What lies ahead for the retail industry

It seems like an everyday occurrence that yet another high street name goes into administration, or shuts its doors suddenly. With the reach of e-commerce websites and the convenience of mobile, it’s not wonder that the digital high street has taken over from the real thing. It’s certainly difficult to argue against the simplicity of being in your pyjamas, sipping a coffee and scrolling through the latest deals without having to leave the house.

What are we browsing and buying online while snug on our sofas? Well, fashion is certainly high on the list, with the sector accounting for almost a third of the UK’s total online purchases. Do stores need to step into the online market in order to stay relevant in today’s shopping style?

How it currently looks

Physical stores are certainly having a difficult time of it. In the last twelve months, approximately 87% of UK consumers have bought at least one product online – with online sales increasing 21.3% in the year 2016, and forecast to increase by 30% by the end of 2017. Consumer buying patterns have shifted a great deal. Consumers are choosing to shop in their spare time, usually on an evening or during the night, making it difficult for retail high street stores to compete with their limited shopping hours.

It’s never been easier to shop online, thanks to speedy delivery, size guides, competitive prices, and free returns. The need to physically try before you buy is fading away. This is influencing the success of high street stores – driving some of them into the ground.

Running an online store is also much cheaper than maintaining a start-up or physical store. If online retailers are taking away sales from the high street, it’s no wonder that new companies are choosing to start online, and existing fashion giants are starting to make the transition to digital.

What does the future hold?

For the retail industry to stay relevant, the need to go digital is paramount. That’s right, the future is digital for the retail industry. With many big brands already marking their territory online, smaller brands need to consider digital if they are to stay in the game. High street retail, made with bricks and mortar will be no more – the technology revolution is here and it’s time to make the transition.

There have been many fashion retailers that have found such success online that they have proven there isn’t always a need for physical stores. Many have found success solely on online platforms, using e-commerce websites and social media apps to drive business – with big high street names following in their footsteps and favouring digital platforms over high street stores.

With big-name brands like straight legged jeans retailer Trilogy Stores and Charles Tyrwhitt who offer quality menswear making the most of what the digital world can offer, it’s clear that the appeal and advantages of online stretch from start-up businesses to premium brands. Customers appreciate the convenience of e-commerce and the beauty of being able to shop whilst sat at home, on their sofa, in their pyjamas – they aren’t limited to certain shopping hours, such as 9-5pm in a store.

Social media influence

Social media is a kingdom of its own within the digital world! Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have become essential marketing tools for fashion retailers, evolving from catwalk shows and big shop window displays, retailers now capitalise via their social media profiles.

Retailers can maintain their own profiles as well as promoting their brand via other social media channels. The fashion industry is extremely competitive, and social media apps have provided a platform to help brands stand out from their competitors. Instagram in particular, has over 700 million active monthly users, with over 40 billion photos shared. With this in mind, the app has become a platform whereby celebrities, public figures and social influencers are used to endorse a brand’s product, guaranteeing a certain level of exposure and success depending on how many followers they have.

Consider model Kendall Jenner, who has a 99.1 million strong following on Instagram. When she is asked to endorse a product, or be the face of a brand campaign, she is securing exposure to all those 99.1 million followers – guaranteeing more exposure than most other forms of marketing. This then encourages users to redirect to the brands profile, or their website – if one picture can reach millions of people, then isn’t that more successful than a shop window display?

The face of denim designer PAIGE jeans, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, has over 8.6 million followers. So, the fashion brand is guaranteed exposure to those 8.6 million followers with every picture that Rosie posts on her Instagram account – tagging the brand in each photo. Fashion brands know that the success of a campaign can be influenced by the level of followers the endorser has. Using a celebrity endorsement encourages a certain level of user engagement.

The customer’s needs

Surveys support that the sector needs to go digital to retain their customers. When it comes to customer service, interactions across social media app, Twitter, has increased by 250% in the last two years. Customers are looking for a service which reduces their effort is quick and convenient. Is social media the answer? With over 32% of respondents, in a recent survey, admitting that phone and voice communication is the most frustrating customer service channel, it’s no surprise that social media has become one of the most popular customer service channels. Customers want a quick response rate, without the need to wait in line, or on hold. Social media provides a platform for customer communication, and with the opportunity to offer quicker responses, this could equal higher willingness for customer spend.

Social media is a great first step to going digital. For high street brands to remain, maybe it’s time to take the plunge and secure your presence in the digital world.