Forrester predicts that
44% of in-store sales will have been influenced by the internet by 2018. As we explored in our
previous post, the impact of the internet doesn’t just lie in online retail, but in the ways that physical retailers can augment their in-store services using features that depend on a reliable, fast internet connection.
In 2014, the Digital High Street Board recommended the establishment of High Street
Digital Labs. These labs would support high street shops in getting online and using the internet to its full potential. The report quoted the British Retail Consortium:
“Although many individual retailers and services successfully operate Omni-channel businesses, the role of digital technology in enhancing the town centre customer experience is underdeveloped. Town centres need to become virtual marketplaces so that customers have the latest details regarding the availability of stores, products, brands, services and events. A central, one-stop information point – backed by free, widely accessible Wi-Fi and dedicated store-finder and brand-finder apps – would ensure that the internet supports rather than supplants the town centre experience.”
This is all very good in theory, but not all areas of the country (or all areas of London) have the broadband infrastructure to make such a proposal viable. It’s vital that connectivity issues are addressed if town centres and planners are to create the kind of support services that modern high streets need to survive.
The Digital High Street Board sees its Digital Lab concept as being a place that fosters innovation and community around the high street, but innovation cannot exist without covering the basics. While major ISPs may not always find it profitable to service a particular community, there are alternative options for businesses to look into. Many smaller ISPs use the
service exchange platform to reach their customers and offer a wider variety of consumer choice.
If we’re to get to the world that Deloitte believes we’ll have by 2020, where bricks and mortar stores have evolved into
digital showrooms, the state of UK broadband will need to be much more advanced than it is at present. That means investing in a connected Britain, and ensuring that all communities can take advantage of high broadband speeds and a reliable service, no matter how remote the area, or how profitable it is to service it.
It may be an idealistic concept, but it’s a major factor in the prosperity of the UK high street.