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Shop flaws: why the high street needs to rethink its hours

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I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the saviour of the high street is technology – but time is running out. Consumers demand it, the retailers really need it.

According to research by Fujitsu, 61% of shoppers would choose one retailer over another based on the quality of in-store technology, while 42% say that what is on offer today is too slow and 37% say it is totally unreliable. As a result, three quarters say they can access more information than retail employees and 73% say they can get it quicker, leaving two thirds (65%) of employees using their own devices to try to bridge the gap.

Separately, 61% of UK consumers expect bricks-and-mortar retailers to offer them virtual reality headsets (VR), multi-experience loyalty apps and other advanced technologies such as voice-activation within three years, a survey by Omnico has found.

56% of shoppers in the survey said they believe VR will help them buy anything from cars to clothing and holidays to homes. The findings are part of the quarterly Omnico Retail Gap Barometer, measuring the experiences and expectations of 1,000 UK shoppers.

And when given the chance to use new tech, shoppers tend to embrace it with alacrity, as we have seen at Kebaya Asian Brasserie in Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, where when given the chance to order using mobile, 95% of customers do so.

What all this tells us is that doing nothing is simply not an option. According to Fujitisu three quarters of shoppers would choose Amazon or eBay over traditional high street names if either had a physical store as they expect them to be tech heavy and to make shopping a nice experience.

Mobile of course is the driver and the solution to this issue, with research across Europe by Actinic showing that 86% of shoppers have made a purchase on mobile and that it is now the main sales channel for many.

This swing to mobile in all facets of retail life is key to making the high street great again. But it isn’t as simple as just sticking in some wifi and allowing click and collect. Sure, these are great first steps, but as we have seen over the first few months of 2017, shopper habits are changing. It is in understanding this change that the saviour of the high street lies.

Now I am not saying that since there is a new mobile shopping peak at 3am on weekends shops need to be open all night, rather that online and real world have to work in harmony. Mobile has the 3am peak covered. Online has the click and collect market covered. What is missing is the way to get retailers to tap into shoppers going out habits.

As we have seen over the Easter, the trend is for shoppers to shop online but to venture out in the evening to dine. This is where the high street retailers need to pounce. Retail needs to be part of the dining-entertaining evening axis. Currently, if you are out and about looking for a kebab the shops are shut.

Instead retailers need to embrace these new shopping habits and be there – in the channel of choice – around new shopping hours. Even banks are starting to get the hang of this and some are staying open later. Embracing simple thinking – and some technology of course – holds the key.

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