High streets accelerate their online presence


Online shopping has boomed over the last two decades. As our reliance on digital technology has increased, our scepticism of online spending has decreased. 

At the time of the dot.com crash, online retailers such as Net-A-Porter and ASOS were launched, ushering in a new era of digital shopping trend. 

Even as e-tailers became commonplace, many consumers still relied on traditional retail for their shopping requirements.

New payment technology has supported bricks-and-mortar retail. Software and technology such as Stripe, Square, ApplePay, and contactless have helped businesses integrate online sales in store. Luxury retailers such as Victoria Beckham have forgone traditional cash registers. Using iPads for instore transactions, helping sales assistants sell garments and accessories straight from the website if they aren’t in stock.

Surprisingly, older generations were a big driving force behind online spending. Over half of over 65s were shopping online pre-pandemic, making three to five online purchases a quarter. 

In the last year though, the retail landscape has changed exponentially. A wholesale move towards online shopping and a digital age is upon us. 

But what happened? And what’s next for both online and traditional retail? 

COVID-19 and the high street

The biggest driver behind this sudden change has been the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As most retailers have encountered long stretches of closures over the last year, online shopping has provided retailers and consumers with an outlet for selling and buying products. 

Lockdown has meant a huge gap in high street retailers’ profits. Although the rise of ‘revenge shopping’ is seeing customers return in droves, online shopping has been a lifeline for retailers across the country in the past 12 months. 

Consumers and digital 

Many consumers were familiar with online shopping platforms before the pandemic hit. In fact for this reason, putting digital at the heart of their operations has been on the radar of many retailers for a while. 

The last year has accelerated the move to digital though. During the first lockdowns  online shopping was the only option for many to buy non-essential items, leading consumers to take advantage of digital retail more than ever.

The migration to online

As customers have moved their spending online, retailers have been improving their digital presence to meet consumer demands. 

Leveraging the power of ecommerce platforms such as Magento has increased over the last year. Many small and medium businesses, who traditionally rely on foot traffic, have had to up their online game to compete with bigger brands.

In addition, small businesses have capitalised on the business features social media platforms offer in a way big brands haven’t been able to. Making use of social and ecommerce technology has helped small retailers adapt to a rapidly changing world. 

Retailers are adapting

While small retailers rise to the challenge of meeting consumer needs in new and innovative ways, many larger retailers are navigating their way through a digital future. 

Agile retailers who already had a strong online presence have moved their focus to digital. 

Other retailers who had not invested in online unfortunately have not survived. But luckily, their product offerings have been picked up by big online retailers.

What’s next for retail?

As the high street opens up once more, many people are wondering what the future of retail will look like. 

Digital technology is revolutionising the retail industry. Bricks-and-mortar stores will remain, but a blended traditional and online set up looks set to be the future. 

Offering customers a visceral experience and the convenience of online shopping.