Decline in retail sales ‘shows need for further innovation’

The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium covering the period from October to December 2017 show that high street spending in the run up to Christmas increased at the slowest rate since 2012, after rising prices saw shoppers choosing to spend on essential items such as food.

Vanessa Walmsley, managing director at customer journey management solutions provider Qmatic, suggests that to combat these challenging trading conditions, retailers must invest in innovative technology that can help them reduce friction in the retail environment and create the very best customer experience.

Vanessa commented: “While the grocery sector performed well, the non-food sector of the market is really struggling. Sales of non-food items slumped dramatically, declining 3.7% on a total basis and 4.4% on a like-for-like basis, the worst performance since 2012. As we see several mainstays of the British retail market, such as Debenhams and New Look, report another poor set of financial results, it is clear that retailers must look for new ways of working and doing business if they are to stop this decline.

“We all know that a number of factors have been putting significant strain on the UK retail market, including Brexit, the depreciation in the value of sterling, rising inflation and stagnant wage growth. However, we conducted a survey of UK shoppers which revealed that 66% of consumers still do most of their Christmas shopping on the high street, which compares favourably to online shopping, as just 7% of consumers reported doing all their Christmas shopping online. This shows that there are still significant opportunities for ‘brick and mortar’ retailers on the high street, and that with the right customer journey management strategy, they can grow sales, increase market share and improve customer loyalty to the brand.”

The Qmatic survey also revealed the issues that put consumers off about shopping in-store during the Christmas period. 50% reported that long lines for the till put them off shopping in-store, while 30% cited shops not having the items they wanted in stock as a reason for avoiding the high street at Christmas.

A comprehensive customer journey management strategy, which includes ‘Click and Collect’ services that allow customers to order products, which might be out of stock, to the store for collection at a convenient time, can help to reduce friction. Mobile technology can also help to reduce in-store friction, enabling the customer to connect to service or scan a product with their phone and pay automatically, so that those customers who just want to buy a couple of items can get in and out of the store quickly, without having to queue at a till.

Vanessa concluded: “Solutions such as ‘Click and Collect’ services and mobile checkouts are exciting options for retailers that can enable consumers to shop in the way that suits them best. It is critical that retailers look to innovative technology, as part of a broader customer journey management strategy, to ensure that they are providing a smooth, friction-free shopping experience for their customers. With a real focus on creating the best experience, retailers will give themselves the best possible chance of boosting their sales and generating lasting customer loyalty to their brand.”

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