Stop excluding the high street from digital transformation

I have a passion for helping big organisations transform and adapt to the changing and complex, connected world we live in today.

I also feel a great deal of sadness when I see high street shops close down. Empty buildings in my home town is becoming the new norm. The once bright lights, buzz, a place to socialise and enjoy an experience together. Now its full of sad, grey empty shells. 

But I also love internet shopping. Who couldn’t say they enjoy the perks of getting whatever you want at the touch of a button in your own home? The likes of Boohoo.com and Wish.com leading the way in the female fashion world really have taken the industry by storm – with highly competitive pricing, choice and excellent customer experience. The digital highstreet is an enjoyable place to be.

But there’s still something about the physical high street that I long for. And the ability to try things on still remains an advantage. 

So what can we do to keep our shops? Here are some thoughts I had whilst sitting on the train the other day:

1. Understanding customers

Why are all shops on the high street open at the same time? Surely some people only want to buy things at certain times.

The internet is open 24hours a day. While that’s probably a unrealistic target, how about closing on weekdays and opening in the evenings? I reckon shops need to reconsider what they know about their customers behaviour and do something different.

2. The shopping experience 

The only way to compete with the online space is to do what it does, better.

For most big retailers they have the advantage of already having a solid loyal customer base. Shops need to hold on to them – Offer them the ability to check out other prices, other brands. And make sure yours is the best. The tech is already available. 

One of the best usp’s for high street shops is  ability to try things on. Make your changing rooms a big deal and a good experience. Make them big, have big mirrors, make them social and put the fun back into shopping with friends. That’s the real USP of the high street. Go over the top – offer refreshments and other perks. 

3. Connect on and offline 

Shops need to make the experience visible and appeal to their online audience.

They should get them talking to other customers and sharing their offline experience, online. They should get reviews up in the shop, make it easy to see what “people like them” bought with those shoes etc. It’s all about making the experience as easy as online. 

I loved this idea – social media-informed digital clothing rail launches as part of campaign to boost towns fortunes through digital. It’s essentially a ‘live feed’ digital clothing rail shows when an item on the rail is trending – or not – on Facebook or Instagram.

More of this please!

The best free online digital courses

Forget NetFlix. I’m a self-confessed MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) junky.

I love learning new things, learning at my own pace and on the move, so MOOCs and online coursers are perfect for people like me.

Online courses are becoming more common, but which are right for you?

Here’s my list of the top five:

  1. Coursera

I couldn’t possibly miss this one out. It’s by far my favourite – its mission is literally to ‘provide universal access to the world’s best education’.

Coursera is a platfrom that partners with top universities and organisations around the world, to offer courses online for anyone to take.

There are hundreds of different courses available at different times which include short video lectures, interactive quizzes, peer graded assessments and a forum to connect with other learners and instructors. There’s even an option to purchase a certificate after you complete the course for a small fee.

I’ve completed many courses with Coursera including: ‘Change, Innovation and Creativity’, ‘Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘Brand Management: Aligning Business Brand & Behaviour’.

There are plenty of topics to choose from – from arts and humanities, computer science, engineering to learning Chinese. There’s also more specialist subjects which you can pay to do.

  1. The Digital Garage

Another one from Google. This one’s great because the very first step once you’ve signed up is to take a survey which then helps create a personalised learning plan with different lessons just for you based on your goals. The videos are beautiful too!

  1. FutureLearn

Okay, so I haven’t used this platform yet but I’ve signed up to a ‘Transmedia Storytelling’ MOOC that starts at the end of January, so I’ll let you know how that goes…

It’s got some pretty good reviews and its run by a privately owned company owned by the Open University with 76 partners around the world including the British Library, the National Film and Television School, professional bodies such as the ACCA, and businesses like the BBC.

There are tons of courses ranging in length – from three weeks to ten weeks long – the subjects are also diverse and the videos look good too.

  1. Google Analytics Academy

I completed the ‘Digital Analytics Fundamentals’ course – a subject I really knew very little about. It covers what data is most important for different business objectives, analysis techniques (e.g. segmentation and context), conversions, attribution, creating a measurement plan and a deep dive into Google Analytic reports.

All in all a very thorough overview from a trusted source.

There are also more specialist courses such as ‘Google Tag Manager Fundamentals’ and ‘Mobile App Analytics’.

  1.  Canvas

This one’s interesting because anyone can apply to run a course (as long as you meet the criteria).

Lots of MOOCs available, specific to the digital industry. Only some courses have certificates, so check before enrolling if that’s important to you. There’s also a good discussion network where you can chat with other participants, to help you along the way.