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Out of touch

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Out of touch
Out of touch


Following the Portas Review and the TV spin off – if indeed you can have a spin off from a governmental report – Mary Queen of Shops, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has issued a report on the progress made since the review. And for a fan of all things ‘digital retail’ it makes depressing reading.

Much like the initial Portas Review, mention of the digital high street, mobile and even e-commerce, is pretty thin on the ground. Its as if it isn’t happening out here in the real world beyond the fusty interior of Portcullis House. Much like David Cameron’s announcement that ISPs are to automatically restrict access to adult content online without any real consideration of what that means to freedom of speech, sexual health websites and indeed the future of who controls what we see on the web, the huge lack of understanding of the digital world is blighting the state’s view on how to reinvigorate the high street.

Increasingly – as reported in M-Retailing constantly and reinforced by the figures in this week’s stories – consumers are going mobile and doing it while out and about (particularly when out in the sun). But the DCLG seems to have totally overlooked this.

Part of the problem is that Portas is old school: she sees shops as shops and the digital world as something very separate. But as you all know that is no longer how the world of retail actually works. It certainly isn’t how consumers operate these days and any reinvigoration of the high street is going to need some more joined up thinking on this.

For starters, why did no one involved in the report talk to mobile industry bodies such as the GSMA? Or indeed why didn’t they give me a call? Or you for that matter?

The GSMA – as an example of a huge global organisation that wants to make this happen – runs its own scheme, The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) the sole purpose of which is to forge the relationship between retail and mobile by demonstrating how mobile can engage and monetise consumers effectively.

But it needs to also come from the grass roots. Small high street businesses need to be shown what mobile can do and how it doesn’t necessarily have to be really costly to pull off. The numbers are there as our top stories reveal. M-commerce use and retail search have boomed over the summer. OK, so its driven by people being outside as the weather has been so nice. But this has got them into the habit of shopping on mobile. Growth will only be upwards. Perhaps rather than looking at what we can or can’t look at online, the state should be trying to look at the positive things that consumers want to do on mobile and how they want to shop.
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