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Retail Reimagined: The Digitally Remastered High Street – A new report by IMRG

High Streets must change to remain relevant in the internet age, but most don’t know how to and need help.

This new IMRG report:

  • Sets out four core elements that are needed to balance digital effects and enable discoverable, personalised and digitally accessible places
  • Describes how consumer power and coordinated stakeholder efforts can revive high streets
  • Considers the vitality SMEs bring to high streets and what they need to become more digitally engaged

The High Street Digital Hub

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On the face of it, consumers have never had it so good, with more choice, information, services, convenience and better prices 24 x 7 x 365. Yet there is clear evidence that many people are unhappy with aspects of digital innovation – particularly the behaviour of the $600bn online advertising industry. The opportunity exists to divert some of this marketing cash to digital high streets, thereby benefiting both communities and traders.

Ecommerce is becoming by default the digital ground on which society will build its future economy. For ecommerce to serve society as the means to a new wealthier, safer, fairer, caring culture, all of its participants need to be involved in helping shape it.

But because e-retail is so new and transitional, we lack unambiguous concepts and language to frame and discuss, let alone define and quantify it. This nebulousness makes it hard to fully recognise, and therefore appropriately manage, digital’s impacts on the economy – or to count its true cost, including social costs such as desolation in our high streets and isolation for members of the community.

Not understanding the true effects of rapid digital innovation risks it damaging or destroying vital assets unnecessarily. Not readjusting values in light of digital threatens our town centres and social spaces. Not reassessing what future high streets need to be and do jeopardises the focal points of local society.

Many of e-retail’s effects are inevitable – progress as usual; with better retail productivity we now need less shops – but some of its negative effects are avoidable and best avoided; all can be better managed.

Small businesses in particular are disadvantaged in, if not precluded from, the digital marketplace by their lack of knowledge, skills, tools and poor connectivity. An example of this handicap is that the product that you can find and buy in seconds from a distant seller online may be available in your local shop, but this local stock is likely to be undiscoverable online.

For the report, IMRG asked 1,000 consumers how their retail and high street behaviour is evolving, and what more they would like from their shopping experience. More than half (58%) said they would use high streets more if they did compete online with other online shops in terms of price and product availability.

The large majority of those surveyed (78%) told us that they shop both in-store and online; few shop only in-store (16%) and even less shop only online (6%).

Digitally remastered high streets could enable advertisers to reach people while they are in leisure / shopping mode by providing local services and by supporting native issues that consumers are interested in and care about.

Citizens could be enabled to tell advertisers what they are interested in and thereby attract new resources to support the social and cultural functions that underpin society, which in the past high streets have funded out of retail profits.

The Great Gloucestershire High Street pilot is a practical example of local businesses joining forces to drive footfall into towns and cities using digital tools. The pilot is supported by GFirst LEP, leading businesses and Government and will be delivered through the #WDYT (What Do You Think) campaign managed by Maybe*, enabling retailers and customers to drive engagement and footfall, throughout their retail journey, online and offline. The #WDYT campaign connects shoppers with the thousands of businesses, retailers, pubs and clubs within Gloucestershire to transform local high streets into the most digitally engaged in the UK.

This new IMRG report focuses on a number of key areas where stakeholders’ collective attention and collaborative cooperation is essential to help us optimise e-retail innovation and enable high streets to reap the new benefits of the omnichannel economy:

Author

The report is written by James Roper FRSA, Chairman & Founder, IMRG – the UK e-commerce association – as part of IMRG’s work with the Future Retail Working Group (FRWG). The FRWG is examining innovation from a national perspective to identify where greater collaboration can enlighten our understanding and inform planning.

Contacts:

IMRG: press@imrg.org | +44(0) 203 696 0980

Digital High Street Policy: press.office@communities.gsi.gov.uk | 030 3444 1201

Great Gloucestershire High Street pilot: laura.oconnor@gfirstlep.com | +44 (0) 1242 715491

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The Great British High Street supports those working to revive, adapt and diversify high streets. Not for profit and government funded, we aim to provide resources for high street regeneration and celebrate innovative work going on in high streets across Britain.