NDA Viewpoints: How digital will save, not kill, the high street

We’re tired of the incessant focus on the role of the internet in the “death of the high street” stories that are constantly rolled out. So we’re taking a look at the other side of the story, the role digital technologies can and are playing in the rejuvenation of the high street experience. We’re talking to experts across the industry to understand and celebrate the role digital is playing in not killing but saving our high streets.

By Sarah Cutler, Director of Partneships, makemepulse

Retailers need to introduce the convenience and entertainment we get from an online experience onto the shop floor. Syncing the best of online with their physical retail experience.

From a convenience perspective, there are some incredible innovations that although not new and feel like they will slowly become mass-market such as more accurate stock search (H&M) to BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), as Amazon Prime is yet to get to everyone, but Argos can.

Essentially using technology to offer a more frictionless purchase experience but still being able to try/see/touch in-store.

The really exciting trend is exploring how retailers can use their stores to offer a deeper brand experience. Creating playful, immersive environments that combine large, scaleable almost artistic installations with highly customisable and personal experiences. People still want to get out of their houses and into the world yet are never without their phones and therefore the online world when doing so.

From designer to high-street, customers are seeking out shareable moments and their favourite retailers have the perfect space to host them. Sports Direct and Flannels claim to have seen a 42.7% growth* (partially) as a result of investing in in-store technology like sensor-led mirrors and interactive displays.

Their soon-to-be opened Oxford Street store constantly surprises me with the fun and topical campaigns they run on these giant screens. Once installed these screens essentially allow companies like us to develop interchangeable customisable content and experience that can be interacted with and shared.

AR and computer vision may finally become a reality for product demos and in-store search, however there are lots of low-cost fun ways to enter this world such as using Snapchat lenses to marry the IRL experience with their social following. This is trend we are definitely seeing with certain demographics, offering location-based personalisation, Easter eggs and customised promotions.

Prior to 2019 we’ve battled with seeing the ROI from VR due to scalability. The democratisation of voice and the increased stability of AR means that previously lonely experiences can now be delivered to the masses and scaled for audience and budget accordingly. Combing these technologies is the dream.

The common theme is creating an experience in-real life that is a combination of shareable, useful, entertaining and personalised. If its something customised you can buy and take home, even better!

As this technology becomes more commonplace and more retailers see the value in having year-round interactive displays in their stores, this brings down the cost and increases the creativity that we can bring to the in-store experience for 2019 and beyond.

Over the next year, I hope to see as exciting innovations in this space in the UK and USA as we have come to expect from Asia.

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