Blog: The future of the high street is multi-channel

Petah Marian | 9 March 2012

Marks and Spencer today announced plans to trial free customer wi-fi in ten of its stores as part of the High Street's inexorable shift towards omnichannel.

The retailer also plans to put QR codes around the store to help them discover more about their product range.

Attending the Future of the High Street event on Tuesday night, it became clear, if it wasn't already, that successful retail futures lie with companies willing to service customers however they want to interact with you.

Indeed, Hash Ladha who is deputy MD of Oasis, a retailer that has already taken great strides in this area said, describing consumer attitudes, that: "Wi-fi is a basic human right".

Ladha sounded a clarion call for multi-channel, arguing that pure-play online retailers like Amazon or Asos, which while recording rapid growth at the moment, may find themselves in a more difficult position in coming years as multi-channel or omnichannel retailers bring the best elements of the online shopping experience into stores. "The next few years for the high street becomes a lot more exciting," he said.

However this shift is also bringing unforeseen challenges. With some 60% of John Lewis customers researching online before coming into store, the department store retailer's head of multi-channel, Simon Russell, highlights how this is changing both how they recruit and the importance of training staff. Retailers need now to ensure their store staff are internet literate, and increasingly knowledgeable about their products - so they can speak to their highly-informed customers.

As the industry scrambles to get to grips with this new way of working, and as the economy remains in its current depressed state, retailers will have to work twice as hard to simply remain in the same spot. But the ones who do will be well positioned for when the economy improves.



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