20 April 2018
Are high street stores past their shelf-life? Another high street giant has this week announced bad news. Debenhams reported an 85% slump in profits. The downturn follows the news that a stream of retailers are closing their doors and cutting jobs including Toys R Us and Maplin, whilst New Look and CarpetRight have announced store closures.
So what’s going wrong? Are we just not shopping on the high street anymore?
When you look at this logically, the first thing to be cut when tough times hit is the workforce. Jobs are lost, recruitment freezes are put in place and businesses look to reduce costs wherever they can. However,in cutting the number of people working on the shop floor, these businesses are also drastically affecting their customer service levels.
That’s a disaster.
The only way for bricks and mortar businesses to contend with online shopping is to have all of the information to hand, in the same way that websites do. They also need a huge amount of choice. And to compete with the convenience of online shopping, they have to deliver incredible service and customer experiences.
Debenhams is renowned as a location to shop when you’re planning a wedding. Trying on wedding dresses, suits, bridesmaid dresses, hats – it’s an experience for the people involved. When stores are no longer able to deliver the levels of service to make customers feel special, they spend their money elsewhere, often going online. Why wouldn’t customers move online when stores are cutting their teams and therefore being unable to deliver that same level of service to make the customer feel special?
Shopping is a social experience and stores have to accommodate that
Shopping is now a social experience. More stores now have cafes, play areas and restaurants, which make the visit more of a social activity, rather than the task of purchasing goods which could easily be done online and delivered in a day, if not in a matter of hours.
So what’s the answer?
It’s absolutely essential to combine excellent customer service with a strong online presence, and with both, speed is essential. Speed is everything. You should never keep your customers waiting whether that’s in a queue in a physical store, or waiting for a page to load or online checkout to complete.
At UKFast every aspect of our business is centred on speed and service – we created a separate backup network to ensure that the traffic didn’t slow our core network down; we guarantee to answer the phone within three rings and it works! One of our clients, Approved Foods, was ranked as the third fastest website – behind Zara and eBay in terms of site speed.
Whilst some people are asking if this is the end of the high street giants, I don’t think it is. There are huge opportunities for growth online. The key lies on making sure they’re focussed on both their online and offline presence.