Marrying online and offline shopping

Written by Polly Barnfield OBE, Founder and CEO of Maybe*

Online shopping is a phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity year on year. You can order pretty much anything online nowadays and as a result less and less shoppers are visiting the high street to purchase their desired items.

Recent research from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard shows that over 10% of shops on the high street now lie empty. Yet, despite this, footfall across the country’s high streets is actually rising.

A recent study, commissioned by us at Maybe*has found that 41% of shoppers do in fact head to the high street to look for ideas, reinforcing the fact that the high street is an extremely valid part of the consumer shopping experience. Our research, alongside the British Retail Consortium and Springboard’s findings, indicates that shoppers are heading in store to browse but aren’t choosing to buy there.

Consumers are increasingly likely to turn to online shopping after browsing the high street as it gives them the flexibility to trawl the waters of the web and find the item they want at the best price. The study also revealed that 39% of consumers get their ideas from shopping websites due to the huge variety on offer. Shoppers are more likely to purchase online as there is far more to see – you can visit more online shops in a single day then you can on foot.

Evidently then, there is a constant battle with online and offline shopping. But this needn’t be the case. The truth is the two should go hand in hand. Maybe*’s research has demonstrated that over 74% of high street retailers have no active social media presence within their regional stores. When you consider the amount of online shopping activity, both browsing and buying, retailers are certainly missing a trick here. This serves to isolate the high street from the consumer, separating the online and offline shopping experience, when retailers should be doing all they can to marry the two together.

In order to connect the retail experience, both online and offline, we’re working with GFirst LEP, a Gloucestershire local enterprise partnership, Gloucester City Council, Cheltenham Borough Council, Stroud County Council and the government, combining together for a pilot project called The Great Gloucestershire High Street. Maybe* is delivering the ’What do you think?’  (#WDYT) campaign as a key element in this pilot. This is a social media driven campaign that actively encourages retailers and shoppers towards a dialogue through social media. We call this conversational commerce.

Led by the hashtag #WDYT, it encourages consumers to put shopping decisions to social media, engaging with both the retailer and other social media. At present the campaign has had over 8 million #WDYT impressions, 10,000 #WDYT entries and 100 retailers signed up.

Our numbers are growing, but encouraging those early retailers to sign up to the campaign was a huge challenge. When initially pitching the campaign to retailers their immediate response was ‘what do you mean?’, ‘how will this work?’ etc. We had to educate the retailers and they had to trust us to give the campaign a chance. As a result, the retailers involved are thrilled with the response. The campaign encourages footfall into their stores as well as retailer and consumer engagement on social media.

Our aim now is to continue to educate retailers and to raise awareness of the campaign to consumers. We’re seeing strong figures 15 weeks into the campaign and aim for this growth to continue.

As Dr. Diane Savory, OBE DL, Chair of Gfirst LEP says “Its really exciting to see our Gloucestershire towns and retailers collaboratively embracing technology to accelerate the evolution of our high streets. This is creating a Blueprint that can be used all across the UK”.

The #WDYT campaign is something we hope to see rolled out at a national level over the next year or two, and we hope it’s the kind of initiative that can really set the standard, encouraging greater interaction. The high street is evolving, as is a consumer’s view of what the high street is. Retailers need to do the same. A great place to start is by using the tools they have to hand, with social media being an obvious, and comparatively easy to use, part of their arsenal.

#WDYT – What retailers & towns are saying from Maybe* on Vimeo.


Polly Barnfield OBE is founder and CEO of Maybe*. She previously created the Multi Award winning Everyclick and Give as you Live platforms for the Charity sector. The Maybe* platform makes shopping decisions easier, more connected, and much more fun. Maybe* works with shoppers, retailers and places to deliver a seamless retail experience across all channels and devices. See and

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