The future survival of high streets in the UK has been a point of debate for years, given the challenges they face, with the question being louder and bolder now than ever before. Some are even considering 2024 as a key year to define the future of high streets moving forward.

The pandemic has had an everlasting impact on the UK’s high streets as, for many, it has shifted focus further towards online stores. Post-pandemic, it looks like this shift is here to stay, with forecasts predicting UK online spending to increase by 30% this year compared to 2019. But not all is doom and gloom, as many FTSE100 and FTSE250 companies plan to collectively open more than 200 sites within the current financial year.

Many sector leaders are placing emphasis on the role of consumer experience this year and how it can help revitalize the high streets. Thinking about the role retail shops could play in enhancing consumer experience, the CEO of Primark had this to say – “retailers need to give customers a reason to visit their local high streets and spend more time there with their friends and loved ones”. Brands should leverage customer insights available to them to identify forces of attraction that can help bring consumers to their physical stores.

One of the big ideas floating around to enable this is to embrace the era of the ‘phygital’, as identified in one of our Cultural Codes of 2023 called ‘Hybrid Hype’. There’s no denying that consumers move their way around online and offline stores throughout the consumer journeys they make – what’s interesting is their desire for the two worlds to mix and mingle swiftly. Brands should rethink their retail strategies to champion physical and digital integration, ensuring a better customer experience, increasing engagement, and adding to the value derived from any purchases made.

The power of media will also remain important in any such integration. PRIME energy drink utilised online communities and influencer reach to market their products offline, perfectly employing the best of both worlds. Creating holistic/connected media strategies throughout the consumer journey that maximise the ‘phygital’ experience can not only help consumers navigate better – it can truly help distinguish a brand from the competition.

Source: trade.gov, retail-insight-network.com, Retail Gazette, Boutique – Magazine, the7stars Culture Codes 2023