At present, the retail industry faces an uncertain future. Some of the biggest high street brands have started to close their doors to the public as online shopping takes over. It looks as though customers would prefer to order their goods from the comfort of their own home no matter what it is they are looking for. Fashion in particular has a significant presence in the digital world, accounting for almost one third of all online purchases in the UK – but what does this mean for our high street stores?

Trilogy Stores, who stock Citizens of Humanity jeans, discuss why retailers should think about moving into the digital market to survive. Whilst some high street stores might fear they are entering unfamiliar territory, if they fail to make a transition, they could face an uncertain future.

The current state of the industry

Retailers with a physical presence are beginning to struggle. In the last 12 months, approximately 87% of UK consumers have bought at least one product online – with online sales increasing 21.3% in the year 2016, and forecast to increase by 30% by the end of 2017. Consumer buying patterns have shifted a great deal. Consumers are choosing to shop in their spare time, usually on an evening or during the night, making it difficult for retail high street stores to compete with their limited shopping hours.

Size guides, speedy delivery, free returns and competitive prices are no making it easier to shop online. The need to physically try before you buy is fading away. This is influencing the success of high street stores – driving some of them into the ground.

Offline retail’s start-up and running costs are substantially more than online retail – so if online retailers are taking away sales from the high street, it’s no wonder that new companies are choosing to start online, and existing fashion giants are starting to make the transition to digital.

The future is digital

If the retail industry is to survive, the only way to go is digital. That’s right, the future is digital for the retail industry. With many big brands already marking their territory online, smaller brands need to consider digital if they are to stay in the game. High street retail, made with bricks and mortar will be no more – the technology revolution is here and it’s time to make the transition.

Even several of the popular fashion retailers of the current day have proven that they no longer require a physical high street store if they want to be successful in the industry. Many of which have found success solely on online platforms, using e-commerce websites and social media apps to drive business – with big high street names following in their footsteps and favouring digital platforms over high street stores.

The potential in the digital world is clear to see. With giant high street stores marking their presence online, for others to have a chance in competing, a digital transition could be vital. Customers appreciate the convenience of e-commerce and the beauty of being able to shop whilst sat at home, on their sofa, in their pyjamas – they aren’t limited to certain shopping hours, such as 9-5pm in a store.

The power of social media

Social media’s rise in popularity has also influenced how successful retailers and big fashion brands are online – redefining how we have previously looked at fashion. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have become essential marketing tools for fashion retailers, evolving from catwalk shows and big shop window displays, retailers now capitalise via their social media profiles.

It’s not only their own profiles which retailers have, but they can also rely on other apps to give their brand and products leverage. The fashion industry is extremely competitive, and social media apps have provided a platform to help brands stand out from their competitors. Instagram in particular, has over 700 million active monthly users, with over 40 billion photos shared. With this in mind, the app has become a platform whereby celebrities, public figures and social influencers are used to endorse a brand’s product, guaranteeing a certain level of exposure and success depending on how many followers they have.

An example is Kendall Jenner. The model has a huge 81.6 million followers on Instagram – when she is asked to endorse a product, or be the face of a brand campaign, she is securing exposure to all those 81.6 million followers – guaranteeing more exposure than most other forms of marketing. This then encourages users to redirect to the brands profile, or their website – if one picture can reach millions of people, then isn’t that more successful than a shop window display?

Meeting customer needs

Recent research suggests that the industry should go digital if they want to retain their customers. When it comes to customer service, interactions across social media app, Twitter, has increased by 250% in the last two years. Customers are looking for a service which reduces their effort is quick and convenient. Is social media the answer?

With a third of respondents who took part in a recent survey starting that phone and voice communication is a frustrating customer service channel, it’s no wonder that social media is popular for customer service. Customers want a quick response rate, without the need to wait in line, or on hold. Social media provides a platform for customer communication, and with the opportunity to offer quicker responses, this could equal higher willingness for customer spend.

If your company isn’t quite ready to make the full switch to digital, then keep your business in the game by being active on social media. However, the future looks to be digital for the retail industry. For high street brands to remain, maybe it’s time to take the plunge and secure your presence in the digital world.