Mike Anthony @ engage consultants

Mike Anthony on Shopper Marketing

The High Street Versus E-Street – Mobile shopping put to the test

with 6 comments

The High Street Versus E-Street – Mobile shopping put to the testI’ve read so many articles talking about the death of the high street, about how many people now use their mobile as part of their shopping experience, that one would think that nothing else matters. I could (and have) poke holes at the statistics and the way hyperbole is used to whip up an audience, but more than that, the data doesn’t stack with my experience. Mobile is a great tool sometimes, but how does it actually fit into a real shopping experience? More importantly, is the high street truly descending into irrelevancy, or is it fighting back?

There are so many surveys, but data can be used to tell pretty much any story – so on  a recent trip to the UK I thought I’d add a little qualitative research to the mix: I’d go shopping! The result –  Store Wars: The high street versus e-street….

Shopper Mission One: Video Game for Daughter

Game’ is a small chain of video game stores – it went into administration a year or two ago but is hanging on despite the apparent ascendency of downloads and Amazon.

First spot – second hand games. She’s seven, so not totally up on what is the “latest thing” game-wise so I’m seeing a bargain to be had. Thrifty-Me gets excited. My problem is that most of the games don’t seem suitable for a seven year old – I stalk the shelves until one of the staff approaches me. His enthusiasm, plus the fact that he has clearly played all of these games personally, fills me with positivity, admiration, and just a hint of jealousy… Before I know it I have three games in my hands, and I’ve been in the shop seven minutes. Time to check the mobile option…I price check with Amazon in-store…

Amazon got me going pretty quickly as I could scan the products direct with my phone (I’m Showrooming, I thought to myself!)… but then when I asked for a list of used products, the app hung. Second time around I could buy three games, for a saving of less than a dollar. The games-geek shop assistant had won the day – he was, to me, worth spending the extra cents on.

Shopper Mission Two: Gift for brother in law

The consumer here is a real foodie, who buys food online from organic suppliers, and roasts his own coffee. Here on the ‘dying” Highstreet, is “Zest for Taste”, which sells, amongst other things, oils and vinegars and dressings – hundreds of oils in fact! Tasting stands abound, and I literally breakfasted on what was here. Tasted, tried, gift wrapped and all with a smile.

On my mobile I rapidly found the Olive Oil Store – which had a mind boggling array of oils – but without the ability to sample it was hard to tell the difference between the multitude of products. Too much – too confusing, and not easy to navigate on an iPhone easily either. The personal touch, the gift wrapping, and a free breakfast worth of sampling – HighStreet wins again!

Shopper Mission Three: Deodorant for me

Here the consumer is the shopper. We all forget something when we travel, and I am no exception. Poundland sits proud on the high street. In less than ninety seconds I am at the personal care section, faced with Right Guard or Gillette, both for a pound. Out comes the mobile – tesco.com – the same product is 2.89. The net effect of e-street? I bought three deodorants! Winner – the high street!

Shopper Mission Four: Anniversary Card for my parents

I hate Clinton cards. Greeting cards are overpriced, and the shops to me are a haven to tackiness. But it’s my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary tomorrow and I need a card. I walk in. Thousands of cards. My heart sinks; but then a member of staff asks if she can help, and guides me to a small but tidy range of Golden Wedding Anniversary cards. Time? 45 seconds.

Online Hallmark try quite hard. The only app I found was for sending e-cards, so I went to their (not mobile enabled) web page. The upside was that I could personalize the message inside the card (which I thought was very cool). The downside was it kept making my browser crash, so I never actually managed to complete a purchase. Winner? High street again.

Don’t give up on the high street yet

Mobile is great I’m sure, and I know for many shopping missions it adds huge value. But on my shop, consistently, bricks beat clicks every time. Partly because many mobile services actually aren’t that good, but also because bricks is fighting back, and delivering experiences that are hard to match online. Personal engagement, sampling, simplicity.

