The Death of the UK High Street (and how retailers can compete with aggressive online retailers)

Over the last decade you may have noticed an increase in articles concerning plummeting sales figures, collapsing department stores, and year after year falling Christmas high street sales figures. As online retail matures it is quickly closing the gap with the traditional brick and mortar retail experience, leading to the fast decline of many high-street giants and independent retailers alike.

How online stores are closing the gap between online traditional retail:

Price competitiveness:

Online retailers are slowly dominating the marketplace as their lack of significant overhead costs (in terms of staffing and rent) allows them to aggressively price popular products, in an effort to bring more long-term customers to their platforms.

Reducing the perceived risk of buying online:

Evolving online galleries:

As the internet retail environment grows, online stores are now closing the gap between traditional brick and mortar retailers by offering extensive online galleries and 3D views of products.

Future Threats:

Augmented Reality is threatening to attack one of traditional retailers’ main offerings compared to online platforms. Trying on clothes to see what they look like:


Free and hassle free returns:

Online fashion giant ASOS now offers customers free and effortless returns on clothing for 28 days after purchase. Thus essentially eliminating any perceived risk associated with distance buying; buyers can essentially order clothes, try them on and return them for free if they don’t like them.

Reviews and Q&As:

Traditionally, people would ask a shop assistant to help them pick out the perfect product for their specific needs. Nowadays, people are able to find detailed and in-depth reviews of products online. Many Youtubers now make a living by providing consumer reviews. Specialised reviews and the ability to ask vendors specific questions before purchase further reduces the perceived risk of buying online.

The online buying process:

This indicates that the entire buying process now occurs online. The decision to buy a product (e.g a camera) is then followed by online research into which of the various brands’ offerings is best suited for the job. This is closely followed by super-targeted online ads from various online retailers offering the product at extremely competitive prices. Guiding the buyer through the whole process until pressing the Pay Now button. Near instant shipping notifications provide buyers with a step-by-step update of the delivery process, which creates anticipation for the buyer, and provides a similar satisfaction as an in-store instant purchase.

Opportunities for traditional retailers to compete with online stores:

Traditional brick and mortar retailers will have to up their game if they are going to compete with an increasing number of aggressive online sellers targeting consumers with ads and slashing prices. Assuming that traditional retailers are not capable of competing with online stores in terms of price, owners will have to get creative in order to offer shoppers an upgraded shopping experience and add value to shopping at their stores.

One idea is to create a more immersive environment where consumers can try out and play around with products themselves before buying. Creating an immersive shopping environment where consumers can test out products for themselves is something that online stores are not (yet) able to compete with.

Another idea is for retailers to merge the purchasing process with some basic training courses. For example, drone flying lessons and tips from the staff to accompany each drone purchase. Camera and electronics stores could compete with online retailers by offering short photography course to be provided to new buyers. Small businesses could enhance purchase value by offering in-store tutorials and Q&A’s for products such as art supplies, DIY tools etc. Adding a service such as a small introductory class or workshop for buyers could differentiate retailers and provide additional value compared to their online competitors.




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