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Role of the high street shop set to change in the year ahead: study

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Major changes are predicted for the high street in the coming year, with one in four retailers predicting that over the next year the UK’s physical stores will start to transform into showrooms where shoppers can examine goods before buying online for home delivery, such as Bodum’s Paris store, (pictured right).

The forecast comes from a study carried out by online marketplace Rakuten at this year’s Internet Retailing Expo. Just 7% of the 101 retailers quizzed said they expected their sales would grow this year, while 63% forecast a decline.

“There’s no question that shoppers still love that tangible branded shopping experience,” said Adam Stewart, marketing director at Rakuten-owned , “but this idea of showrooming is growing in popularity. Ultimately it’s about creating multi-touch shopping experiences and this extends online, from interacting with customers through social channels to providing a dynamic and entertaining digital shopping experience.”

Some 75% of retailers who took part looked to international trade as a significant opportunity to increase sales. Some 40% said the biggest benefit to selling online was that ability to sell overseas. However, nearly a quarter were scared to take the plunge, with 28% citing concerns such as handling international payments and developing local language websites.

And while social shopping is on the rise, 69% of those questioned said email remained their main customer contact channel. Just 13% used Facebook and 15% Twitter.

“It’s interesting to see that few retailers are taking advantage of free social tooks like Twitter and Facebook to engage shoppers. It’s true that social is ot for everyone, especially when you consider the resource required to run these channels effectively, but it’s a key part of delivering the multichannel brand experiences consumers are fast coming to expect. At Rakuten’s we find this channel to be incredibly valuable as a sales influencer, an instant conversational platform and for customer service.”

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