Shopping has changed. From years of austerity and rationing during the Second World War, to the economic boom of the 1950s when consumerism took off and brands like Marks and Spencer led the way with a mixture of quality, value and customer service.
The first out-of-shop transaction was made in 1984. And not online, as the internet was still in its infancy, but by a pensioner at home using a remote control to her TV. The internet has since changed our shopping experience and the face of our high street. Out-of-town superstores grow out of convenience, with the lack of free parking in towns driving consumers away from the High Street.
But the rise of online retailing and a financial crash further changed shopping habits – with eCommerce sales in the UK rising despite the recession. Online retail sales are growing because it is easier for customers and cheaper for retailers to supply their products and services online.
In August 2014, the IMRG/Capgemini E Retail Sales Index said online retail sales grew by 18% up from 9% in July when customers opted for the high streets in the heatwave. E-Commerce Europe calculates that Europe’s market was worth €312bn (£269bn, $408bn) in sales during 2012. The UK plays home to 300,000 of Europe’s online retailers, with a market worth €96bn.
The UK is known as a shopping nation and leads the world for ecommerce. A report by Verdict Retail claims that online shopping will account for £1 in every £7 spent by 2018.
There have been major changes in how and where we shop. High-Streets have changed beyond recognition, and are no longer the domain of the traditional big brand retailers such as M&S or department stores like Bentalls. It’s the online retailers such as Amazon and Asos who dominate retail sales, not the traditional High Street brands.
High-street retailers should embrace the internet and think about becoming multi-channel retailers i.e. not to offer either an online or an offline channel to market alone. Fashion chains and brands must invest in their online platforms to join up with their offline channels. They need to understand how one affects the other. An Econsultancy report found that 44% of UK consumers always research purchases online before actually buying in-store. This presents a huge opportunity for retailers to make websites drive customers to their stores, and make it easier for shoppers to find out about them, their stores and products.
While some brands are responding well to technology, others must catch up quickly. Brands need to be accessible, both online and offline, in order to remain relevant to their customers.