Technology, trends and the pandemic – the triple threat to the High Street

Katherine Moss
Picture by Canva

While Christmas and New Year is often the season of shopping – with revenue increasing by up to 20% – where, when and how we shop continues to change.

The Centre for Retail Research found that 17,145 shops on high streets and other locations across the country closed in 2022. This was up by nearly 50 per cent on 2021, when 11,449 shops shut. Technology, trends and the pandemic seem to have created a perfect storm for high-street retailers, with mobile devices paving the way for an online shopping revolution.

Commenting on the continued rise and future of mobile commerce Dinara Davlembayeva, Lecturer in Marketing at the Kent Business School believes that while online retailers will never completely replace the bricks and mortar experience, they will increasingly play second fiddle to the online experience.

‘For the past three years, the undeniable trend set by the pandemic has been the change in consumer behaviour toward online shopping. Compared to the pre-pandemic period when the percentage of the population buying online was around 75%, in 2022 it has made around 87%, and it is projected to reach 90% by 2025.

‘The primary platform for those transactions has been mobile devices. Against the backdrop of market changes, the retail spending of the UK population over the Christmas and New Year period will likely match the general trend that has been defined by the previous three years. Given the forecasts and continued trend in high street store closures, the embeddedness of mobile devices in the customer shopping journey is likely to sustain and grow in the years to come.

‘Mobile technology offers affordances enabling brands to make the shopping experience personalised, efficient, and entertaining as never before. Post-pandemic social networking apps, primarily Tiktok, have found growing marketing application as it appeals to the audience seeking to reconcile the experiences of social interaction, shopping, and entertainment on a single platform.

‘The behavioural implications of the pandemic have been more difficult to bear for big brick-and-mortar retailers – particularly those with multiple offline locations – and we continue to see high-street closures, iconic department stores and retail chains.

‘However, it’s unlikely that online retailers will never completely replace the offline purchase experience. Mobile and social commerce in particular is primarily for Gen Z and Millennials – for brands catering to wide generational segments, it is important to offer a combination of channels to interact with.

‘There is also a growing segment of the population who shop on the go. They browse in physical stores while making half of their actual purchases online. The resurgence of QR codes to enable instant online purchases and access to brand information and offerings at physical touchpoints has been used effectively by several brands.

‘There are also behavioural differences by product categories. Top mobile spending sectors include clothing, food/grocery shopping, and health and beauty products, while furniture, goods for kids, and electronics are the least purchased categories.

‘Finally, due to increasing accessibility to product information and market transparency, customers value the ease of transition between online and offline channels.  The omnichannel experience reflects the consistency and relevance of information across all touchpoints in the purchase journey. Therefore, the key to retail success in the post-pandemic era may lie in prioritising online offerings without excluding high street presence to ensure a seamless customer experience across multiple channels.’