A screen, an image, a click. Proceed to checkout. Sign for it the next day. We are the first generation to enjoy the thrill and convenience of online shopping. No queuing, no frustration at going home empty-handed, because we can always find what we’re looking for online – anywhere, anytime, on our laptop or smartphone.
Where does this leave the High Street? For centuries this strip has been the focus of local community, the place where people meet to trade and exchange news. But many high streets in the UK are struggling and some say that the online revolution is to blame.
Have they spoken too soon, though? In this Intelligence Squared event staged in partnership with eBay, our panel of experts debated how the most forward-looking businesses are using technology to marry the best of online and bricks-and-mortar to meet ever-changing consumer expectations. Click-and-collect, location-based technology that sends special offers to your phone in store, augmented reality that shows you what a sofa would look like in your living room – these are just some examples of a new kind of retail experience which merges social, digital and physical shopping.
So will technology be the salvation of the High Street? Or is this omnichannel future, with its reliance on screens, apps and social media, fundamentally antisocial? It may be highly personalised but is it impersonal? And does this really matter?
In this debate we brought together a panel of leading retailers, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs to discuss the future of the High Street.