Tis the Season: Why experience is everything for High Street retail this Christmas

Article by Javier Lopez, General Manager, Industry Vertical Print, OKI Europe Ltd.

Shopping mall

Soaring rents and lower consumer spending have been blamed for the downfall of brands which have stood proudly on high streets and retail parks for many years. Yet while recent years have been bleak, some industry commentators are hopeful of an upturn in retailers’ fortunes.

Deloitte is optimistic about the potential for stores and omnichannel operators, saying changing fortunes will follow a time of reinvention and investment, which will ultimately serve to strengthen the sector.

No matter what the future holds, smart retailers all understand that right now, responding to the increased footfall generated by seasonal peaks such as Christmas is the utmost priority.

At a time where cutting prices is no longer a guaranteed or, in some instances, sustainable way to attract sales, delivering a positive or memorable experience can be far more valuable for the consumer, not to mention cost-effective for the retailer.

Foot in the door

Woman shopping
Despite the first Christmas trees going on display August, many shoppers are still delaying making purchases until November in anticipation of the increasingly online-dominated pre- and post-Black Friday promotions. In 2017, many sales were made online and discounts were staggered over several days by retailers, leading to the new term ‘Black Fiveday’.

Yet, while shoppers no longer feel compelled to queue up and do battle for bargains in store as they may have in the past, many of those buying from omnichannel retailers will take advantage of typically free click and collect fulfilment to collect goods. Likewise, online channels can also be used to drive offline sales via vouchers and sales codes.

Once in store, as well as ensuring a positive, ‘frictionless’ experience collecting goods purchased online, savvy retailers will also consider how to capitalise on the uplift in footfall by tempting shoppers towards particular seasonal stock and brands or high-margin lines.

One step ahead

For some omnichannel retailers, key trends such as personalisation, pop-up shops and digital touchpoints have been successful in helping to bridge the gap between online sites and offline stores and appeal to today’s increasingly connected consumer.

Meanwhile, traditional priorities including product availability, replenishment, staff and retail systems remain essential to avoid lost sales and negative brand experiences. 

In a climate where luxury purchasing has risen despite falling confidence in the economy [YouGov], retail tools such as high-impact signage can be extremely effective when it comes to guiding customers towards high-end products and services, as well as drawing influencing purchases as well as cross-selling and up-selling.

Sign of the times

Attention-grabbing colourful window stickers and signs can help seasonal footfall from the street to the store via the shop window. Stores that are equipped with high-definition printers and multifunction printers also have a distinct advantage when it comes to capitalising on demand for items publicised in the media or trending online by producing related marketing materials without having to wait for them to be sent to the store.  This is particularly the case with OKI’s digital LED printers and MFPs which can print price tags as well as double sided banners up to 1.2 m from a standard office device and on media that is waterproof for use outdoors or in fresh produce or freezer aisles.

The technology can also support sales when used to produce important visual cues such as directional banners, floor signage, shelf labels and gondola frames, improving the customer experience by helping to ensure shoppers find what they are looking for, as well as highlighting seasonal promotions.

Printed point-of-sale material such as price tags and product information is also key to support decision making, helping the customer to feel good about making their own choices as well as encouraging spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous purchases.

In 2017, PwC said that successfully tapping into key shopper trends including customer experience and brand innovation was make-or-break when it came to retail success over the festive period.

For a beleaguered high street looking to appeal to an evolving market, this year, happy customers really could be the most important gift of all.

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