She may be a web pioneer, but Martha Lane Fox sees a multichannel future for the high street
I haven’t been very successful with my crystal ball recently - I predicted Jedward would win The X Factor, Prince William would propose to Kate over Christmas and lastly that the takeover of Cadbury would be thwarted at the last minute by angry UK shareholders wanting control of their chocolate biscuits.
I am looking into it this morning to try to see changes in the retail landscape. One thing about all technology trends is they rarely come together as you predict.
I remember writing a piece when I was still at Lastminute.com, forecasting we were only a stone’s throw away from all kinds of “intelligent devices” - imagine booking a holiday and your fridge being aware you are away and sending an order to the supermarket to deliver a shop upon your return. An exciting thought that I am still convinced will happen but the timescale is a tad longer than expected.
Despite all this, there are two shifts I believe will affect our high street over the next few years and that I think make for interesting thinking.
The first of these is the continued but much more integrated growth of feedback, reviews and personal recommendations.
Already on websites, products that have a review are more likely to sell, even if that review is not entirely glowing - one person’s “a bit gaudy” might be another’s “that’s just what I am looking for”.
70% of people looking at deals online compare prices then go into stores to purchase their chosen item. I think pretty quickly we will be using more and smarter mobile devices - we will be looking at a dress or bottle of wine in-store but checking out the reviews on our mobile and then purchasing it in the place we are offered a virtual voucher or discount.
We will also be uploading photos in real time of things that we like and dislike and sharing them with our networks. We might be asking for comments from our friends as we try something on or taking a picture of the outfit and immediately mashing it up on our own moodboard to see if it matches shoes or a hat in our cupboard.
The second development I am excited about is the potential technology has to make the high street more fun - to take the pain out of a Saturday trawl around stores and transform it into something much more theatrical.
I think stores, especially flagship ones, will not stock so much product and instead become a showcase for the brand with the opportunity to offer experiences and events to shoppers - a way of connecting customers with their values. Customers will then be able to order products via the web and collect them from local depots or central collection points.
Who knows if my crystal ball will prove right, but one thing is certain - the journey is going to be fascinating.