Can the recent announcement from retail high street stalwart Marks and Spencer signal more than just a business mix readjustment?
There’s no doubt that our high streets are changing but is there clear signs visible to suggest the whole nature of retail is changing too?
Is what consumers seek within our high-street stores also changing?
Questions many retailers will be asking themselves following the recent announcement by Marks and Spencer to close stores and refocus others towards grocery food rather than clothing. The UK’s most famous retailer has been battling hard to stem the decline in their clothing range for many years but does this announcement suggests something much deeper is happening? Competition from the internet is as a given. The increased access to discounted designer branded goods and the customer’s thirst for them is well documented but is that just it, or is there more to this story, is there something within the shopping experience itself changing and perhaps, leaving M&S behind?
Designing the Retail Experience
M&S are renowned for their in-store merchandising utilising floor space to its greatest effect often moving goods around the floor during trading hours such as umbrellas appearing at checkouts and doors just as the rain starts to fall. However, many would suggest the M&S in-store experience hasn’t evolved much. The store layout has roughly stayed the same, and there’s little visible use of the latest consumer retail technology being employed such as smart fitting rooms or touchscreen technology. According to the Barclays New Retail Reality Report customers value high-street stores but seek the ability to use in-store technology to enhance their experience. Over 81% of shoppers surveyed planned to a visit to a multi-location retailer over the next 12 months. Opposed to 60% who suggested they will purchase online. The eagerness of the consumer to use in-store technology proved to be a very high on their shopping experience wish list with touchscreen technology, virtual reality, smart fitting rooms, and augmented reality all being sought by more than half the shoppers surveyed. Clearly, a sign that customers crave technology to give better interaction and engagement with their high-street brand. At ISG Technology our daily lives involve helping multi-site retailers lay the foundations for the use of smart technology. No matter the intelligence or wizardry of the gadgets employed without the correct and most reliable connectivity they are practically useless. Nobody wants to visit the fair only to see their favourite ride is out of order!
Managing the Retail Experience
The use of Retail Technology is often viewed as a staff cost saving exercise, self-service checkouts, self-scanning shopping, etc. but ask those who have deployed inferior network connectivity and you will find just how time-consuming such technology can be when it doesn’t work properly. Not only does it hurt your brand but drains your staff pushing resources to beyond their limits to deal with the fallout. Retail staff are employed based on their retail skills not on what plugs in where and how to resolve connectivity issues. Therefore, before rushing off to deploy the latest retail technology to enhance your in-store experience start with building the foundations. Start with building the infrastructure to accommodate the increased requirement on the bandwidth. Ensure the money you spend delivers the required return on investment by having the technology available to your customers to the highest possible up time, and when things do go wrong, you have the support of a technology partner that’s capable of making any downtime reduced to a minimum, exactly where ISG Technology can help.
Connecting People to Your Business
Our breadth of services, profound technical experience and UK and Europe-wide coverage has taken over thirty years to build and prove. The design, deployment and management of retail technology across multi-site locations is something we deliver day in and day out for many prominent brands. Our ability to perform at speed while maintaining quality levels is what sets us apart from the rest.
Contact ISG Technology today to start your journey to a better retail customer experience.
Mariana Drummond, Marketing Manage, ISG Technology.