As online retailing grows the question on our minds is, “Will retailers close branches as they look to ‘right-size’ their store estates for multichannel trading?” Its a question that’s addressed in Mary Portas report looking into the future of the high street.

In terms of experience online still fails to provide the “theatre” that retail stores can provide when they are designed and executed correctly. Online provides a great convenience and fast researching and comparison capabilities but point of purchase influence still rates highly in the manufacturer and retailers armoury. The drive undoubtedly comes from the shoppers wants to perform more of the shopping journey online however shoppers need to be aware that the more they want the more likely they are to damage the retail experience as whole.

Looking at retail globally does not answer the question the key is to analysing the product types shoppers expect to have offline in-store vs the types of products they expect to buy online. Mix this with shopper types and shopper missions and you have the recipe for your future multi-channel shopping experience.

So how could this new multi-channel experience look? Its anyone’s guess right now but if you map product purchase and against experience it feels there are some obvious choices to remain on the high street serving the “shopper experience”. Although purchasing clothes online is becoming more acceptable and highly adopted the tangible nature of the goods and social aspects of shopping lend themselves to the high street. The idea of more fashion retailers providing experiences where the shopper spends more time in store trying and reviewing products to create a social opportunity is sensible. Coupled with access to quick service restaurants and fast dining experiences would create a more social high street focused on richer purchase experiences.

Faster more convenient in-store purchases for FMCG, CPG and quick clothe purchasing are highly suited to retail parks and out of town stores where convenience is the prime context. Context is the keyword here, when context is matched to shoppers missions and the right products are supplied the end result is an increase in purchase opportunities.

Combine the benefits of online, high street retail and out of town retail and you begin to see the multichannel retailing experience has already begun to unfold. We believe that online will not kill the high street but the high street will kill itself if it doesn’t recognise and understand its shoppers context, journey and needs all together. All stores whether it be online retailing or physical retailing should fulfill their shopper needs after all that’s what drives sales and profits.

So is it difficult? Focus on shopper equity rather than consumer and deliver relevant value across relevant channels. Long live online retailing, physical retailing and the high street!