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EDITORIAL Local and mobile – and vending machines – the latest shift in online retail?

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Mobile is now key to connecting local shops with local people
Mobile is now key to connecting local shops with local people
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Where shoppers are venturing out they are increasingly keeping it local, a using mobile to tap into that is now vital

Ecommerce continues to evolve as the pandemic plays out, with the latest trends being for more localised services and a rising role for mobile.

 

This week we find that not only has Tesco seen online sales up by a staggering 90% between June and August, but that the more meagre growth it has witnesses in stores is largely being driven by increasing sales in its smaller, local stores.

 

Tesco shoppers are tending to do one massive – usually online – shop each week then heading to their local Tesco Local or smaller Tesco store to ‘top up’ as they need.

 

This mixing of online and local is also becoming prevalent at the smaller end of the retail market, with more retailer than ever looking to engage with local shoppers to tap into this move to venture less far from home.

 

There has been a growing number of searches for local retailers ‘Near Me’, largely on mobile, which has seen two local services – Near Me and Nextdoor – join forces to make it easier for shoppers to not only find retailers in their vicinity, but also to assess what they do and what they sell via the Nextdoor local retailer hub.

 

Another more out-there idea is that vending machines may yet become a wider part of the retail mix. Vending machines are ideal for non-contact shopping of all sorts of things. What has so far held them back is payments can be a challenge.

 

Moves by Ingenico to create a digital payments solution for vending machines may yet sees these stalwarts become the cutting edge of new retail. They could, potentially, offer an easy way to buy certain things – beyond just drinks and crisps, perhaps into more elaborate food and even clothing – and may yet become a way to service the high street in a Covid-safe way.

 

Finding them – using mobile – and then paying for them using the a mobile wallet also taps into this localised shopping idea. Localisation around mobile has always been one of the platform’s key benefits and, like so many things during the pandemic, it has suddenly found fertile ground on which to grow.

 

Nextdoor and Near Me are hoping to build a trusted network of businesses and consumers that can fuel its localised retail search site, making it the go to place for finding what you need locally.

 

And boy does the physical retail sector need it. The latest Springboard footfall figures make sobering reading. Footfall across UK retail destinations declined by 28.2% in the five weeks between 30th August 2020 and 3rd October 2020, with shopping centres taking a massive hit. The 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants is also starting to play through into High Street footfall figures.

 

The only places where things are looking less bad (as opposed to good) are out of town retail parks – where there is plenty of space for social distancing – and local shops.

 

Using mobile to help drive this local shopping boom is going to be vital to smaller physical retailers getting through the current situation. If they can tap into the tech to help guide them to local shops, then some of this declining footfall – in local shopping areas and some high streets in particular – can be slowed.

 

With more retailers turning to mobile to capture the rise in ecommerce shoppers and with a big Black Friday push on the cards, getting these planets aligned is now an imperative.

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