There is a new balance developing between high street and online retailers. Despite many predictions about the death of physical stores, 45% of shoppers still cite the high street as their main shopping channel. Even with the rise in online shopping, seven in ten people prefer to make purchases in store after browsing for the item(s) they want online.

As we begin to see a return of traditional high street shopping, retailers need to consider their future strategies. Whist they may have been becoming more and more online focused in recent years, it’s vital that retailers don’t leave their physical stores behind, instead increasing the balance between the two as well as offering multichannel shopping services.

The importance of multichannel

The popularity of facilities such as click and collect continues to rise, and as such it is becoming increasingly vital for stores to ensure their multichannel strategy is working smoothly, including how they process returns, so they can remain as competitive as possible and offer the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

One major downside to multichannel retail is an increase in impulse purchases followed by inevitable returns. By making the shopping process as quick, easy and convenient for consumers as possible, it makes it all the more likely that they will change their minds, or order several sizes or versions of the same items with a view to returning the one(s) they don’t intend to keep.

When handling, and indeed anticipating, an influx of returns, retailers must ensure their in-store IT systems are fit for purpose, otherwise they’re likely to incur a range of issues when processing the return. IT issues at any stage of the returns process can increase the lead-time between receiving the return and processing the payment, causing issues for both the retailer and the customer, and making it difficult for the retailer to keep track of items within their inventory.

Additionally, in-store staff must adapt to new roles. They now need to provide more than just front of house services and basic till processing, and may also need to advise on online ordering, click and collect options, and so on. Retailers need to consider how to better manage the skills gap and ensure current staff members are able to help with a growing range of customer enquiries. It is therefore important that as retail technology advances, so does the knowledge and training of all staff, in order to ensure each member of the team is able to provide the necessary amount of service.

Customers can be fickle, and retailers must ensure they are catering to their needs and provide a positive experience in order to retain their custom. With all the technological, economic and industrial changes that the retail industry currently undergoes on a regular basis, is it up to the retailers themselves to plan ahead and properly understand their market. By maintaining a critical balance between offline and online trading, businesses will have a much better chance of survival.

Andy Duck

Andy Duck


Andy Duck, Head of Business Development at Barron McCann.