A recent report released by Internet Retailing shed light on the growing concern that Britain’s high streets are “on course to take less than 40% of UK retail spending by 2014″. This latest statement follows a review by TV personality Mary Portas on the current trading climate of our UK high streets and recommendations on how to improve trading conditions with a 28 point recommendation agenda

The Portas paper focused on initiatives such as introducing a “national market stall day” and taxing out of town shopping centre car parks, initiatives to encourage and incentivise shoppers back to the high street.

But there is an initiative that seems to be overlooked which could help facilitate a much needed solution to Britain’s high streets,  digital marketing.  Below I have focused on some key, cost-effective digital marketing tactics that could be adopted by high street retailers to help support their business or service:

-Google Local Search: Google introduced Local search as a means to address the growing trend for “localised” search activity, for example “London restaurants”, or “hairdressers in Manchester”. It allowed sole traders and small business owners to use the search engine as a means to promote their business or service by updating address and contact details, allowing your customers to review the service provided as well as locating the business/service through Google map facility

A recent post from Techcrunch suggested that 20% of total Google searches were local, with that number increasing to 40% when factoring in Mobile so this provides a massive opportunity to exploit and engage with an online audience and convert this to incremental footfall to the shop premises.

Voucher Codes – The explosion in online voucher codes has assisted many bricks and mortar stores to engage with an online audience and drive interest and encourage footfall to their stores.

This has been a positive approach to support the catering trade allowing restaurant chains to promote and entice diners with various incentives. The chart below provides a graph from September to December 2011 and rising trend in searches for voucher terms.Voucher Code Searches

Of the search terms containing “voucher” during the final 3 months of 2011, there are a number of prominent high street names included within the top 20 voucher based searches including: Zizzi, Debenhams, Ann Summers, Pizza Express, Sports Direct, John Lewis, Pizza Hut and Next. This indicates a convergence in online and offline media and provides retailers a cost effective strategy to drive online users to offline bricks and mortar stores.

The emergence of Groupon has provided a fresh impetus in driving location based voucher incentives for shoppers to find exclusive daily deal promotions found on the high street and is yet another online vehicle that can be used to drive shoppers.

Amazon Lockers – Recently I discussed the emergence of Amazon lockers,  an incentive for their online shoppers to collect orders at a designated drop-off point, located in city centres across the UK. a trial is being operated at London shopping centres (Bromley, Shepherd’s Bush and Soho). This is a perfect opportunity for high street retailers to promote products and services through working with Amazon lockers service and engage with the Amazon user to use their own services found on the high street.

Established high street retailers such as Argos and Carphone Warehouse provide their own click and collect initiatives, with Argos also recently announcing a campaign using QR Codes to support their marketing efforts on the high street.

From a previous post, I discussed the opportunities QR Codes provide estate agents converting footfall online.  Argos are using QR codes engaging with high street shoppers to interact with Argos shop displays. The shopper can scan the code of the product via their smartphone and be re-directed to the Argos online payment screen.