Technology may be the solution to improving retail footfall

COVID-19 has led to long-term changes in consumer behavior as reconnecting with the great outdoors after the lockdown and ongoing fears of contagion and spread of the virus have made it less attractive to shop on the high street. The appetite for online shopping has grown out of necessity, and e-commerce has enchanted many new customers with its simplicity and accessibility. The digital transformation accelerated by COVID-19 has forced many retailers to go online and significantly reduced footfall in UK stores, threatening the future of brick and mortar retailers. However, the technology has the potential to reverse some of the damage.

Despite the loosening of the lockdown restrictions in Great Britain, the number of visitors to brick-and-mortar stores has remained low. UK government ministers have warned that visitor frequency may never return to pre-pandemic levels. National pedestrian numbers published by Springboard showed that in week 26, 2021 (June 27 to July 3), pedestrian frequency in the UK was 72% of total capacity, compared to 91% in the corresponding week of 2019.

According to the BRC-LDC Vacancy Monitor, one in seven shops in the UK is empty, a five-year high. This could adversely affect the economic future of both the UK and retailers. The pandemic has proven challenging government strategies to increase footfall in brick and mortar stores as many shoppers continue to prefer e-commerce. The global e-commerce market grew by 40% to $ 2.2 trillion in 2020, according to GlobalData forecasts. Retailers who fail to adapt to this change will be left behind.

Increasing footfall is key to maximizing retail profits. Retailers can drive footfall by increasing storefront appeal, building customer loyalty, strengthening marketing, and offering in-store services that go beyond the capabilities of the internet, such as: B. Expert advice and support.

Tech start-up NearSt has set itself the goal of increasing customer frequency in retail by promoting products that are currently available locally in stores to users who search on Google. The Google-powered solution shows customers live store inventory to attract shoppers to the store. The app has been tested by stores in Mayfair and Belgravia, London. NearSt partnered with landlord Grosvenor Group and optimized Google Local Inventory Ads to advertise inventory information in local stores including Vickisarge, Creed and Pringle of Scotland. The study found that 36% of retail trips that started with an online purchase intent ended with offline visits to a physical store. An estimated grand total of £ 185,000 was spent by 815 shoppers who drove into the store after viewing the suggestions from the tool.

The technology increases transparency for customers by guaranteeing availability before shoppers make their way to the store. As a result, the platform has the potential to increase customer frequency for retailers. NearSt developers have discussed plans to expand the functionality to social media platforms to increase inventory visibility for a wider cohort.