Thought Leadership

2020 has not killed the high street, it has given it a new lease of life

Paul Jacobs, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Wax/On explores what the future looks like for the UK retail scene, how consumer perception has been impacted & how brands have responded to the crisis.

Paul Jacobs, Wax/On

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

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For a decade the British high street has been fighting for its life in the face of online shopping and cheap home delivery. Then along came coronavirus and it was dealt yet another knock-out blow.

We gathered three unique perspectives to explore what the future looks like for the UK retail scene, as well as how the public’s perception of shopping has been impacted by lockdown, how brands have responded to the change, and what role marketing can play in helping stores adapt to the new state of play.

Joining our webinar were Tim Robinson, CEO of Doddle, the retail logistics experts, Laurel Wolfe, VP Marketing at fintech company Klarna, and Dr Simon Moore, behavioural psychologist and CEO at Innovation Bubble; three experts from very different fields.

Here’s what we found:

Brands need to focus on finding what people are passionate about, what they love and what they care about, and then delivering towards that.

Laurel Wolfe

The Consumer

Brands must be quick to act

While the Office for National Statistics shows a jump in e-commerce sales from 20% to 30% between February and June, Wolfe explained how lockdown has expedited a change in shopping habits. “The 50+ category is the fastest growing demographic for online shopping and volume is now what it was predicted to be in 2025,” she said. “The real success will be for retailers to link the two channels and having a stronger path between them, giving people a holistic view of the brand regardless of the channel they’re shopping in.”

Do not mistake your customer’s mindset

Dr Simon Moore, who studies consumer behaviour and uses his expertise in psychology to help brands better communicate with and respond to their customers, stressed the importance of recognising the different emotional states of the consumer in the online and offline world, as well as the need for brands to invest in this space if they are to achieve that holy grail of marketing success: effective personalisation.

He said: “Human emotions are complex and to march ahead thinking they’re consistent online and offline is naive to say the least. If brands want to understand their customers, they're going to have to throw some money at it, to actually invest to work out what it really is that their customers need and want.”

Tap into people’s passions

Klarna’s Wolfe spoke about how her company’s customers are identified in tribes. She said: “We spend a lot of the time trying to deliver to the needs of each tribe. Brands need to focus on finding what people are passionate about, what they love and what they care about, and then delivering towards that. What drives them to purchase; it could be delivery or payment options, or the product framed in a different way. But it's about knowing the journey for each one of those tribes and then delivering the right message at the right time.”

By showing that they're actually bothered about their audience, brands are more likely to get an emotional buy-in from them.

Dr Simon Moore

The Brands

Celebrate avoiding the pain of slow but inevitable change

Tim Robinson believes the strange twists and turns of 2020 have done the retail sector some good. He said: “The shift to online has accelerated and whilst in the short term the rapidly shifting balance may feel painful, what you're not now going to have is a decade of gradual change where you're trying to maintain the best of two channels, or the most profitable of two channels, or not knowing when to back one or the other, or the pace at which to change your experience.”

Harness every opportunity for engagement

Logistics expert Robinson enthused about the role of stores as experiences, where consumers can see, touch and understand products before going away and ordering online, with a particular benefit for direct-to-consumer brands.

He said: “Dwell time has reduced drastically in the last 20 years so the more you move towards experiences, you give people a good reason to hang around and engage with your brand.”

Research is being forgotten

Psychologist Moore urged marketers to reassess their budgets when it comes to marketing vs market research. He said: “It's interesting how much money people spend on media without blinking an eye, without actually doing any homework about the needs of their customers, which will cost them a pittance, relatively. By showing that they're actually bothered about their audience, brands are more likely to get an emotional buy-in from them.”

One of the things I'm really hopeful for is big brands thinking about small format stores, which will see some brands that left the high street return with a different format.

Tim Robinson

The Future

Expect more tie-ups between local and online stores

Robinson’s philosophy at Doddle is to wean people off the drug of home delivery. He said: “Since we founded the business in 2013 we knew that if e-commerce continued to grow at the rate it was forecast to, communities, infrastructure, the environment, the planet wouldn’t be able to cope with the volume having to be delivered to single home addresses."

Wait for Amazon to offer the high street a lifeline

The Amazon counter proposition enables a retailer of any size and scale to become an Amazon parcel shop, an arrangement Robinson believes would allow e-commerce to grow efficiently and cost-effectively without having a significantly negative impact on communities and societies. He also called for the government to take the opportunity to reward local retailers that enter into partnerships with digital brands.

He added: “One of the things I'm really hopeful for is big brands thinking about small format stores, which will see some brands that left the high street return with a different format.”

The COVID effect has forced retail into the spotlight

Finally, our guests were in agreement that few decisions have been made lately that would not have to have been taken eventually. Indeed, the negative effects of lockdown have simply accelerated the inevitable and forced marketers and brand owners to think more acutely about the future of the retail experience. Rather than being witness to a slow and painful submission of the UK’s physical stores to its digital competition, could we instead be seeing new life being breathed into our high streets?

Visit Wax/On's profile to read the full write up of the webinar.

Guest Author

Paul Jacobs, Wax/On

Co-Founder & Managing Partner,

About

Paul is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Wax/On, an independent creative agency based in London. Previously, he was Business Lead at Karmarama and more recently a Director at Edelman, where he led the set-up of their creative services division. He also Chairs a network community for UK Agency Start-Ups.

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