This week saw the release of ‘Queen of Shops’ Mary Portas’s 28 point plan to save the British High Street. This has incited a mixed reaction from the retailer community, but in general there were some excellent recommendations.
Two things surprised us here at Eagle Eye. First, what she didn’t say. And second, the idea that technology is part of the problem, rather than potentially part of the solution too.
What Mary didn’t talk about was Marketing. Surely, when a key objective is to get people back to the High Street, marketing and communication is going to play a key part? We’re now at a stage in history where for the first time High Street retailers can use the equivalent tools their online ecommerce cousins have been using so effectively for the last 15 years or so.
Why do we say that? Mobile coupons can be used to run the equivalent of Pay Per Click campaigns, with the Click in this case being the redemption of the coupon in-store. At last, measurable, performance marketing campaigns have arrived and have their part to play in bringing consumers back to stores.
When we come to a retail view of technology, we’ve certainly seen eCommerce and more latterly, mCommerce sales go via digital channels in the past decade or so. But while these disciplines are essentially a new type of mail order, it’s increasingly clear that mobile can be used in another way altogether – and that’s to enhance and support the in-store shopping experience.
We’re not the only people thinking along these lines. Mobile agency Grapple also pointed out that the apps they’re developing for their retail clients include many tools for consumers to use in-store. For instance, apps can help drive footfall, with 1 in 10 of those downloading Grapple retailer apps using the store finders, and half of those scanning barcodes for price check whilst in-store.
Focusing on the in-store use of mobile also makes complete sense to fully engage customers in an environment where currently where 90% of all retailer transactions take place anyway.
Mobile could actually become the best friend of both the bigger retailers and the smaller independent stores. Let’s take one of Mary’s excellent recommendations – ‘Putting in Place a Town Team’. This involves having one central team to co-ordinate the strategic and operational management of the local high street to attract community (and in turn customers).
The fundamentals that make up mobile provide a perfect vehicle for the Town Team to drive people to the high street. Think of it this way. Mobile supports any media channel through the relevant calls to action (SMS, QR code, data capture and in near future NFC). So every town centre billboard, newspaper or even shop window can become a way of recruiting users to engage with town centre activity. And it provides a convenient communication route back to the customer through one central point. Under the Town Team guidance, this gives a (co-funded) opportunity to fight back with community information and specific promotional marketing to drive customers in-store.
History has taught that technology can’t be ignored in the hope that it’ll go away. It’s also not helpful to quietly resent the changes that it causes, painful though they may be. Any successful strategy for High Street renewal must embrace technology and especially mobile, to leverage it as a powerful asset and a key part of any future success.