We call this the war of the ages because it has literally been going on for AGES. Technology rose, so did online shopping naturally, and suddenly every blogger on the internet became a fortune teller and predicted the death of the high street. As time went on and we all continued to stroll down our high streets every weekend visiting both the butcher and the baker (forget the candlestick maker, he’s well gone), a new spate of articles hit the internet declaring that the high street was absolutely not dead. It’s been a long and terribly dull ordeal. So let this be the article to end the war. Consider it a white flag. An armistice. A final settlement.
Because the truth is, the high street isn’t going anywhere and neither is online shopping. We’ve all be been so busy trying to pick a side that we forgot we don’t actually have to.
Online shopping will always have a place in the digital world, and we can tell you, the tech and the digital lives we’ve created aren’t going anywhere. They’re here to stay, so naturally online shopping will fit into that. In a demanding night and day economy, consumers want access to shopping at all times. They want to use price comparison sites, they want infinite choice in styles and sizes and they want to do it all from the comfort of their own home without the pressure of three different sales assistants hanging around waiting to bag some commission.
Similarly, physical brick and mortar stores will continue to have a place in a world that still requires, and desires, human connection. The current statistic is that 90% of purchases in the UK are still made in store, while 60% of Generation Z consumers value the store experience. Millennials even want to shop in places they can touch, feel and see their product. Not to mention for some, shopping is an experience and they appreciate input and care from the staff and in store experiences.
The conversation should have never been around which one would supersede the other, but rather, how we can get the two working seamlessly together. That’s the discussion ad agencies should be having with their clients and it’s why omnichannel is so damn important. Even though consumers are shopping in physical spaces, that’s not to say they haven’t already interacted with brands online first. The challenge here is ensuring that consumers have an integrated, seamless journey and what they see and do online must absolutely match the experience they have in store.
For example, Argos are a retailer who have always done this exceptionally well. They were one of the first businesses to introduce a click and collect service, promising to be served within ten minutes, as well as endless options with how a consumer can pick up and interact with their product. That’s where they’ve managed to strike a balance and probably the reason they’re still going strong today despite negative predictions.
Because the truth is, no one brand is going to encapsulate the needs and wants of an entire audience. You can’t decide how people shop or assume the ways they like to based on their age. Some swear by online shopping and refuse to move off their sofa, while others refuse to even look at a website. And then there’s everyone in between. We’re past guessing games and dramatic predictions. Retailers will do well when they manage to bring online and offline shopping under one roof, and ad agencies will do even better if they manage to figure out how to do this for their clients. Maybe then the war will finally be put to rest.