The high street’s in trouble. We know that. The Centre for Retail Research predicts that in the UK alone, lost sales in 2020 will amount to -£17,281bn and retail’s annual sales total will fall by -4.6% this year.
High costs and the low profitability of the lockdown period have meant that 20,622 stores are likely to close. WhatsApp and YouGov research suggests that 65% of small retailers have experienced a drop in footfall. High Street retailers know that in order to compete, they must up their eCommerce game.
However, some high streets are using innovative digital and fintech partnerships to save the economy. Recently, WhatsApp has announced a partnership with Watford Borough Council to support small businesses and retailers in the town. The Whatsapp Business App will act as a shopfront for products, services and information as well as help manage things like stock issues and reservations.
Checkout.com’s partnership with mobile order and pay solution, Wi5 is helping the hospitality sector address its mobile payment issues with an easy-to-use interface and checkout experience (with payments processed by Checkout.com). This partnership has supported high street brands such as BOXPARK, Patisserie Valerie, Pizza Pilgrims, New World Trading Company and Crêpeaffaire to enable mobile ordering for both table service and pickup.
“At Checkout.com, we’ve built a robust payments framework which enables businesses to cut through the complexity of payments,” explains Antoine Nougue, Checkout.com’s head of commercial, Europe, “In partnership with Wi5, we’ve been able to offer our solution to the hospitality industry as it turns to mobile payments during the pandemic. Checkout.com’s payment solution, combined with Wi5’s industry-leading technology offers consumers a seamless experience to get the hospitality industry back on its feet.”
“Partnerships between high streets, businesses, the organisations that support them, and banks, are vital for the recovery of the economy,” says Colin Munro, managing director of Perth-based fintech Miconex, which supports more than 40 towns and cities in the UK with Town And City gift cards and payment-linked rewards programmes. “There are 7.6m jobs at risk in the UK at the moment, 22% of these in retail,” he says, “While Amazon is reporting profit increases, high streets are dealing with decreased footfall and the loss of established businesses. Christmas is a pivotal time for all businesses, particularly this year, but events like a Christmas light switch on can’t happen in the traditional way. Councils and business improvement districts need innovative ideas to help them to drive footfall in a careful and managed way.”
Munro says the Mi Rewards programme is the first town and city loyalty program in the UK that’s completely free for businesses. He explains, “Customers link their payment cards, and each time they purchase with a registered business in their area, they are rewarded with points and the opportunity to win prizes as part of a ‘spend local, win big’ campaign.”
Individual businesses all capture a little data about each customer as they transact and interact with them, but, says Munro, “by working together we can start to join this up, creating a much richer understanding of how customers interact with a marketplace. This provides opportunities similar to Amazon, who are experts in using this data to drive further spend into their marketplace to the benefit of all merchants. The data we use for Mi Rewards is universal across all banks. Customers can link their Visa or Mastercard within a couple of minutes, then that’s it, no need to remember a separate loyalty card and they get rewarded each time they shop.”
Meanwhile, Appreciate Group – home of Love2shop, has launched a new product based on Mastercard aimed at rewarding employees for their hard work during the pandemic. The new digital rewards card will allow spending available at over 80 high street shops. At the launch, earlier this month CEO Ian O’Doherty said, “We’ve seen demand for new business in rewards and incentives double between April and September 2020, driven by companies looking to thank customers and to reward employees for their hard work during lockdown.”
Love2shop Contactless digital gift offers a quick and easy way to send digital gift cards instantly by email, text, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to an unlimited number of recipients. The cards can be sent on schedule for delivery for an upcoming special date – a customer’s anniversary, staff or client’s birthday and, of course, as a thank you for a recent transaction or ‘switch-over’.
The cards have been made available through a partnership with platform CleverCards, CEO Kealan Lennon, believes they also provide a safe and secure solution when shopping on the high street. He added, “The new card enables recipients to spend their card online or in-store contactlessly with new levels of security, as the £45 contactless limit does not apply to mobile contactless payments.”
These high-street partnerships and schemes are positive, but, warns Josipa Majic, CEO and founder of Revuto, “When it comes to building and maintaining consumer trust, all banks, including neobanks, should have their interests aligned. We’ve already seen fintechs that provide buy-now, pay-later schemes partner with big high-street brands, such as H&M. While banks such as Santander, offer its customers to earn up to 15% cashback with retailer offers. But more should be done to make consumers aware of where their money is going and when rather than encouraging them to spend.”
She adds, “If incumbents are to partner with high-street brands and well-known service providers, they will be able to offer more transparency and ensure better consumer rights. Ultimately, all consumers really want is peace of mind in knowing that their funds are fully protected.”