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The changing face of the high street

The high street is not dead, it’s evolving fast. As consumers’ needs change, the savvy retailers have learned to reinvent themselves.

Those quickest to react and adapt to trends are most likely to thrive.

This high street evolution has produced some clear winners. People use technology to keep in touch, but we still like to meet up for a chat over food and drink, evidenced by the number of new cafes, tea rooms and coffee shops. Our retail hubs are being replaced by social hubs.

Retailers that are thriving in the current climate are those that offer products that consumers feel more comfortable buying in person. These products often have a high price, are difficult to return, or are new to the market or purchaser.

Though physical and online retail are often regarded as opposites, the combination of traditional retail and digital technology will help businesses survive in today’s high street. Consumers expect a 360° experience. They want to view products online, try-and-buy in store and feedback via social media. Great service remains and grows businesses’ reputation and customer base.

The foundations of creating a successful business haven’t changed, but the media available to deliver that strategy have.

Recognise the importance of your staff

The most successful brands have clear differentiation in their market. Providing full training to deliver the high standards of customer service expected of employees can help SMEs to delight customers and build up repeat business and recommendations.

While loyal customers are essential to success, it is ultimately the staff that determine the success of a shop. Valued employees are more likely to become advocates and provide great service. Happy staff have better attendance records and are less likely to experience stress.

Make buying easy and accessible

Don’t overlook how important an online presence is. An eye-catching and functional website is powerful. But that’s just a stepping stone towards a full digital strategy that drives online sales and boosts footfall.

With the increased reliance on digital, businesses need to protect themselves against cybercrime. “Almost half of all micro or small businesses have suffered from a cyber security breach in the past 12 months. Yet only 37% of businesses have specific cyber security insurance”(note 1). Check the cost with your insurance provider.

Social media can play a crucial role. Optimise your social strategy by being flexible, targeted and personal.  Use it to promote offers and products to encourage people to come in-store and to retain them with excellent customer service and digital content.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) has been in place for some time and it’s an area of constant change, offering small retailers lots of possibilities to compete with bigger and more established businesses. As a result of the increased use of mobile devices to search online, major search engines are placing more focus on local results. Businesses can track purchases, offer flexible payments and send adverts onto smartphones as people walk past their stores.

Consumers’ needs have changed. Businesses wanting to win must understand and play by the new rules. Businesses must really focus on the customer experience to differentiate themselves.

SMEs now have access to new digital technology that can be used both in store and on customers’ own devices. Cashless purchases, loyalty schemes and collecting feedback tools can be easily put in place by non-technical start-ups and help drive success on today’s high street. The high street is alive and is certainly not dead — if SMEs can adapt to the rules of this new playing field, the rewards are theirs for the taking.

Control costs and add value

Savvy successful retailers have a winning formula to thrive and not just survive when it comes to comparing costs and value. Take insurance as an example. Modern comparison services like Bira Insurance can provide instant advice on costs and cover compared to a panel of quality insurers. Bira effectively shop around for you and build in cost saving advantages such as paying for theft through shoplifting and increasing the value of your stock at key times of the year without increasing the premium.

Note 1. link to main article: 

Find out more about Bira Insurance

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This is a marketing article provided by Bira Insurance.
British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) are an Introducer Appointed Representative of Towergate Underwriting Group Limited. Bira Insurance is a trading name of Towergate Underwriting Group Ltd who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered Address: Towergate House, Eclipse Park, Sittingbourne Rd, Maidstone, Kent ME14 3EN. Registered in England with company number 4043759.

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