With retail analysts predicting an “Easter sugar rush” for the high street, it looks like the holidays may well be a boom for mobile – but it could also be an opportunity to drive home the link between mobile and the high street.
While figures from retail analyst Springboard [IRDX VSPR] suggest an 8.8% up-tick in footfall over the Easter weekend – driven by good weather and Easter falling after pay day this year – other figures from PCA Predict point to there being an online and mobile spike too of 17%. The latest figures from BRC-KPMG also make grim reading: like for like trading was down 1%, but online was up by 7.4%.
So where are the shoppers going to be this Easter and through the rest of the year?
The PCA Predict data, which suggests that Easter Monday is typically one of the busiest days of the year for online shopping, says this year was unlikely to be different. Customers are increasingly using mobile phones and tablets to do their shopping, and these channels are expected to account for 49% of online purchases over the weekend, with few dramatic spikes.
However, good weather could come to the high street’s rescue. “Last year Easter took place on 25 March, a few days in advance of national payday for many shoppers,” says Springboard director Diane Wehrle. “This, combined with poor weather impacted footfall, which declined across retail destinations from Easter Saturday onwards. Mild spring weather is forecast for this Easter, which falls after the national payday. This strongly indicates that more shoppers will visit retail destinations over the weekend compared with last year.”
But good weather is a double-edged sword and could play into mobile’s hands with shoppers using their devices to shop while out and about in the sunshine, rather than heading to the shops.
According to PCA’s Chris Harle: “With good weather in sight, it is likely that mobile shoppers will continue to make purchases out in the sunshine via smartphone or tablet.”
But there is perhaps a third way: could the two be brought together? Many are keen to use the holiday to start to link mobile and the high street. In 2016, VoucherCodes.co.uk, part of RetailMeNot, found that mobile devices unlocked an additional £200 million sales in-store.
“Shopping is no longer divided into the plain and simple clicks vs bricks – the lines are blurred now more than ever and consumers expect to switch between the two experiences seamlessly,” says Paul Lewis, Senior Director of Marketing at VoucherCodes.co.uk. “Shoppers want to investigate competitor prices, check stock location and read consumer reviews all whilst standing right there within the store, therefore smart retailers will be planning ahead for this when considering this weekend’s predicted boost in activity.”
Buried within the BRC-KPMG figures are stats that show that visits to pubs and restaurants have gone up, showing that shoppers want to spend their time and their money on experiences, rather than goods.
“As such, retailers need to think about the experiences that they are offering their customers,” says Rupal Karia, Managing Director for Retail and Hospitality, UK and Ireland at Fujitsu. “In recent years we have seen a hub of retail destinations develop where people can shop, dine, watch a film and relax all in one single spot, providing the all-encompassing experience that consumers now demand. As a nation we crave ease and convenience, so retail destinations where shoppers and commuters can do everything all in one place is becoming increasingly appealing. As a result, retailers need to present themselves differently and should look at establishing a community where they can cater to all those customer demands.”
But achieving this is going to be tough, believes Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation, Salmon. “The latest BRC-KPMG statistics highlight the increased challenge that high-street retailers face, yet online presented pleasant reading for vendors as online sales grew by 7.4% from the start of the year to March. Vendors must now look to combat declining high-street sales, embrace retailing events and turn to a strategy that enables online services to thrive.”
According to Fletcher, with the emergence of events such as Black Friday week and the more traditional peak trading times of Easter and Christmas, there is no doubt that retailers can prosper in the hugely competitive sector. “But, in a fast-paced industry that is constantly evolving, technology-driven ideas will present shops with the opportunity to flourish and secure a larger share of shoppers who are increasingly craving an immediate, reliable and flexible shopping experience,” he says.
What is needed, believes Fletcher is a concerted shift towards a strong digital strategy. “New, innovative concepts such as Zero UI (the move away from physical interactions in favour of sound, movement and other senses), artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things present retailers with emerging areas to dominate and succeed,” he says.
These are just some examples of the latest digital trends that continue to disrupt the industry and look set to dominate the future of ecommerce, as the nation moves towards a connected-ecosystem where online platforms become the preferred option for all transactions. “As such, retailers cannot afford to shy away from online platforms and must embrace a multichannel strategy that provides the customer with the best possible service,” says Fletcher. “Only then will they begin to reap the rewards that are duly deserved.”