The challenge of the high street is a much discussed topic. It is something that affects us all, whether we’re consumers or working in retail and hospitality and confronting a demanding environment. For our latest Viewpoint article, we take a look at how the customer experience is changing and share how one business in tackling the challenge.

One of the drivers of current changes across retail and hospitality are customers themselves, increasingly going digital, expecting a transparent and ethical stance from businesses, and wanting more personal choice in how and when they shop. As Rachel Lund, Head of Insights and Analytics at the British Retail Consortium, commented earlier this month,

Retail is undergoing a transformation driven by changes in shopping habits, new technology, stiff competition and an increasing regulatory burden.

Customer on the high street - Topps Tiles

“When the stars align”
For those businesses favouring in-store retailing over e-commerce, creating a more experiential journey for consumers is crucial. When the stars align like they did this Summer – with the longest heatwave in recent memory and a World Cup that excited (almost all of) the nation – this mission to create an engaging in-store customer experience became that bit more interesting.

With that in mind, we thought we would look back at the Summer of 2018 and what this unexpected set of circumstances meant for that bastion of British Summertime come rain or shine – the Great British pub.

Some retailers may have suffered from the combination of scorching sunshine and feverish sporting excitement but it was good news for many merchants who were able to utilise outside space and offer customers more than just a transactional experience. Pubs had to think about how to keep on top of the queues and fulfil this demand for something a bit different.

Changing face of the pub garden
Our friends at Fuller’s have given us insight into the changing face of the pub garden in particular. Who knew that there would be a demand in England, with its characteristically unpredictable weather (read: rain), for alfresco dining and summer afternoons sitting comfortably in heated booths with outdoor bars?

Fuller's Pub

Georgina Wald, the Corporate Communications Manager at Fuller’s, told us,

Today’s customers are always looking for an experience when spending their leisure pound, so a good pub garden needs to offer interest and excitement – not just a a few benches . They want beach huts, fire pits, alfresco dining and outdoor bars. At Fuller’s, we have adapted and adopted outdoor experiences based on our customers’ feedback, and through our Shakespeare in the Garden event, have even added some theatrics in limited locations.

 

Clearly the World Cup provided the conditions for some of our pubs to take full advantage of the beautiful weather, as groups of friends and families gathered into the evening – often watching the matches on an outdoor screen. But because it can still be quite cool in the late evening, blankets – and even ponchos for the odd, wet Shakespeare performances – are also provided.

Across the board, we’re now finding that customers are more receptive to environments where they are made to feel good – whether that’s through the elevation of the pub garden to a social hub, or via a chance to make a small charitable donation when they pay their bill at the end of a long sun-drenched afternoon. And just like retailers and those in the hospitality industry, Pennies needs to be adaptable to customers too.

The Pennies experience
We marry together three very different industries: retailers, fintech and charities, to enable customers a flexible, affordable way to donate. In doing so, we’re helping companies like Fuller’s – who began their Pennies journey in October 2016 – create more experiential spaces for consumers to spend their time, and their money – just like the evolution of the pub garden does.

Pennies tech composite

In a world where consumer behaviours are changing and the need for flexibility is ever more demanding, industries need to adapt and focus on customer experience. In light of newly released figures from the Office for National Statistics, showing over 3,000 shops on British high streets had closed their doors in the past 4 years, this has never been more true.

Traditional approaches to retailing, and to charity donations, are falling out of favour with consumers due to concerns over trust, efficiency and choice. Through our partnerships with key organisations, payments and technology partners, retailers and charities, Pennies is driving the movement for social change and endorsing effective digital fundraising solutions that work for the need of the flexible consumer and ever changing retail environments.

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