A brief run-down of our favourite points raised at the IMRG e-retail conference 'Connect' this July.
On the 3rd July 2014 we attended the ‘IMRG Connect’ event in Manchester to learn from industry experts what the latest ‘Game Changers’ are in the eCommerce sector.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. The core of the events’ lessons painted the scene of a tale of two city centres; the worst of times for the high street and the best of times for consumers. The high street as we know it is a thing of the past, with “up to 25,000 High Street stores” estimated to have closed their doors between 2000 and 2011. (Dept for Business Innovation and Skills ‘Understanding High Street Performances’ December 2011) That’s a hard pill to swallow, unless you’re a pureplay online retailer. But as the desolate un-trodden high street gives way to the relentless growth of eCommerce, like the humming march of an oncoming zombie herd, guest speaker Guy Douglas (Digital High Street Programme Manager at the Association of Town and City Management) introduced us to the concept of the digital high street, where shopping centres and mCommerce can work together to bridge the gap.
Mobile was the buzzword of the day. It’s been bandied around in recent years, but many truly believe that 2014 will be the year of the Mobile. So what do our smart phones have to do with the re-imagining of the high street? Douglas told us that "Shopping on the high street is a sociable mini safari, it's an experience.” However, high street footfall has been dropping at an alarming rate over recent years; with disappointing losses of “26% of combined town and city footfall between 2007 and 2013”. (Springboard Research Ltd: research data shared with IMRG, June 2014)
When thinking of the shopping channels as separate entities, we run the risk of becoming too locked into our virtual buying habits and lose all the charm of the local bricks and mortar. Our insular social networking habits of Facebooking and Twittering; which incidentally are adopting their own ‘buy buttons’, could learn a thing or two from the human experience of high street shopping. If mobile-commerce is fully embraced by shop owners with strong free wifi coverage, the image of the abandoned high street could become like a bustling Parisian boulevard filled with coffee shops and patisseries instead. Can you see yourself browsing and buying on the move, or perhaps over a frothy latte with old friends?
Mobile potential realised then, why do “45% of retailers” still not have any form of mobile strategy? Jonathan Setty, (Sales Director at MoPowered) talked us through the reality that retailers still fail to see the importance of investing in Mobile. If mobile technology is neglected, the mCommerce buying experience can be extremely frustrating for the modern day consumer who is used to buying at broadband speeds. Most alarmingly, even the most minor technical glitch such as a 1 second delay time can lead to a 7% drop in sales! Setty told us. So the risk of doing nothing is sky high.
The Connect event taught us that trust in shopping via mobile is strengthening largely due to recent investment in payment methods. Could these technological advances really provide the canvas for foretelling the future of an interactive high street shopping experience?
Writer: Alex Broom-Roden
Edited by Monk Chipman