Founding Partner of SaveTheHighStreet.org
We are in the most transformational period in the history of high streets. Many will succeed. Many others will die. So, what can businesses do to ensure they live long and prosper on the high street?
Strategies for success
Each type of high street business has its own unique vulnerabilities and key strategies for the future.
Some will require fundamental changes. Commodity product retailers must differentiate from online-only alternatives, while many information services need business model innovations to stay competitive.
Others should be innovating to double-down on existing strengths. The winners in convenience will be hyper-convenient. The most successful experiences will nurture communities that engage before, during and after they visit. The dominant physical services on each high street will be hyper-personalised. The thriving specialist retailers will be efficient marketing machines, expanding and owning their niche online and locally.
A new industry standard for success on the high street is emerging with recommendations across all 10 pillars from The Connected Digital High Street Manifesto – Data, Discovery, Fulfilment, In store Experience, Product, Loyalty, Team, Brand, Money, Community.
How to win new, local customers:
The most recent research with our High Street Advisory Board (of 300+ retailers and 50+ other experts) looked at what independent high street businesses can do to win new local customers.
Responding quickly to negative reviews (89% important or essential), Fixing broken business listings (90%) and Promoting your local business information on your own website (91%) scored highest. Interestingly, all 3 are online to offline tactics.
Work will continue at all levels, across public and private sectors, to level the playing field and invest in high streets.
Winning new local customers, like every other high street goal, includes hundreds of possible tactics to choose from. No-one can cover all the bases simultaneously. Having a clear plan, updating it based on good data, being open to experimentation and working ‘on your business’ not just ‘in your business’ each week, often separates winners from losers on the high street.
How the high street today is performing today:
The top recommendations may be proven in market but does this mean they’re in place across the high street today? Let’s look at the top three.
- In the last 10 high streets we launched support for, between 16% and 37% of local businesses didn’t have their own website.
- Of the last 50 local businesses we audited, 100% had errors and 32% of all the listings found were incorrect.
- On Facebook, Google and dozens of review sites, negative comments being ignored or dealt with badly by local businesses is still commonplace.
As we move from the top 3 to the top 50 recommendations, a similar story continues. Between 2012 and 2022, it is estimated that 100,000 UK high street businesses will have closed down. Much of the high street is underperforming and under threat.
How to enable a more successful future high street:
A new, better connected, digitally enabled high street is emerging, representing both challenges and opportunities for everyone on it today.
Work will continue at all levels, across public and private sectors, to level the playing field and invest in high streets. This alone is not enough.
Independent businesses will also need time, money and skills to stay competitive. This is a high bar for many today and affordable personalised support needs to be available for all local high street businesses, every step of the way.
The success or failure of high streets impacts us all and successful high streets require successful high street entrepreneurs. We need to act now and ensure the conditions are in place for high street businesses to live long and prosper.