How The Growth Of E-Commerce Has Affected The High Street

Many British High Street retailers are currently struggling to survive. There are many possible reasons for this, including the impact of high business rates on smaller businesses, and larger retail chains overreaching their capabilities to respond flexibly to changing demand. However, probably the biggest challenge faced by high street retailers this century is the growth of online shopping. Let’s look at how e-commerce contributed to the failure of some bricks-and-mortar stores and what you can learn from the situation.

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Why Is There So Much Doom And Gloom On The High Street?

According to the British Retail Consortium, an estimated 85,000 retail jobs disappeared in the UK between October 2018 and 2019, as part of a fifteen-year pattern of decline. A host of big-name brands have also fallen by the wayside in recent years. 2018 saw companies such as New Look, Toys R Us, and Maplin go into administration, while firms like MotherCare, Debenhams, and Jack Wills followed suit in 2019. While some of these businesses still exist in some form or another, the future of the traditional High Street still looks uncertain.

Changing Consumer Behaviour

Two consumer purchasing patterns have changed the way people use high street retailers:

1) Firstly, as reported by the Guardian in 2017, there is a growing trend for people to spend their hard-earned cash on experiences, rather than on goods.

2) Secondly, when people do buy goods and services, they frequently purchase them online, rather than in person – even if they use an established high street brand. According to one recent report, online transactions now account for 19 per cent of all retail sales in the UK and that figure is set to increase to 53% within the next ten years. Many people simply find it easier to order goods and services through a website from the comfort of their home, rather than trawl through shelves in a shop. Studies have also shown that many people conduct research online before making offline purchases too. It's not just UK shoppers that are making the switch either - according to Statista, 1.92 billion people around the world now shop online.

Book A Free Marketing AssessmentWhy Is Online Shopping Becoming So Popular?

When you consider the advantages that online shopping offers, it's hardly surprising that business is booming for companies that conduct their business via digital channels:

  • You can make purchases wherever you are, at any time of day;

  • You don't have to battle your way through crowds of shoppers;

  • You don't have to worry about transport or parking costs;

  • You don't have to go out in extreme weather conditions;

  • There are more products to choose from;

  • No risk of disappointment from goods not being in stock (…“but we do have some at our Axminster store”…);

  • Your goods can be delivered to your door;

  • You'll often be able to get goods for less;

  • You can read online product reviews;

  • You can perform price comparisons with other shops without walking an inch;

  • If you spot someone talking about a product (on social media, for example), you can buy it straightaway.

With so many of us owning laptops, tablets, and smartphones, shopping online has never been simpler. Research conducted by Statista shows that, by 2018, 96 per cent of adults in the UK used mobile phones and 84 per cent of those used smartphones.

What Does This Mean For You?

The effect that e-commerce has had on the High Street demonstrates how important it is to understand your customers' needs, and respond to changes in their behaviour promptly. It also shows how crucial it is to focus on digital marketing activities if you want a healthy bottom line. For advice on how to do this, contact JDR today.

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