Customer experience key to re-birth of high street in 2014

CIM seminar on the changing nature of the high street. CIM seminar on the changing nature of the high streetsmUniversity of Ulster Marketing Lecturer Lisa Donnell and Dr Karise Hutchinson, Head of the Business and Enterprise Department at the Ulster Business School, who are pictured here with Chartered Institute of Marketing (Ireland region) Chairperson Christine Watson and Nick Read, CIM Board member and Business Development Manager with the Ulster Business School.

Northern Ireland’s high street retailers must give customers a better “in-store experience” to meet the challenge of online shopping, a leading retail expert has said.

Dr Karise Hutchinson, Head of the Business and Enterprise Department at the Ulster Business School, told an audience at The Chartered Institute of Marketing seminar that high street retailers should accept the changes brought by online shopping and look at ways of improving customer experience in their shops.

This will be a massive year of change and retailers need to accept that online shopping is here to stay. But far from bringing the death knell to the high street, it brings new opportunities to retailers. Shop owners need to look at ways to bring joy and social interaction to the shopping experience,” she said. “We are still a nation that loves to shop, but the way we shop has changed.”

During the CIM talk, Dr Hutchinson and her colleague, Marketing lecturer Lisa Donnell, explored the trends for 2014 that will present challenges and opportunities to high street retailers.

Richard Houdmont, Director for Ireland of The Chartered Institute of Marketing said: “We had a fantastic turnout for our first event of 2014. Our members are growing in confidence that 2014 is going to be the year of recovery. Marketing will be key to re-invigorating businesses to meet increasing consumer demand. It was great to see a wide variety of marketing professionals, advertising agency representatives and small-business owners attending the seminar to hear about and discuss the opportunities for the year ahead.”

One trend is the increase in “click and collect” purchases where the consumer orders online and then comes in to the store to pick up their item. Currently 5% of retail purchases made online are collected in store but this is expected to rise to 50% in five years.

It is also predicted that there will be an increase in online retailers establishing a presence on the high street to increase their profile and market their products. New research by Royal Mail states that 40% of online businesses are interested in opening a store on the high street.

Making shopping a social occasion is another trend for 2014 and retailers should look at incorporating digital marketing into this experience by integrating social media into their offering. Encouraging people to share what they’ve just bought on social media helps drive more customers to the business.

Another opportunity for the high street is promoting transparency and trust in their businesses. Consumers want genuine promotions and they want to know the source of their purchases, particularly food products.

Dr Hutchinson added: “Convenience is key – making life easier for busy consumers. However, this is a huge opportunity for the high street because it is driving traffic into retail premises and town centres. When customers come in, then retailers need to wow customers with exciting window displays, great store layouts and friendly, engaging staff.”

Dr Hutchinson holds a PhD in Retailing from the University of Ulster, which focused on the growth and expansion of retail SMEs in the UK. The overall focus of her research is the retail industry, specifically focusing on retail-customer-supplier relationship marketing and branding.  Lisa Donnell is currently working with Karise on research specifically addressing the changing and future role of town centre space. This research is investigating how retail decline is affecting the macro environment of town centres including health-related dynamics, environmental areas and social characteristics of the urban environment.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing aims to support the marketing profession and practitioners where they live and work by holding regional events in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to help marketers continually develop and learn through workshops and seminars.

For further information on upcoming events go to

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