Consumers have high expectations for digital technologies in store but these are not yet being met by retailers. Half of supermarket shoppers would like staff to use tablets to check stock levels and a quarter want to be able to use tablets themselves to scan and pay for their items, according to research conducted by Omnico Group. However, only 10% of supermarket shoppers have seen tablet services used in-store. And small businesses have also been slow to embrace e-commerce, with only 18% of SMEs and charities allowing customers to make online purchases or donations on their website, according to Lloyds Bank.
Yet a range of collaborative initiatives are being used to help shops and businesses bridge this gap.
1. Digital High Streets Advisory Board
This government-backed initiative, including representatives from Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Argos, aims to share digital best practice amongst its members in order to promote the range of opportunities to harness digital technology in retail. The board will meet regularly to discuss successful digital case studies from the private and public sectors, in order to suggest wider initiatives which the government can adopt to help the high street. Marks and Spencer was one of the first supermarkets to experiment with incorporating tablets and WiFi into the in-store shopping experience and as we discussed recently on the blog, Tesco and Waitrose have been using iBeacons to engage with customers via their smartphones.
A crowdfunding project providing an online platform for more than 400 retailers across 160 towns, MyHigh.St is helping smaller shops to compete online with bigger retailers. The website provides a place for local retailers to sell their goods online and their goal is to raise more than £270,000 in pledges in two months. A similar project called Open High Street piloted two years ago in Hereford and saw all its featured retailers enjoying an increase in turnover and similar initiatives are likely to follow soon.
3. Government digital strategy: digital inclusion
Action 15 of the government’s digital strategy policy paper is to “collaborate with partners across public, private and voluntary sectors to help people go online”. Working together with the charity Go ON, the government is aiming to reduce digital exclusion across businesses. The Digital Skills website has been set up as a free source of information and advice to citizens and organisations, while the government also plans to share best practice across sectors.