How e-commerce can help high street retailers improve their business

Business Insights

By Dan Whytock, Founder and Managing Director of

The Internet is often blamed for the problems for high street retailers as more people order goods from the comfort of home. However, this is a misunderstanding of how digital works in the retail environment.

We should be looking at how the Internet can be used to breathe new life into UK high streets and save established brands, as well as champion smaller, independent retailers.

Understanding the reasons why customers have, and will continue, to choose to shop online, and how bricks and mortar still play a role in the shopping experience, is the key to creating a strategy that gives customers the best of all worlds.

Understanding E-Commerce

People choose e-commerce for choice and convenience. Even when they decide to go to the high street many will have researched online first.

Click and collect buying is increasingly popular; over half of shoppers preferred in store click-collect to make a quick purchase without paying extra delivery charges, or waiting in for a courier, as reported by a 2018 E-Commerce Foundation study on UK E-commerce.

However, almost half of UK independent retailers still don’t have a selling presence online.

They need to find an e-commerce solution that is low cost and low risk, and which is technologically simple and comes with access to expert support if needed.

High street retailers must not ignore e-commerce - it’s here to stay and will continue to dominate, though there are signs of a return to physical high street shopping.

According to the same E-Commerce Foundation study, 93% of online consumers stated they also shop in physical stores, compared to 90% in 2016. 82% of Generation Y are omni-channel shoppers. More people seem to be realising the limitations of online shopping, and that face-to-face interactions can be part of a great buying experience.

Ethical and environmental concerns are also driving consumers to change their shopping habits both online and off; ‘near me’ searches have doubled year-on-year since 2015. Consumers online are also still very loyal to local UK based sellers, with 93% of online purchases in 2017 by UK dwellers coming from UK sellers compared to 31% from EU countries.

How High Street retailers can harness the Internet in 2019

· Finding a niche online

A strong online presence can boost visits to the high street by giving consumers the ability to search by location and the option of click and collect.

For many sellers, Amazon and eBay etc. provide a new revenue stream.However, smaller bricks and mortar boutique retailers are likely to get lost on huge marketplaces that include online-only sellers selling thousands of products. Using specialised online marketplaces such as Etsy can help smaller sellers stand out and are more cost-effective for smaller budgets. Another niche marketplace is, which focuses specifically on independent bricks and mortar retailers, allowing retailers to create or integrate existing product inventories quickly with easily. The site also offers extra-traffic activities such as discounted Google advertising to attract a wider audience.

· Enhance bricks and mortar service for the digital age

A positive in-store experience promoting and integrating its digital channels well will encourage customers to use that retailer for their next online purchase. Larger retailers e.g. John Lewis and Apple Stores use their shops more like showrooms, providing customers with the opportunity to touch, feel and try out their products, and extra customer service offerings including technical support, personal shopping and home design services. Smaller independent retailers can easily adopt this approach and provide customers with expertise-focused extras that support and enhance the online shopping experience.

· Use online data to better understand customers

Websites, e-commerce channels and social media are not just opportunities to promote to a wider audience, they are a means to interact and study the shopping and buying behaviours of customers to help tailor both in-store service and online offering. Social media is the most cost-effective way to conduct valuable market research and behaviour studies - retailers can analyse page analytics and activity patterns, the types of posts followers respond to, conduct polls on customer likes and dislikes, and keep an eye on their competitors.

Digital help retailers strengthen the relationships they have with their customers - and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. With easier, more affordable access to e-commerce, the high street can be saved and thrive in the future.


Dan Whytock is Managing Director of – a free to join, low commission online marketplace on a mission to save the UK’s high streets. hosts millions of products that were previously unavailable online, with seamless managed services for UK independent high street shops, allowing sellers to create or integrate their online presence easily and seamlessly with total service support, saving retailers on time and costs traditionally associated with establishing a visible online presence.







Inflation at 2.4% means they are expected to be hit by a £186m increase in business rates

The Royal Mail 2017 Research on Online Marketplaces found…

According to an E-Commerce Foundation report on UK E-commerce in 2018…

Ethical and environmental concerns are also beginning to drive consumers to change their shopping habits.

Near me searches have doubled year-on-year since 2015 (Full data Crunchbase and Google trends)