In early October 2018, fintech firm iZettle ran a rehab centre for online shopping addicts to show the impact e-commerce has on the highstreet. But will this change customer habits?
Spoiler alert, the answer (in my opinion) is no.
The plight of shopaholics is something often covered in sitcoms and films where the protagonist, usually a woman, has an uncontrollable spending habit.
These characters will buy things well out of their price range, sifting through their wallet pulling out hundreds of credit cards before finding one that won’t be rejected.
This is, of course, a real world problem. But where once we’d be swiping cards and carrying armfuls of bags down the busy highstreet, all it now takes is a click.
According to fintech firm iZettle one in three Brits has a nasty online shopping habit, addicted to buying digitally from well-known online retailers, and one in 12 make purchases everyday with at least one of the huge online stores.
The problem with this? Other than empty pockets this habit also puts smaller businesses and highstreet stores at risk, as a majority of these compulsive clicks are with well-known larger retailers.
Apparently, or as iZettle says, if people carry on shopping this way over 100,000 small businesses could close in the next ten years.
In an attempt to stop this from happening iZettle tried out a popup service to help addicts of one-click shopping to kick the habit, presumably so they’ll go back to having their credit cards cut in half by a customer services staff at the till rather than receive threatening emails from their bank.
The service, called the Giant Corp Rehab Centre, was run in early October 2018 by trained therapists and featured a variety of interactive sessions including group therapy, “digital distraction class” and workshops with local business owners.
The aim of these was apparently to make people realise how online shopping impacts local business and encourage people to “swap their ‘one-click’ cravings for local love”.
One of the people who ran a workshop on behalf of the rehab centre, Athena Duncan, co-founder of Hackney floristry business Rebel Rebel, said: “We need our high streets and shops so we can experience real things and touch them, taste them and feel them. In ten years’ time when we turn round and there are no high streets left it will be too late. Support your local shops now. Because we’re worth it!”
The only problem is this doesn’t stop the fact consumers are increasingly shopping for convenience, a majority of which happens online.
People who are addicted to online shopping are not the only reason for the highstreet’s downfall, if anything consumer behaviour as a whole has shifted it this direction.
Stores are becoming places for experiences rather than actual purchases – so many customers go into stores to test the look or feel of a product whilst comparing prices for other retailers online.
Others are trying clothes on in changing rooms, taking pictures for social media and then walking straight out of the store without buying them.
What might be more helpful is if larger firms helped local businesses to adapt to consumer habits, rather than the other way around.
The iZettle Giant Corp Rehab Centre was a gimmicky part of a wider campaign from the firm to make people fall back in love with the highstreet and support local retailers, and the brand will also be spreading that message across tube stations, online, in cinemas and on TV later in October 2018.
But the fact of the matter is technology is driving mass change throughout the retail industry, so those failing to change, whether retail behemoths or smaller local shops, are likely to be left behind.
No amount of adverts about highstreet stores closing is going to change the fact that it’s easier to buy online from a large online retailer who is more likely to drop your package of at an elected location and time, plus send you digital reminders about your order and its progress.
Until the highstreet does more to cater to what customers want, it will continue on the same downhill path it has been on for the last 50 years.