart home tech will act as your own shopper, alerting retailers in advance when you’re looking for a product.

“Creating outstanding experiences for customers is so important for the retail sector right now and that’s why we are focusing on experiential retail for our next JLAB challenge – the Partnership’s retail tech innovation programme”.

John Vary, Futurologist, John Lewis Partnership

CDPs on the rise

“Data-driven businesses that are customer-centric are proven to engage 23x more customers than those that don’t. But, in an increasingly digitised world, it is easy for some companies to miss out on valuable insight gleaned from consumer visits to brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, we predict that Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) – with their ability to stitch data from multiple channels, both online and offline – will continue to grow in popularity over the next 12 months.”

Lindsay McEwan, VP & Managing Director EMEA, Tealium

Analytics will unlock success

“With the high-street enduring another tough year, as multiple retailers closed up shop permanently, revitalising its prospects in 2019 will largely rely on a reassessment of how to meet the needs and demands of the consumer. Marketing strategies will continue to become more sophisticated, with advances in tech and the evolution of new brand touchpoints accelerating. It will be essential to understand how online and offline touchpoints interact and how consumers use different devices in and around the online ecosystem.

“Analytics and marketing effectiveness can be key elements of a strategy, unlocking potential in 2019 for successful high street retailers. Making use of the power of data, advanced analytics, and technology to understand the customer journey is fundamental in driving effective marketing spend, sales, and long-term profitability.”

Peter Stefou, Client & Operations Director, Data2Decisions

An abundance of solutions

“For high street retailers, customer service is a hugely important differentiator of customer loyalty.

“However, retail customer service simply isn’t where it should be and the technology used to support it is rarely deployed fast enough or in an integrated way. There are too many spot solutions, preventing a smooth experience across the web, contact centre, and stores, making it impossible for employees to work efficiently.

“Next year, the winners in the retail space will be those who embrace new technology in order to create outstanding experiences for customers and encourage brand loyalty.”

David Rowlands, Director, Customer Success, UK & EMEA, 8×8