It’s been a tough year for physical stores, but LiveRamp’s Vihan Sharma sees new opportunities in data and partnerships. 

Although in-store retail has been reopened for almost two months across the UK, the conveniences of e-commerce are proving too irresistible for Britain’s shoppers. Revenue in the e-commerce market is expected to grow by 9% a year over the next three years, with JP Morgan projecting the market to be worth €231.2 billion by 2021.

Recruitment points to a new direction 

Recently, high street stalwart Marks & Spencer announced its intention to invest more in e-commerce as it started a recruitment drive for 85 tech specialists, sending a clear message that traditional physical retailers are moving towards a greater online presence than ever before. 

While high street retailers may have been unfairly affected by the pandemic, they have also emerged with an understanding of how to utilise e-commerce to thrive. Research from LiveRamp and YouGov in the Moving Forward Through Digital report shows that over half (56%) of retail and hospitality leaders believe the data they gather from e-commerce would give them the opportunity to compete with the UK’s online giants like Amazon and Asos. Another half (53%) said online sales enabled them to gather more customer data for personalisation purposes, and in turn this will help facilitate a more streamlined customer experience. 

The role of marketers in the retail sector has never been more important. As customer habits evolve, retailers will need to keep up with the fast-paced world of e-commerce. A new abundance of customer data yielded from a boom in online shopping will be key to the long-term survival of retail post-pandemic.

Stores offer unique data

Yet the success of e-commerce, and the data insights generated, does not mean physical shops need to close. Not only are retailers crucial to keep our town centres buzzing, but the in-store experience offered by these commercial districts are also vital for our economic bounceback. Whether customers are trying on clothes or interacting with a sales assistant, providing a physical experience cannot truly be replicated online. 

High-street retailers must use this to their advantage, and realise the potential of the data insights they gather from in-store interactions that online-only retailers cannot replicate. By investing in a secure technology to connect their online and offline data effectively, retailers can make the most of both their in-store and e-commerce data, gain a better perspective of their customer journey and more effectively measure the success of marketing and promotional campaigns.

Retailers and brands need to partner 

To truly thrive as e-commerce becomes more and more prevalent, high street retailers can go further and collaborate with key partners. For example, a brand with an online-only presence, such as a watch brand, which sells its products within a department store, can partner with the department store to gain access to store sales data, helping them to measure the impact of marketing campaigns, gain a better understanding of their customers, and more effectively and accurately plan promotions. This benefits all parties involved, driving sales and improved efficiencies for the brand and department store, and giving the customer access to more relevant deals and promotions. 

Importantly, through all of this, using a trusted data collaboration platform that puts consumer privacy first and ensures all data is secure as the basis of cooperation ensures that retailers can deliver the desired experience for their customers.

Treading water and hoping to ‘weather the storm’ of the pandemic is not an option for retail. With a series of recent high-profile collapses on the high street, as a direct result of the pandemic and shift to e-commerce, there is no time to waste.

The past year has highlighted the importance of making use of all the resources at the disposal of our high street to bounce back as restrictions ease. Jobs, communities and livelihoods depend on these businesses. Retailers must be willing to realise the potential of their physical stores as well as their online activity, and enhance their data capabilities in a secure way to compete with online-only retailers and thrive for years to come.