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Reopening the UK high street will only succeed if retailers maintain a strong online presence, with social distancing measures meaning lower footfall, according to new research.

Organisations are going to need to achieve a seamless blend between both brick-and-mortar and online stores if they are to succeed post-lockdown, according to retail sales technology and consultancy firm Conversity.

Over the next few weeks, the UK will take its first steps towards emerging from lockdown. Like many other sectors, retail has been hit hard, with the majority of high street outlets forced to close for a significant period. For many consumers, this has necessitated an increased reliance on online shopping.

Conversity says retaining this focus on online is key even after physical stores reopen, given the impact social distancing measures are likely to have on store footfall and the level of personalised service sales advisors can provide.

“The companies that have been most successful in recent weeks are the ones that have made a concerted effort to reassure customers and make their lives easier when shopping online,” says Sarah Cameron, director of customer experience at Conversity.

“When physical stores reopen, there will inevitably be a range of measures in place to ensure social distancing. With this in mind, footfall will be much lower than pre-pandemic levels for the foreseeable future, and staff will have new responsibilities alongside assisting customers, such as queue management or administering click-and-collect orders in a safe manner.

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“All of this means that retailers and brands will need to continue working hard to provide a high quality of online service, and ensure that the customer experience across channels is as seamless as possible as restrictions are gradually lifted.”

For Cameron, technology will be crucial in helping organisations to achieve this seamless transition between online and in-store, and in ensuring online remains a powerful driver of revenue while in-store makes its slow recovery.

“Retailers and brands should be taking steps right now to ensure that the personalised, human service and advice that staff provide in-store is replicated as best as possible in the online environment.”