I recently read an article, “Death of the High Street greatly exaggerated,” by Anthony Strzalex, which really piqued my interest. He was commenting on a UK report which found that 75% of consumers would not desert the High Street for online shopping.

Although the report examined the UK market, countries like South Africa often follow global trends, albeit much later.

Thinking along these lines got me looking at South Africa in the context of the report. The popularity of our ‘High Streets’ has been dwindling over the years due to the ever-increasing number of shopping centres. These have now essentially become our ‘High Street’ shopping experiences and, judging by the number of new and revamped malls, as well as the number of international brands coming to our shores (to the delight of local shoppers), the South Africa and global markets obviously think so too.

Strzalex notes that 47% percent of customers in the UK prefer to get a feel for products in person, while 23% enjoy the social side of shopping. South Africans even more so, are also a nation of shoppers.

The article goes on to say that 60% of UK shoppers said they preferred to go in-store at some point – whether to research products, try before buying online or just to buy.  The majority of respondents (88%) said that staff on the shop floor could make or break an enjoyable experience.

My request to our South African retailers is to train staff to be more helpful and have greater knowledge about the products.  So many times the experience is less than enjoyable because of these downfalls (being referred to a website or a brochure does not mean service).

The article mentions that online shopping was the preference for 40% of shoppers; I believe South Africa will be a few years behind on this, largely due to a high percentage of our population not having internet access, coupled with the fact that our postal service is almost non-existent, making deliveries a logistical nightmare.

I would however like to compliment online retailers like Catch of the Day and Spree who certainly have the right approach and deliver excellent service.

Strzalex closes by noting that as a nation, the UK loves the experience of spending time with friends and family out shopping. That could be due to the weather, but South Africans are much the same.

In light of these observations, what should retailers be doing to keep up with shoppers’ demands?  There are so many new technology offerings available regarding omni-channel, e-commerce, hardware, and more. I think the most important point retailers need to understand is what the customers want.  It goes without saying that South African shoppers demand the best; so although retailers are hurrying to win the on-line race, let’s not let them forget about those extremely loyal mall shoppers.

If you are looking for a software solution to support these trends, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.

We offer one-day workshops to help our clients understand what their requirements are, so that we can provide you with the best solution for your needs.