Manufacturers should remember that high streets are still packed with shoppers; and even those of us who are mobile enabled, still use stores. Making sure that the money spent on mobile platforms makes sense versus the reality of the shoppers’ world is critical to maximize returns from that investment.

Retailers have to understand the value that they can create, and the obvious advantages they have versus an online channel. It’s not all about price. It never was and it never will be.

Together manufacturers and retailers must understand which shoppers are on the high street versus online: understand what those shoppers are looking for, and develop solutions that meet shoppers’ needs wherever they are.

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Written by Mike Anthony

February 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Interesting results! It looks like when you need something immediately (deodorant) or when you need a specialty item, whose selection benefitted from an expert opinion, High Street won. I shop in stores but am increasingly a mobile shopper–particularly when I can get the same item within a reasonable amount of time at a cheaper price, without changing out of my jammies to buy it. I agree, though, that if I need something before Amazon Prime can deliver it, or if I really need some advice, I’ll also go into the stores.

    Pamela DeLoatch

    February 15, 2013 at 2:42 am

    • Hi Pamela,
      Thanks for your input – I have to admit when I played out this experiment I wasn’t expecting the high street to win on all counts: I felt that certainly Hallmark would beat Clinton; and Tesco would win for all groceries. Online didn’t always win on price, and further the mobile experience was really poor once you step away from the big guys like Amazon: web pages not optimized for mobile etc.

      Second thought – on neither the game nor the gift did I feel I needed advice: that wasn’t what drove me to the store. They were influencers when I got there but I didn’t go there specifically for the advice.

      Interesting though, and thanks for sharing your experiences. One question though – if you’re still in your jammies – why use a mobile? Wouldn’t it be easier to use a PC?

      Cheers,

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      February 15, 2013 at 6:27 am

  2. I am about to try the same tomorrow in the UK. I will also let you know what I think about buying a new computer…at the moment E-Street and High Street have failed dismally. This one is even better… the manufacturer wants to confuse me, E-street wants to complicate it further and High Street can only sell me what they want or have in stock!

    Nick Williams

    February 15, 2013 at 6:07 am

    • Hi Nick,

      Look forward to hearing about your adventures!!! All channels failing – I think that is a different story all together and I look forward to you sharing!

      All the best,

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      February 15, 2013 at 6:28 am

  3. Darn that human experience!! It takes all the fun out of sitting alone, “touch screening” through endless pages of googled offerings. Here you were — forced to cross the threshold, admit to a need and actually get ‘help’ from another human. In seconds they could process your inquiry, refine your ultimate objective and present you with tangible options. How dare they challenge the swift execution of a mobile screen! How dare they add information, experience and — oh, God help us — a pleasant, personal air of friendliness! All this, with a “walkaway cost” merely pennies away from a handheld PayPal victory!
    Mobile has given us education. Mobile has given us options. Mobile has given us awareness. What High Street is learning shows that Mobile and the Internet cannot be pleasant, helpful, engaging and personal. Your experiment was fantastic! You found that the old saying — “There is a time and a place for everything” remains true ….even in the cyberworld. High street has a market. Amazon has a market. When your need cannot be filled around the corner, it is good to know you won’t be “without” for long. But… it often makes perfect sense to cross the threshold back into the real world and admit “I need your help” to another human, do the deal and enjoy the rest of your day!

    Rich Whitley

    February 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    • Hi Rich,

      Thanks for the entertaining comment – so true, so true.

      Where this leads for me is that shoppers have much more choice – which means that everyone in the industry needs to raise their game: high streets need to get the right stores, and offer a reason for visiting: supermarkets and hypermarkets need to do more than offer good prices, as that is no longer enough, not enough for all shoppers, and there will always be someone cheaper: and internet retailers need to do more than create a site – it needs to work for shoppers how they want it.

      This new world creates more power to shoppers – they have more choices now – and retailers need to raise their game!

      Thanks very much! Made me smile!!!

      Mike

      Mike Anthony

      February 17, 2013 at 8:40 am


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