The amount of consumers who opt to do their Christmas shopping online using their mobiles, tablets, and laptops, is ever-increasing. As reported in January this year, overall spend was up by 2.3% in December 2015 but the high street remained flat, meaning more people were spending online. This stagnation isn’t an inevitable woe for high-street shops, but it does mean that some prior thought needs to be put in to make the most of Christmas shopping and to match the always-changing buying habits of customers. We want to make it easy, so we’ve pulled together a few of the best things high-street shops can do to stay ahead this Christmas.
Having an up-to-date website is essential
This one might seem pretty obvious but seeing as it’s one of the most important things a high-street shop can do, we wanted to mention it straight up. Just because a high-street shop may do its business out of a physical premises it doesn’t mean that a website is obsolete, far from it. In fact, the best way for the high street to succeed is to offer a combination of on-and-offline which more and more consumers are looking for. We’re going to go into more detail on some of these points, but here is a quick overview of why a website is absolutely essential:
- A website allows a consumer to look up a shop to find out information, such as, what they offer, their location, and their opening hours, before visiting.
- The vast majority of shoppers perform a Google search at the start of their shopping journey – without a website, it’s going to be next to impossible for a high-street store to appear in search results.
- Without a website, a high-street shop cannot reap the many benefits of e-commerce (discussed below).
High-street shops can make use of certain e-commerce features, even if the majority of sales are made in-store. This includes:
- Allowing customers to browse the full-range of products and services on offer, even if they’re not purchasable online.
- ‘Click and Collect’, allowing customers to reserve an item online to be collected in-store.
- Giving customers the ability to buy their item online for delivery. While this might not seem feasible for a shop geared to sell offline, it’s becoming easier than ever to take payment online (PayPal makes this a cinch) and arrange delivery companies to pick-up an item from the shop.
Setting up an e-commerce website might seem like a difficult job but these days, it really isn’t. You can set up an e-commerce website with your own custom domain name using services such as WordPress and Shopify, which come with a huge range of customisable themes. They’re inexpensive too. Quick note: if you’re looking to use WordPress, the best thing to do is find a theme that you like and then sign up for a web hosting package – if you search for a domain name on our site, you’ll be directed to a number of registrars who can offer you web hosting.
Make the most of in-person experiences
High street shops need to make the most of one of their biggest advantages over purely online shops: the ability to offer customers an in-person experience.
The most obvious one is face-to-face customer service. When face-to-face, retailers can understand their customers’ needs and wants, and provide a shopping experience that is fully tailored. Online retailers are trying very hard to get around this limitation – through web chat and help/buyer guides, for instance – but these do not compare to what can be offered in-store.
Perhaps less obvious is events. High-street shops can host any number of events: product reveals and taster sessions (perfect for Christmas shoppers looking for inspiration), exhibitions, parties and social gatherings (these play into the sense of being part of a community), or talks and presentations. The only limit is creativity. Events truly elevate a high-street shop above online competitors.
Embracing change, championing individuality
High-street shops need to embrace the change that’s continually affecting the shopping landscape by integrating digital and new technologies into the customer experience – the worst thing that could be done is stubbornly ignore changes and carry on without adapting. But at the same time, shops need to make the most of their offline presence and champion their individuality. In an increasingly online world, customers appreciate this point of difference, just remember that for the majority, the journey begins online.