There has been a lot of buzz lately regarding the ‘death’ of high street. It went as far as having Nick Boles, UK Planning Minister, suggesting that empty or boarded up shops should be turned into housing, by allowing local authorities more freedom to convert retail premises into private housing.

The reality is that in this fast changing world, all these views that the high street is over seem outdated. While consumers do want to shop online more, they also want to buy from shops, especially now when retailers are more determined than ever to offer an engaging in – store experience.

One of the latest examples is Dixons Retail, that last month unveiled their new digital concept store for its travel brand, Dixons Travel, at Gatwick airport. The store is equipped with digital devices which are displaying new products and the latest offers while ‘floating screens’ have been placed over themed product tables. Travellers can now shop even when the store is closed, with the help of digital signage, which is placed at the front of the store.

High street is here to stay, it’s a work in progress, but as long as it reinvents itself, it will survive, and the latest store concepts that retailers have showcased prove there is great potential to explore.

As Christmas is fast approaching and consumers want to take advantage of all forms of commercial engagement (online and in-store), retailers need to be prepared to offer a seamless shopping experience across all touchpoints.

With this in mind, we wanted to hear about consumers’ experience when shopping online and in-store, so we surveyed our panellists in UK to find out their opinions with regards to the following:

  • Shopping experience e.g. how they prefer to shop: online, in-store, online and in-store, and why, what items do they purchase and from where, what would deter them from shopping with an online/offline retailer in the future, which devices they use to shop online (desktop/laptop, smartphone, laptop)
  • In-store experience e.g. have consumers used Touchscreen kiosks, QR codes and why, have they used contactless payments or their mobile device to shop in-store and their reasons for using them
  • Christmas shopping e.g. when do consumers start shopping for Christmas, how did they shop last year (online, in-store, both online and in-store) and how they plan to shop this year, and most importantly what improvements would they suggest to make the in-store and online Christmas shopping a better experience

Interestingly, the survey results show that 79% of the panellists surveyed prefer to shop both online and in-store, while only 11% shop exclusively online and 10% in-store. These results emphasize how crucial is for retailers to plan their strategy for both online and in-store, and thus can not afford to ignore or prioritize one in the detriment of the other.

Despite mobile commerce delivering around 15% of online retailing globally (according to a recent report released by payments vendor Ayden), consumers are still slow at adopting mobile payments. 88% of our respondents who shop both online and in-store have purchased items via desktop/laptop, while only 8% shopped using a tablet and 4% using a smartphone.

Based on the survey findings, there is a slight increase of the percentage of Christmas shopping that was done online and in-store 73% in 2012 and 75% in 2013, results which underline again the need for retailers to focus equally on delivering a great shopping experience both online and offline. As technology is constantly evolving and changing both the online and offline shopping, consumers no longer make a distinction between online and offline shopping. With easy access to information, today’s multichannel shopper has become increasingly sophisticated and confident when shopping. The only way for retailers to survive and meet the consumers needs is to embrace change and innovation.

Some of the improvements suggested by our respondents for retailers to make online and in-store Christmas shopping a better experience were:

  • Have a more transparent and efficient return policy
  • Clear delivery times and charges
  • Click and collect and self services checkouts
  • User friendly/mobile optimized websites, with easy navigation around the website and through checkout
  • Better customer service