Amazon not the biggest threat to high street retailers

Competition from online-only traders does not pose the biggest threat to high street retailers, with cautious attitudes a bigger risk

Online-only companies such as Amazon do not pose the biggest threat to high street retailers, with only 9% of consumers willing to abandon physical stores, according to research.

The research from business consultancy Bearingpoint revealed that being too cautious is the biggest risk to traditional players.

According to the survey of 1,000 people in the US and Europe, 59% of respondents have no preference between online and physical shopping, 32% prefer physical shopping and only 9% would abandon physical stores for online.

Pre-millennials who have grown up with the internet as part of everyday life are a key group for traditional players to target with multi-channel strategies, according to Bearingpoint. They make up a large proportion of the 59% who have no preference about where they shop. 

“These people select whatever suits best for any particular transaction,” said Bertrand Clémencin, partner at Bearingpoint.

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He said pre-millennials see shopping as a highly social activity and retailers must engage them. 

“As this group provides little feedback on their expectations on the ideal shopping experience, retailers have to propose new experiences in a language that appeals to them,” said Clémencin.

He said retailers should take advantage of digital technology in-store, investing in technologies around mobile, customer recognition, social sharing and augmented reality.

Large high street retailers need to bring all sales channels together to offer customers choice, according to Clémencin. “Their aim should be to provide a hybrid omni-channel experience, which consistently delivers the principle of ‘whatever suits best’,” he said.

Sales figures for several large retail brands show that online buying is still increasing in popularity. Argos, John Lewis and Waitrose have all reported an increase in online sales. Internet retail group Ocado saw a 15.5% increase in gross retail sales year-on-year, while its weekly web orders increased by 17.4% year-on-year to 163,000 as consumers spend more time surfing the web.

Recent research from Forrester also highlighted the growing importance of new channels for consumers to make purchases. The findings revealed that mobile commerce will account for 49% of online sales in Europe in 2018, up from 20% in 2014. Forrester said mobile phone and tablet commerce will reach €141.5bn, with mobiles accounting for €28.2bn and tablets €113.3bn.

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