The multichannel consumer experience – the missing element of #portasreview?

I commented on each of Mary Portas’ 28 recommendations in my earlier blog. I now want to focus on what I feel is missing, certainly at a glance, from the review. The internet has fundamentally changed the consumers expectation of what the shopping experience should be. High street retail can still play a critical role in the overall retail service delivery, but, there needs to be a shift in mindset. Something that’s been talked about for a good 5 years but rarely effectively implemented…

Delivering a truly joined up multi-channel service experience

It’s not new news that the multi-channel shopper is worth 130% of a single channel shopper; experts at businesses such as K3 Retail have been saying this for a couple of years.

What are new and impressive stats are that:

  • about 60% of consumers research online with the intent of buying in store
  • 10% of online transactions are now for click and collect

So anyone who thinks the high street doesn’t have relevance is wrong!

What role should the evolving high street play?

What matters for the survival of the high street is that it can evolve to support current and future needs and wants of the community it serves. Each should be different; clone towns will become a thing of the past (thank goodness)!

Retailers such as Ryman and a few others have had the sense to add courier collection points to some of their stores – they’re increasing footfall (and therefore the opportunity for impulse purchase) in their high street locations by offering a service. Ecommerce only retailers, such as Figleaves and Amazon, are also offering various solutions for local collection points that take away the time-based element (and thus inconvenience) of home delivery.

In a future vision of the high street I believe shops will play the role of showrooms and collection points, most orders can be made online or via mobile. Interaction with product and advice from well trained staff will still be necessary for some purchases. Less retail property will be needed, that’s almost certain, BUT the high street needs to play a role in the community that it serves.

In a future vision that high street probably has a reasonable array of retail – from a Tesco Express, or similar small-format supermarket, to a variety of unique independents. The overall amount of retail space will reduce making way for more experiential and service related B2C businesses – from day care to libraries, from betting shops to beauty salons. There may be a need to redevelop some property into housing too; bring the consumer closer to the service providers.

The crux of the future will be about each high street being relevant and tailored to the needs and wants of the community it serves.

The internet only accounts for a fraction of overall retail sales…

Whilst clearly there is a shift towards online shopping, and this will be a trend for the long term, online sales are presently only a fraction of the overall retail sales that come from “bricks and mortar”. We must not loose sight of this. There are still a vast proportion of shoppers who DO visit the high street, who need local goods and services. Parking may well be irrelevant to them – they either don’t drive, can’t drive or can’t afford to drive – depending on public transport and accessible shopping. The elderly, students, low income families – all need an accessible high street.

Many people report that they still enjoy the social aspect of going to their local high street – and regardless of how engaged we are online and how tied to “facebook on the mobile” we still need face to face interactions!

Others simply like to browse the products, to be inspired by the visual merchandising and to enjoy the “sensational” aspects of a visit to the shops – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.

How can the failing high streets be turned around?

There are high streets which are in a downward spiral and these are the ones that some of the suggestions made by Mary Portas in the high street review can really help (especially around BIDs and rates).  These need a co-ordinated effort to create a sustainable platform for businesses, employment and the community.

Others, where there are customers still willing to spend, need to focus on their customer engagement – attraction, conversion, retention and encouraging advocacy. My experience, and one echoed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London, is that too many retailers and their staff particularly are delivering seriously POOR SERVICE. Vanessa had a feature on air on both 16th and 17th of November 2011 about how she was “trying to buy” an item. She was overwhelmed by callers who also had “tried to buy” items but retailers had neither stock nor much inclination to sell to them. Where has the passion gone? Where has the service ethic gone? Why is no one hungry to make the sale anymore? Well that’s a whole other blog… I can talk about my own “trying to buy” experience in Phones4U in St Albans high street too!

So, what is the magic formula to save the high streets?

There isn’t one, and anyone who thought Mary Portas could create it will be disappointed. That’s not any reflection on how much Mary did achieve, but simply their expectations were too high and this will take a LONG time.

Each town centre has it’s unique needs. Local authorities need to have the ability to apply a mix of measures to promote sustainable business in their areas. Business owners need to be sure that their proposition is appropriate for the local catchment area and plan their costs in detail to ensure their trade will support the rent, rates, utilities and staffing costs both now and in the future (assuming increasing cost base for the timebeing).

I am sorry that there is no quick fix, but, to echo 3 words that I think do encapsulate the purpose and the feeling being the Portas Review, it’s going to be about “communication, collaboration and compromise”.

Lets hope that the actions resulting from this bring about some positive change in 2012.

About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
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5 Responses to The multichannel consumer experience – the missing element of #portasreview?

  1. Simon Eden says:

    Why does every one feel sorry for the landlords . If they can’t afford them they should sell them . Commercial landlords receive a very good deal in comparison to residential land lords . In the 23 years my business has been in the same place I have rewired put in a hot water and central heating system new toilets etc painted the outside numerous times . How many private tenants do that? My business is saturated in its current location and I would like to expand . I have considered leases on bigger premises but when I considered what the costs would be it doesn’t seem the risk . Consider my position I am in a established position have a small premises with all the benefits that go with that. I wouldove to a bigger shop I would have double rent quadrupole rates double energy twice the cost to fit it out and then I have to take more staff on to pay for this and now due my increase in turnover I am
    Now liable for VAT . Bang goes a load more profit . So I calculated I would have to grow my business by 60% to make 10% more .

    • Simon Eden says:

      The risk reward isn’t worth it to line the
      Pockets of a landlord who does little or nothing to gain that large chunk of my expenses . If I am going to take a massive risk and put it all on the line if there is no reasonable amount of
      Short term
      Gain I want to buy the building so I make long term gain .
      Landlords who can afford to sit on empty properties and not sell should be penalised as it is the of thing that is stoping me expanding into one of the 40 % of the empty shops that are vacant in my town .

      • Clare Rayner says:

        Thanks for your comments Simon, interesting point of view. I was personally thinking that SOME landlords are private people and whilst others are clearly larger organisations it would seem wrong to have a one-size-fits-all approach to landlords. I would be concerned that the regulations proposed could be over zealously applied. I am not in favour of penalties, more would favour support and encouragement. My concern with so many of the recommendations is that they get implemented by local council members who are not consumer / retail specialists and just follow a policy, not always doing what’s in the best interest of the town / community / customers / businesses but more just following the process. Anything that creates processes where penalties could be applied in a manner that damages a different sector (regardless of how beneficial to retailers) would concern me because where there is positive action for a group there is often another group who feels aggrieved, not making for a harmonious business relationship!

  2. Pingback: Grant Shapps: 12 “Portas Pilot” Towns to win “golden ticket” and share £1million for regeneration #indieretail | Clare Rayner: The Retail Champion

  3. Pingback: Grant Shapps: 12 “Portas Pilot” Towns to win “golden ticket” and share £1million for regeneration #indieretail | CTS Blog

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