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Future of Retail 2019

Google is helping boost Britain’s high streets with digital skills

iStock / Getty Images Plus / FlamingoImages

Ronan Harris

Google MD, UK and Ireland

The rise in digital continues to impact all of us, causing changes in our behaviour towards how we live, work and shop. 

With over 34,500 independent high street shops opening in 2018, the future of retail is continuously evolving and being accelerated by digital.

Obtaining skills for a digital life can boost the ability of businesses to make the most of the growth opportunities associated with having an online presence and provide new routes to reaching potential customers.

What does this mean for retailers? 

The challenges faced by brick and mortar retailers are well documented. They are up against competition from large shopping centres and supermarkets, as well as changes in consumer behaviour driven by digital technologies.

In its Digital High Street 2020 report, the Future High Streets Forum identified eliminating the digital skills gap as one of the four key achievements required to boost high streets.

This is backed up by recent research conducted by YouGov, on behalf of Google, which showed the majority (51%) of SMEs agree that the digital skills gap between the skills businesses require their workers to have to compete in the digital economy and the reality of the skill set available in the workforce is growing.

Closing the digital skills gap among SMEs can increase profitability

Additionally, government research shows that SMEs with a strong web presence grow more than twice as quickly as their competitors, create more than twice as many jobs, and are 50% more likely to sell outside of their immediate region.

Retailers need to embrace the digital era. Being fully equipped with skills for a digital life can have a transformative impact on business growth and job creation.

But it can also be hard for businesses to embrace this if they don’t yet feel confident online. This is where the Google Digital Garage can help. 

Our digital skills training programme aims to help people and businesses across the UK by giving them access to the digital skills needed to operate and grow in the digital economy.

From digital marketing and social media strategies, to support with exports and growth in customer base, our nationwide High Streets initiative offers retailers the opportunity to access free face-to-face training, which has been tailored to address the specific challenges local SMBs are facing on the high street.

In addition to this, we’ve recently opened a new Digital Garage hub in Sunderland, which is part of a major investment to help people throughout the UK to grow their business, career and confidence through digital skills.

The Google Digital Garage has been mentoring and upskilling people throughout the UK in digital skills since 2015 and has trained over 400,000 people, and visited over 500 villages, towns, and cities across the country. 

Every day, our training makes a huge difference; a new report from IPPR has found that 55% of small business owners reported growth after just 14 weeks after working with Google Digital Garage, including a rise in customers, sales, bookings, profits and/or revenue.

By embracing digital, together with SMBs throughout the UK we can help shape a more prosperous future of retail. 

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