As mobile commerce becomes increasingly commonplace, what purpose does the bricks-and-mortar store serve for retailers and shoppers?

Technological innovation relentlessly focuses on making the consumer experience easier, faster and simpler.

Digital disruption is sweeping across our industry and retailers need to pivot now to survive.

There is a clear problem – retail space is expensive and the high street is no longer a retailer’s shop window.

Impatience is key

I was recently speaking to an investor in one of the largest high-end clothes retailers in the US.

He had a problem – young people no longer want to spend hours looking through the racks at a 60,000 sq ft Fifth Avenue store.

Their older customers loved having familiarity with the customer assistants and the sense of luxury associated with taking the time to find the right piece of clothing.

But six floors of options were anathema to millennials who had dedicated ten minutes of their day to finding the best suit they could afford.

Turning the tables

In the midst of rapid expansion from the likes of Amazon, retailers need to change their thinking.

“The shop now serves the internet, not the other way round.”

It’s a simple idea, but would completely change how the industry operates – the smartphone is the battleground for consumer interest, the high street store is for browsing and the online experience is for purchases.

The shop now serves the internet, not the other way round.

The digital and the physical experiences of shopping can no longer be separated: according to Deloitte, 49% of in-store sales are now influenced by customers’ use of technology.

Leading with online

This is by no means the death of the high street store.

The most successful retailers need to understand that shops need to be showrooms rather than the primary salesroom.

“The bricks-and-mortar store of the future should act as the window for any brand”

The key differentiator is the extent to which retailers value the time of their customers.

What retailers should invest in is technology that allows customers to continue their shopping experience online once they leave the store as seamlessly as possible.

For me, the bricks-and-mortar store of the future should act as the window for any brand, offering customers the chance to learn more about the brand, fabrics and how to style their clothes.

This sense of greater authenticity should also allow shop assistants to connect on a deeper level with their customers, giving them the ability to build a rapport instead of prioritising selling.

Changing our thinking, and putting stores at the service of smartphones, is the only way forward.

  • Tom Adeyoola is founder and chief executive of Metail