The past year has been a huge challenge for the retail industry in the UK, with many retailers closing their doors due to ongoing lockdowns. Independent stores have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown regulations, with The British Retail Consortium estimating a £22bn loss of sales for non-essential retail stores, many of which are independent, in 2020, and a reduction of 40% in footfall.
Last year, more than 11,000 outlets permanently disappeared from high streets, shopping centres and retail parks, while the online shopping trend has boomed, with recent figures showing that 38% of retail sales were made online in February, up from 20% a year ago*. Research suggests this trend is set to continue, with nearly half of UK consumers looking to continue shopping online post-pandemic.
While the pandemic has had a huge impact on consumer shopping trends, it is no secret that the retail sector was already ready for regeneration pre-pandemic, as the convenience and speed of online shopping surpassed innovation on the high street. But with the ongoing uncertainty retailers face due to the pandemic, it is time to look at how innovative technology can help the local high street survive and thrive.
Global brands have already been utilising advanced AI and computer vision technologies to create more personal shopping experiences. The ability of AI to create complex data analysis and interpret consumer behaviour has propelled global brands forward and helped them better understand changing consumer behaviour.
During lockdown in 2020, we launched MyStreet to do just that – an innovative app set up to allow independent retailers to reach a wider pool of customers with a virtual store front while their doors remain shut. Mystreet uses a mixture of AI and computer vision technology, and places this in the hands of independent retailers. MyStreet uses this technology to allow retailers to bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds. We use technology to connect the right consumer to the right products and stores, and our in-app chat function offers consumers a hyper personalised experience that is similar to the high street shopping experience.
Allowing independent retailers to tap into analytics to show their customer’s behaviours and shopping preferences is invaluable. This type of machine learning boosts the chances of increased customer loyalty and targeting their key audience – something which all retailers will be striving for in the wake of the pandemic.
The pandemic has meant we’ve missed out on the experience visiting a shop gives us, so MyStreet has been designed to complement high street shops by creating the opportunity to chat directly with shop owners through conversational technology and bring the experience behind the products and brands directly into people’s homes.
Despite online shopping becoming more prevalent, there is a growing pool of people that care more and more about shopping local, knowing the origin of their products and the story behind them. Without independent shops, we lose the little places that weave our communities together, places that are loved for the human connection and experience, which is what we have all been missing during this past year. MyStreet was created to support independent retailers and help them bridge the gap between the physical and digital shopping experience.
Richard Johnson, co-founder of MyStreet