Debate: Are high street chains still the best route-to-market?

Debate: Are high street chains still the best route-to-market?

YES – Sunetra Chakravarti, editor, Mobile Choice

Imagine a world without the high street, just row upon row of vending machines. Depressing, right? The customer thinks so too.


That's why, even though 71% of consumer journeys start online, only 42% end up buying that way. And while 18% of would-be buyers look in a high-street shop first, 31% buy from a bricks-and-mortar establishment.


This nugget of information by GI-Insight tells us two things: first, you cannot discount the high street or its importance to the customer and second, an omni-channel approach is the one to think about for the long term.


Selling is an art. Yes, the lure of an incredible discount may prove tempting on Black Friday, but queues still snake across the street at 4am outside Next on Boxing Day.


Tech, like cars, high-end jewellery and a hot lunch, is still bought in-store. It may be something to do with getting more questions answered, or perhaps the ease of having a new device set-up.


After all, manufacturers would not be pouring money into high street retail had it been a failing proposition! And while, occasionally, we will see the likes of OnePlus breaking through the perception barrier, the world wide web is strewn with the remains of those that didn't make it.


I have repeatedly asked manufacturers: why online? And repeatedly I’ve been given similar answers...


Online is a toe-dipping exercise; akin to a soft launch. Once name and fame are theirs, their range of devices will be available at a store near us. 


NO – Jack Courtez, news editor, Mobile


Fewer than 20 manufacturers are stocked in the big five stores, compared with thousands on Amazon alone. This shows that for most, online offers a far cheaper and more accessible route to market, allows manufacturers greater ownership of the customer relationship, and also gives greater brand control over marketing strategy. On top of this, the traditional reasons for buying shelf space are decreasing as the high street no longer offers the largest audience and consumers are becoming less reliant on store advice (81% already own a smartphone, 81% research online).


Even the big manufacturers are looking to take back control through upgrade programmes (Apple) and promotions through their own online retail propositions (Samsung, Huawei).


And, it’s only going to get worse. If challenger brands are successful in increasing the market’s price elasticity, and switching proposals by Ofcom and the buy outright trend undermine subsidised purchase models, the massive overheads of real-world retail will lead to a shortfall, which will bite manufacturers, consumers or both.




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