The need to mobilise...
This was the message coming through loud and strong at the BRC's Retail Symposium this week. The winning formula for the future looks likely to be the embracing of technology, in particular mobile, and a more exclusive and impressively situated national spread of physical stores.
It is the interlinking of technology and stores, merging physical stores with digital ones so the two channels work together to drive up sales that will be so important to get right. For those chasing the 'best omni-channel retailer' title, the fastest growth is being seen in mobile technology and this is where investment of time and money needs to be made.
Sitting and waiting is no longer an option as those who hang back to see how this develops will no doubt get left behind, as the pace of change which can appear gradual to start with, suddenly accelerates. After all not many people predicted that the fax would become extinct quite so rapidly as it did. Or the speed with which email swept the globe. The same thing is surely destined to happen with mobile technology, including the use of the "virtual wallet" to make payment. So retailers need to embrace the pioneering spirit and not wait for the world to overtake them.
The virtual shopping world won't see an end to the high street however. There will still be a need for physical stores, but perhaps less of them - an effective national coverage can be achieved with fewer stores in well-picked locations. It's hard to imagine consumers being satisfied with only ever buying clothes online, for example, or giving up window shopping or browsing completely. But the use of technology has and will continue to change the way we shop.
Retailers need to be able to think on their feet in this time of change. To be flexible, to be able to adapt and to have a clear strategy for where they are going has never been more essential. And for anyone, like myself, who advises retailers this should also be top of the agenda.
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