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Bah Humbug: poor store use of tech ruins Christmas

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Forget the Grinch, Scrooge or even Bad Santa (great film though it is), what really spoils Christmas for most people is shopping.

Personally, this isn’t news to me: I quite like the run up to Christmas, but actually buying things in shops is a right old pain. I always – and I mean always – use mobile, sat on my sofa in October and November to do my Christmas shopping, having vowed long ago never to visit a shop again in December.

And I am not alone – hence why this year’s Black Friday was a more online event than ever before and why we see online shopping going bananas in December.

However, even online is failing to sate many shoppers and that too is becoming stressful for many. According to new research from experience analytics firm Clicktale, 27% of Christmas shoppers find buying presents online just as stressful as going in-store – because poorly optimised mobile and omni-channel experiences add to the confusion and stress.

This begs the questions why? Poorly designed sites, lack of tie up across channels and the general stress of will things be delivered in time all put pressure on us sofa shoppers (well those of you that don’t start as early as I do!). A lack of well optimised mobile sites is also having an impact, since more shoppers than ever are turning to mobile to do their shopping – it seems Christmas has started to test who does it well and who doesn’t. This will, with any luck, filter into 2018 strategies where I really hope to see more focus on mobile.

And not just because I like mobile: mobile is the key to the whole shopping experience. While many people might find online Christmas shopping stressful, many more find shopping in stores even more difficult – and not just at this time of year.

I have long argued that the way shops work in the 21st Century just isn’t fit for purpose. The death of the high street isn’t down to people not wanting to go there, it is that the experience is awful when they do – compared to the convenience and speed of online, why would you go to a store?

But people want to: but only if technology can be used to make it a pleasant experience. According to new research from leading independent IT services company Vista Retail Support, 77% of UK consumers believe retailers are not doing enough to make shopping in stores enjoyable, with 61% of respondents wanting retailers to give them a real in-store buzz by deploying technologies such as kiosks, interactive screens, augmented reality (AR) and smart mirrors so that they can explore products and how they might look or work.

In another study, Qmatic suggests that Click & Collect service – either through a self-service kiosk, or staff at the door armed with mobile applications – would make most shoppers in-store experience more positive, again driven by technology.

What all this points to is the ever-more pressing need for digital transformation of stores. No one can ignore this any longer. The shop needs to change: do that and people will come.

And it can be paid for. The latest research from Econocom UK, finds that an overwhelming 95% of retailers believe that payment-over-time solutions are either important or very important to delivering future digital innovation in the retail industry, with 42% saying the latter. Furthermore, 99% of all retailers said that a payment-over-time model would make it easier for them to achieve their digital transformation goals.

Get this right and 2018 could well be the year that we can start to rejuvenate the high street and deliver true omni-channel retailing.

Interestingly, my barber pointed out to me the other day that he was in fact vital to digital transformation of the high street. According to him, whatever happens with shops, people still come to high streets to get their hair cut – and that that alone is enough to catalyse the high street. Get people to keep getting their haircut – and interestingly, persuading hipsters to get their beards looked after professionally – and you have the core of shoppers who, if the stores are exciting, will also visit the shops. And you know what? He is right. So, as long as short hair and beards are fashionable, there is everything to play for.

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