How the high street can save itself

When yet another bricks and mortar retailer declares a profit warning or store closures, the argument usually ensues that Amazon is killing the high street. While this is true, the reasons are often overlooked. Price isn’t everything.

Earlier this year Amazon topped the UK’s Customer Satisfaction Index for the 6th year running. In second place is John Lewis who have traditionally been renowned for their customer service. But for the last 6 consecutive years they have been beaten by a retailer with no stores, and no knowledgeable and professional sales staff.

So clearly Amazon is offering a lot more than just good prices. But what can the high street do to fight back? Here are some pointers that, as consumers, we think are vital for retailers hoping to survive the high street crisis.

Availability

Amazon offers free next day delivery to Prime customers, but sometimes that’s still not quick enough. Nothing is more frustrating than rushing out to a store only to find that they don’t have the item you need in stock.

Amazon and Argos can offer same day shipping to your home, so surely it must be possible for retailers to offer same day delivery to their own stores when they go out of stock? Although this would add cost to the supply chain, it would also mean stores could hold less stock and replenish on a just-in-time basis. Most profoundly, it would mean a customer never left empty-handed.

Supply

When a brand wants to supply a product to Amazon, it can do with ease. If a brand wants to supply a product to a retailer, it often needs to use a distributor that’s also supplying other products. The retailer does this to avoid having to set-up and maintain additional supplier accounts which can be resource heavy and expensive.

However, the cost to the brand of supplying via a distributor would far outweigh the cost to maintain the additional supplier accounts and would allow direct interaction with the brands inventory teams. Perhaps retailers should look at ways to automate their supplier relationships in a similar way to Vendor Central and give more focus to taking brands direct.

Value

Many of the popular UK high-street retailers now offer price-matching with Amazon. Surely making sure I have the best price should be the retailers’ responsibility, not down to me to search the web for better offers.

In mainland Europe, more and more retail stores are implementing digital price tickets which update live with the online pricing of the product. This means that the customer can be sure they are buying at the best price without having to shop around and prove this to the retailer.

Reviews

Amazon is a bigger product search engine than even Google. Customers that are buying in stores are using Amazon to check reviews of products first. This means that when retailers work hard to get customers in store, they are not always ready to buy because they first want to understand other customers opinions. This drives the customer to Amazon, or other online sites, at which point the customer could be lost.

Using the digital price tickets mentioned above, to also display the review rating from the trusted online retailers could reduce the need for the customer to look elsewhere before purchasing.

Experience

Retailers are being advised to create experiences in-store to win customers. Of course that is necessary in order to drive footfall but, crucially, the first thing that needs to be fixed is the experience that the existing customers receive.

In a high street store customers will get a price ticket with 3-5 short bullet points of text to tell them why they should buy the product. On Amazon brands can have full A+ content pages with lifestyle images, magazine awards and even brand stores. If retailers offered brands the chance to have additional product information that they could design themselves in-store, they would pay for that privilege. A+ content in-store.

As is proven on Amazon and elsewhere online, the better your content, the better conversion will be, and the more revenue for the retailers.