High-Street Vs ECommerce: What does the future hold for the UK’s high street, as more people buy online through ECommerce platforms. When Covid lockdown restrictions were eased only 9% of the UK population said they would return to high street stores immediately as they felt buying online had become the new normal. Does that mean face-to-face retail has become a thing of the past? It’s obvious that there has been a significant rise in ECommerce sales and a boom in retail brands using social media to engage with their target audiences. We are also seeing many major high street brands struggle, but this could be positive for smaller retailers.
Before the pandemic, high streets across the UK were looking empty with many shops going into administration. The high rent costs and the increase in online shopping made it difficult for high street only retailers. Online sales have recently increased by 56%, meaning as we are heading towards a digital Christmas, it is vital that businesses expand their online brand awareness. With more of the population online than ever before, now is the time for brands to invest in their digital presence and selling capabilities on online ECommerce platforms.
The rise of ECommerce
ECommerce is not new however, with technology advancing and social media platforms evolving, more brands are using ECommerce to increase their market share. Shopping online has become the new norm mainly due to how convenient it is to many of us, as we can shop anywhere at any time not constricted by travel or store opening and closing times. It’s safer, easier and most retailers are finding ways of discounting item prices and providing incentives.
In recent years, there has been a significant rise in Direct to Consumer (DTC) marketing from brands looking to dominate their marketplace. These are brands that sell directly to customers, avoiding use of affiliates and third party retailers or wholesalers, some DTC brands open up limited or pop up retail stores but they mostly sell online via their ECommerce platforms. Direct to Consumer brands are are able to pass on savings from third party fees and reduce the cost for consumers, they are also more likely to build relationships with their customers developing brand loyalty. The beauty industry was first to see the big move to the DTC model, including brands like Glossier and Colourpop. The Direct to Consumer model started in the beauty industry but has started to increase in some other sectors like household goods, fashion and automotive.
Some brands that have had stores since they were founded would find it difficult to go fully online as they could feel it takes away the customer interaction. However, with the continuing expansion of social media, online experiences are getting better therefore brands can take advantage of this. People are spending more time online and on digital devices, therefore, meaning more time spent on social media engaging with brands and digital communities. Evidence shows that people aged between 36-45 years old, 45% of them have researched products on Facebook at least once and 22% of people said they have purchased a product after seeing a Facebook Ad. For Instagram, it’s the younger generation who use this channel more for shopping and researching products, as it was found 42% of people aged 18-25 have researched products on Instagram.
Facebook and Instagram have both added ECommerce features to their platform, therefore, consumers can shop directly from their newsfeeds. Even better with Instagram features, if a brand has over 10K followers they can include a “swipe up” feature to their stories, enabling the brand to include direct links to their ECommerce site, to that exact product they are promoting. One thing beauty and fashion brands do well is use influencers on these social platforms to promote their products for them. The reason why influencer marketing works so well for beauty brands is due to influencers creating content using the products in real-time through live streaming or Instagram Reels. By showcasing the product viewers can see if the products are worth buying or not and click links that go straight to the retailer ECommerce website.
Can Small Businesses Compete With Big Brands?
Online shopping is growing but how can small businesses keep up with the big brands? Amazon completely dominates the ECommerce market, with 78% of consumers researched products on Amazon. So it is unrealistic to think the smaller brands can become digital and rival amazon however there is plenty of room online for small businesses to grow their brand and increase their sales.
Recently a lot of big high street names have totally changed their customer journey and experience on their ECommerce websites. For example, the beauty brand, MAC introduced its augmented reality makeovers. Consumers who have used the tool are very engaged with it as you can enable your live camera or upload an image of themselves, then go through a products colour swatches to see what they would like and better suits them. Similar to their stores, you can ask a MAC artist for assistance and advice via their live chat feature on their website.
Big brands can afford these types of features, however, for small businesses, recent times have been rough. There have been some small businesses that have thrived through the recent hard times by totally flipping their business model and taking their brand online. Small businesses have their unique ability to sell to local customers with a touch of individuality and personality that the big brands can’t do in the same way. People in the UK over the past couple of years have realised how small businesses have been impacted therefore a lot more people are shopping locally and supporting their local businesses. These businesses need to start planning on serving their customers online and especially during seasonally periods where revenue is usually high like Christmas.
Growing Your Business With Social ECommerce
Research conducted by Statista that showed 40% of people worldwide has increased the amount of time on social media. This is a good thing for businesses already utilizing social media as a promotional tool as they have even more users to advertise to and a bigger time window to convert them into customers.
With social platforms now having an ECommerce element to them, this will benefit retail businesses even more as you can upload your catalogue of products to Facebook or Instagram and they will display them to your target audience. Also, Facebook has Dynamic Ads, these work extremely well for retail brands as a retargeting tool, as you can target consumers who have been on your website but not made a purchase or have left products in their online basket, you can read more about Facebook Dynamic Ads on our recent blog here
As consumer shopping habits have changed since Feb 2020, more people are preferring buying online, but more interestingly more people are buying from smaller retailers as they have a sense of care towards them knowing they are one of the sectors that have been hit hardest in the last couple of years. With the ease and convenience of online shopping, we are positive that a lot of Christmas 2021 presents will be bought online.
If you have been struggling with your digital marketing strategy or want to enhance the digital presence of your retail brand in time for Christmas, Jam Digital can help! See what we can do for your social media, SEO or Pay-Per-Click strategy.
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