31st May 2018How the High Street is diversifying into the Digital World?

DIGITAL AGE High street

It has been well documented how High Street fashion outlets are feeling the pinch, with increased rent, business rates and the drop in footfall but is the digital world the answer?

Gone are the days of people spending the weekend heading out to the high street and making a day of hitting the shops, stopping for a bite to eat and maybe finishing the day off with a movie.  In today’s tech consumed lifestyle many will jump straight onto the internet to order a new outfit, grab a takeaway meal or stream a movie without even leaving the comfort of the sofa.

This has had a huge impact in bricks and mortar shopping outlets and because of this many of the big fashion retailers are having to look at ways to entice those away from the sofa and into the stores to make their purchases.

Whilst many brands have invested heavily in technology over the past decade in terms of their online shopping presence, the lack of investment in technology in store has defiantly had a detrimental effect in overall sales, but things are changing, and the changes that are happening are not only exciting but game changing – imagine holding up that great looking T-Shirt in front of the mirror and being given a full list of alternative options or complementing items to finish the look of?  Yes that is something that is on its way with the use of tech!!

With the likes of INTU and Westfield shopping centres being at the heart of this new trend in physical/tactile shopping by introducing new ways to entice the customers into their developments with a more experience based mentality, offering events or activities which draw the crowds in, and ultimately get an audience in front of the retailers.

One such fashion brand that has taken the jump into tech-inspired offline shopping is Zara who have just unveiled its “new-look digital concept” store at Westfield Stratford City London.

The store has a dedicated area for the purchase and collection of online orders on the first floor, in addition to the usual sections for women’s, men’s and kids’ lines. This online area features two automated online order collection points, serviced by a concealed area that can handle 2,400 orders simultaneously.

Shoppers scan QR or PIN codes they receive when they place orders online. Behind the pick-up point, a robotic arm collects trays and organises the packages optimally according to their size, and delivers orders in seconds.

Interactive mirrors equipped with RFID will be able to detect the product a customer is holding, allowing them to see what it looks like on a model displayed in the mirror. Online orders are available in store on the same day if made before 2pm, or the next day if made in the afternoon.

Complementing the regular tills, there is a self-checkout area with a system that automatically identifies products being purchased. Zara staff with iPads will also be able to accept payments.

The store has a fully open entrance on the ground floor, with no glass. This allows shoppers a full view of the store’s interior and collections. Many of the display tables have been removed, creating a more spacious look and feel. White walls and a white reflective ceiling also add to the bright, airy feeling.

(Zara’s new digital Westfield store 17 MAY 2018 BY JILL GEOGHEGAN DRAPERS)
Zara Digital Age High Street Store 1Zara Digital Age High Street Store 2Zara Digital Age High Street Store 3Zara Digital Age High Street Store 4Zara Digital Age High Street Store 5Zara Digital Age High Street Store 6

It’s safe to say we are only scratching the surface of the online/offline venture, and with more and more developments in the likes of RFID, Smart Devices and the integration of technology into the mundane mirrors in the changing room, it’s an exciting time for the consumer and makes a trip to town more of an adventure than a chore!

Of course there will always be a need for the online aspect of these brands, but with more investment being pumped into the overall shopping experience in store it would be nice to think that the high streets start to become the bustling heart of the retail world that we saw 10 – 15 years ago, it can only be a good thing as there is a limit to how many coffee outlets we walk past whilst in town?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you feel the move to a more tech based shopping experience is a good thing?  Would it make you get off the sofa and head to your local high street or shopping centre?


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To learn more about the fashion predictions from MILAN AND PARIS FASHION WEEK, or find out WHY AUDITS AND TESTING ARE SO IMPORTANT – not only for big retailers but also for the smaller independent fashion brands.

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