I returned yesterday from what I can only describe as a dismal shopping trip to Oxford Street.
The few things I managed to get are still in the hallway, I just had to get my thoughts down as soon as I could.
It is our family tradition that we go down to Oxford Street mid-November, yes, to get presents, but more so to soak up the atmosphere of Christmas in what is one of the greatest cities in the world.
The lights, the people, the music coming from the shop speakers, the smell of caramelised nuts, and, who could forget, the window display at Selfridges?
This is how we start to feel “Christmassy” in our house.
And yet, this year felt more like 28 Days Later, than the 12 Days of Christmas.
What used to be an ecstatic buzz has dwindled to a barely audible hum along this iconic road. It feels laboured, forced somehow, that we’re just going through the motions. None of us really wanting to be here.
Perhaps we’ll just order everything from Amazon?
After all, it’s cheaper and more convenient to just get stuff online now.
In fact, why don’t we all just stay inside and get everything sent to us?
We crave experiences and new sensations. We love the element of surprise, the feeling of excitement at a new discovery. We are explorers by nature.
The high street was once the place we all flocked to, around this period. Yes, it could be stressful and yes, we may have had to fight a stranger over the last tin of Quality Street on the shelf but that was all part of the festive ritual.
With bags piled up on our arms like a human Buckaroo, we’d weave in and out of the crowds of fellow shoppers, guided by the sparkle and glow of Christmas lights and decorations, eager to get our stash home and under the tree, ready for the big day.
This is not some nostalgia piece yearning for the glory days depicted in Love Actually, I know times have changed, that’s why Bubbl exists. But I think it’s clear to everyone that the high street’s soul has taken a massive beating by the continuing growth of online shopping.
But it’s not dead.. oh no, it is merely on the ropes. I have a feeling it can come back, better than ever.
The key fact is that there are just no real incentives to high street shopping as things stand. But if the focus were to shift to giving shoppers unique experiences, exclusive discounts, and loyalty rewards, you’d start to see the increase in footfall that it so desperately needs. And maybe the joy would be on all our high streets, not just Oxford Street.
We are so passionate about this here at Bubbl. We strongly believe that technology should enhance the human experience, not replace it. We also know that retail companies big and small really love to know and reward their best customers. You don’t need a load of customer data to achieve this – you simply need to recognise and reward customer engagement.
Imagine it’s Saturday morning and you receive this notification from Zara:
“Beautiful people of London – to celebrate the festive season, we are having an in-store happy hour at 1pm today. Enter the store and you’ll receive a 20% off code for ANYTHING bought in-store. But hurry, it’s only valid until 3pm. See you soon!”
You stock up on lovely presents, having saved a few quid in the process. Feeling pleased with yourself, you head towards the tube when your phone goes off again. It’s a notification from your Costa Coffee app!
“Having a great day shopping on Oxford Street? Pop in and see us, we’ve got a free festive Pumpkin Spiced Latte waiting for you, just scan this QR code at the till.”
As you sit with your latte, you remember you actually need to pop into Boots to buy the obligatory perfume gift sets for aunties and uncles. It’s only a few doors down so you might as well get them while you’re here.
The scents surrounding the perfume counter inspire you to treat yourself to a little bottle of Chanel No.5 – why not, you’ve worked hard all year!
And to think, when you woke up you were just going to get everything online.
You pass a shop that has “Driving Home for Christmas” playing from the speakers and there it is….you’re feeling Christmassy!
Here’s the thing about shopping. It’s not a purely transactional thing. It’s not just about obtaining goods. And the reality is the sentiment we are driving at here is just as relevant whether we are talking about the largest city or the smallest town (that’s Fordwich in Kent by the way).
It’s about the joy of chance encounters, unexpected gifts, lovely little surprises, the theatre of a beautifully presented window display, carefully curated music, and excellent face-to-face service that can lift your mood and brighten your day. It’s about being human.
We have an opportunity to rewrite the book on high street retail. Geomarketing is the perfect marriage of traditional “real world” retail and mobile technology. Bubbl has always been about this, and our priority is always enhancing the human experience.
We know that human beings have the same fundamental emotional needs as we always have.
For example, supermarkets are still full of people walking up and down the aisles, despite the widespread availability of home delivery.
Why? Because we like to be engaged in our respective communities. We are sociable. We are ritualistic. We seek connection to the world around us.
Our high streets play a vital part in this.
Let the fightback begin!