Technology is now opening doors for retailers rather than closing them, according to the general manager of one town shopping centre and a local trader.
There’s now a growing army of customers, who armed with their smartphones are using technology to their advantage when shopping.
And initiatives such as Google’s announcements in January are helping retailers adapt to changing consumer behaviour.
A new survey of 2,000 consumers by Hammerson and Manor Walks Shopping & Leisure in Cramlington found that the Christmas shop has become an increasingly focused expedition in which consumers research gifts in advance allowing them to make last-minute trips to the shops.
Bruno Coppola, general manager of Manor Walks in Cramlington, Northumberland, said: “It’s fascinating how people alter their typical shopping habits for the Christmas shop, and it looks like the British shopper has adopted a steely determination when it comes to festive gift buying.
The future of the high street is not about competing with other channels anymore - but about looking at change, as Bruno Coppola explains: “The internet has undoubtedly contributed towards this. Consumers can now be more prepared, researching online in advance, allowing them to make only one or two major trips close to Christmas.
Google is raising awareness of how people use their smartphones while in stores as well as highlighting tools, such as mapping, video chat to link online behaviour to offline buys. Despite the general decline in footfall while shoppers choose to buy from the comfort of their own homes, retailers are spending a lot of time thinking about how to grow their businesses. Coppola added: “The impact and prominence that retailers’ have put on Christmas adverts this year well and truly puts the Christmas buying season in the front of consumers’ minds.
One store going against this trend by opening a physical store at Manor Walks is RentonRyan American Specialty.
RentonRyan started out life as a barrow selling US goodies in Newcastle, before moving to a kiosk in Cramlington’s Manor Walks.
However owner/operator Claire Renton has developed her business through Twitter, has an online store via Facebook and she also has an app similar to a click and collect service.
Renton, like big stores such as John Lewis and Argos, has embraced the click and collect trend. She also makes use of a courier service.
She said: “We are seeing two kinds of customer, those who order online and those who aren’t as tech-savvy who still come to the store.”
Retailer Morrisons is set to launch a virtual butcher in January after hiring digital big-hitter former eBay and Sainsbury’s director Amanda Metcalfe as the store’s first digital marketing boss.
Renton said: “Retailers are now looking at everything from mobile apps to alternative click and collect options. Shopping centres should be using better technology on mobile phones to help consumers find their way around stores with apps to scan products and access information such as product compatibility, warranty and stock availability.”
Renton suggests that by offering a personalised shopping experience in-store, and knowing how consumers shop will help retailers understand what is needed to survive in a technologically advancing world.
She said: “In order to survive we need both a physical presence and an online one for our two very different types of customer.”