High streets could make billions of pounds in additional revenue and increase footfall by making more of the latest digital technology, according to a new report by the UK government’s Digital High Street Advisory Board.
The Digital High Street Report 2020 has found that local businesses and independent traders are missing a trick by not keeping up with the digitally savvy modern shopper and that stakeholders in town centre communities could benefit significantly from integrating traditional high streets with digital technologies and compete more effectively.
To address this, the board has initiated a five-year strategy to reinvigorate the UK’s traditional high streets and proposed the adoption of four major inter-dependent digital initiatives by 2020.
This includes raising infrastructure and connectivity standards, ensuring local communities have basic digital skills, setting up a High Street Digital Lab, and adopting a High Street Digital Health Index concept to assess competitiveness and measure economic value from digital developments.
The report also suggests that new solutions in retailing, logistics and traffic management are required to enable towns and cities to regenerate their high streets to cope, take advantage of technological changes and provide solutions that mix virtual and physical in new ways, offering genuinely new and attractive shopping experiences.
Independent experts will now be appointed to advise on how the ‘Digital Laboratory’ and the ‘High Street Digital Health Index’ could give small traders the training, advice and skills they need to compete and to provide advice to communities on the infrastructure they need in place.
“The digital revolution is arguably the most disruptive factor affecting our communities, but its effects are not often considered central to high street revitalisation,” said John Walden, chief executive of Home Retail Group, and chairman of The Digital High Streets Advisory Board. “Many members of UK town centres are struggling to keep up with consumers in terms of their digital capabilities, and given the pace of digital growth many towns lack sufficient infrastructure and basic digital skills. I believe that the business-oriented board has provided recommendations that, taken together, can restore our high streets to vibrancy in a digital future, into 2020 and beyond.”
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