The Future Of The High Street - It's All About Branded Customer Experience

Theo Paphitis - The future of the high street, Wimbledon Bookfest event

Theo Paphitis - The future of the high street, Wimbledon Bookfest event

I recently attended a great Wimbledon Bookfest event, The Future of the High Street, to hear from one of the most successful UK businessmen and Dragon’s Den participant, Theo Paphitis. Theo spoke about his story in retail, the current retail climate and his thoughts about the future of the high street. Theo stated that to overcome some of the current challenges the high street retailers are facing, the Government should reduce business rates and apply digital tax on e-commerce, in order to ensure that all retailers contribute fairly. Theo also spoke about customer insights and the importance of customer experience:

We need to invest in the experience we give our customers.
— Theo Paphitis

Last year was a tough year for the high street, there were 5,855 store closures in the UK’s high streets. This year, more well established high street brands have announced store closures including House of Fraser, as it has failed to manage the brand and adapt the business to respond to the significant changes in consumers' buying behaviour. The lack of investment in digital, has led to failure in delivering an integrated and seamless branded shopping experience across multiple channels (online, mobile and/or in store).

According to the latest ONS Retail sales figures, consumers are spending more online, with online sales reaching a new record proportion at 18.2%. Ikea is one of the brands that have adapted its business model to respond to the changes in consumer behaviour and has recently opened its mini Ikea kitchen and bedroom showroom on Tottenham Court Road, central London, a well known high street for furniture shops.

Interbrand 2018 Best Global Brands Report shows that Retail has continued to grow, its the second top growing sector (36%) with the top growing sector being Luxury (42%). Successful brands are those that manage to deliver positive, engaging and memorable branded customer experiences. So, it’s not a surprise that over the last 6 years, Interbrand have listed Apple, Google and Amazon, the most valuable global brands, as they are also the top brands for delivering consistently great branded customer / user experiences that reflect their brand promise and meet their customers’ / users’ expectations. In a recent article by Campaign Brief, Christian Purser, CEO Interbrand, stated that:

Leading brands are more customer obsessed than ever, bringing the voice of the customer into every aspect of their business, making bold moves and taking calculated risks based on customer understanding. The fastest growing brands across the last five years of the study are typically the most relevant to people’s lives and the most responsive to their changing needs.
— Christian Purser, CEO Interbrand London

The high street will need to adapt to the changes in consumer behaviour, it will need to provide great differentiated retail brand experiences that are unique and cannot be replicated online. As more and more people buy products and services online, the future high street needs planning and designing by focusing on the customer experience and building a community. Positive customer experience is about delivering value, so by understanding customers' needs, a brand can design and deliver a successful branded customer experience that can help make customers’ lives better and easier. So to succeed on the high street, brands need to deliver integrated and seamless multichannel branded shopping experiences including concept / showroom stores allowing consumers to try before buying as well as more space for socialising, entertainment, culture, health, beauty and wellbeing.