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Online spending is on the rise; what does this mean for East Midlands’ high-street retailers?

| Duncan & Toplis | 8 August 2023

Shopping online is more popular in the UK than anywhere else in the world, according to the International Trade Administration. It’s great news for buyers, who prize convenience and the traceability of goods, but it understandably raises red flags for high-street retailers.

How popular is online shopping?

Online retail now accounts for just over 30% of all purchases, up from 20% just three years ago. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics agrees, stating that “we’re spending substantially more online than before the coronavirus pandemic”. While figures did peak during this time, they remain much higher than they ever were beforehand.

It’s clear that consumer habits have been fundamentally changed in the last three years, but how does this shift to online spending bode for Lincolnshire’s high street retailers?

Online baskets vs. brick-and-mortar stores

It’s important to see the bigger picture here: spending in-store still accounts for a huge 68% of all purchases made, with online transactions lingering around 32%.

Proportionally speaking, high-street retailers have a clear advantage over online retailers. This is especially true for those in the leisure and tourism sector. Why? Because 74% of consumers admit to valuing an experience over a product - so retailers that are able to leverage this experiential mindset into more on-the-ground spending are likely to have a bright future. How can they do this?

Drive sales with digital marketing

Your website is not only an extension of your store, but the most visible element, so treat it with the care and attention you’d bestow on your most impactful window display - but tenfold. 

Forward-looking retailers can take this even further by investing in robust e-commerce platforms, enhancing their websites with user-friendly interfaces and secure payment systems. By creating compelling online storefronts, retailers can extend their reach beyond physical locations and tap into the vast potential of the digital market.

Embed community culture into your ethos

To counter the impersonal nature of online shopping, it is essential for retailers to cultivate a sense of community within their online and physical stores.

Physical retailers have the opportunity to transform their spaces into experiential hubs, hosting workshops, events, and demonstrations that provide value beyond the act of purchasing. Ways to enhance this may be to collaborate with local artisans, showcase unique products, and offer personalised services. You may also club together with neighbouring shops and venues to create a more immersive experience and a stronger sense of community.

This is especially relevant for the tourism and leisure sectors, which typically enjoy a peak of seasonal interest in line with the summer holidays and other timely events - so capitalise on them wherever possible.

It pays to understand omnichannel retailing

Retailers must take care to combine the convenience of online shopping with the immersion provided by physical stores. Obviously, how far you take this is down to you. For those with a smaller marketing budget or those taking their first tentative steps online, targeted adverts based on the geography of prospective customers could drive footfall and generate more sales.

This will of course vary depending on your products and location, but (for example) you could offer a wine-tasting evening or menu sampling session for seasonal product changes in restaurants. This might be a great way to get customers to taste test changes to your offering, generating footfall and feedback in one fell swoop. Advertising this online in advance to both drum up interest and approximate attendance on the night would help to naturally attract customers and help you and your staff to prepare accordingly.

This specific fusion of online and offline experiences enhances customer engagement, fosters loyalty, and differentiates the high-street shopping experience from online-only options.

The future looks bright - for businesses able to adapt

There is a unique opportunity, especially for retailers in the tourism and leisure sector, to fashion a vibrant and engaging destination for consumers, where the best of online and offline offerings can coexist harmoniously.

If you’d like more information on how you can harness this to benefit your business, get in touch today.

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