There are changes afoot on the high street. Vodafone is about to launch a raft of new stores, and we've got the inside story on why, where and how...

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The high street is important. While helping you get what you need online is a huge focus for us at Vodafone, we know that there’s little that beats the face-to-face experience you get when you walk into a real store. That’s why we’re about to open a whole load of extra Vodafone stores up and down the UK.

 

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But our high street plans don’t start and stop at adding more stores: we’ve got a big plan to add a host of new features to our in-store offering that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. We caught up with Vodafone’s Head of Retail and Online, Martin Roberts find out more…

On your doorstep

martin roberts“We’re expanding our retail presence to make it easier for customers to get into our stores,” Martin says. “We’re making ourselves more accessible – we know that some customers who don’t shop with us cite the fact that they don’t have a store near them, so we’re trying to fix that.” Martin’s keen to be clear on one point, though: we’re not just adding stores to the UK’s busiest areas: this is a truly nationwide project.

“The list of new stores is split equally across all of the UK, and it’ll be mostly local-based – on your high street complementing those that we already have in the major shopping centres. We’re going to go from 357 stores to just over 500.

“We’re also looking to bring stores into business districts in major towns and areas where there might be lots of people who work, rather than live. There’s a number of different styles of stores that we’re looking at.”

A new way to shop

That sounds great, but adding stores is only half the story here. The other part of the plan is to make some serious changes to our systems and in-store facilities up, so that we can offer a shopping experience that no one else can match.

“We’ve thought carefully about how to make shopping with us the best experience it can possibly be.”

To achieve that, the store layout is set for a spruce up. We’ve thought carefully about how to make shopping with us the best experience it can possibly be, and that includes adding new sections like the Kids Zone. The Kids Zone will help parents achieve what they came in to do quicker and easier, by providing children with a safe area to have fun in – there’ll be phones and tablets pre-loaded with age-appropriate apps and games to keep the kids busy.

On top of that, the way you’ll actually be able to use the stores to your advantage, and the way they sync up with Vodafone online, is going to be something really special:

“We want to lead the high street when it comes to giving customers more choice,” Martin explains. “If people want to start a transaction with us online and complete it in a store, we want to support that for example. The aim would be that whether you buy online or on the phone, we can do a real-time stock check at your local store, and then you could pick it up in store the same day.”

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“That means the smoothest experience for the customer too, and that’s where we want to get to. We offer a buy online, collect in-store facility now, but by hooking up new stock systems will make that even better for customers.”

Martin says that improving that multi-channel experience is key, suggesting that cleverly linking the online and in-store experience is the future of the high street: “We’re seeing a resurgence in human interaction when it comes to shopping – an increase in people wanting to deal with human beings rather than just using an online service. When speed and convenience is the main need we will offer a quick pick up option too, so customers can choose how they wish to shop with us

“Customer behaviour is evolving rapidly. People tend to research online, but when you’re signing up to a two year contract and a piece of technology you’re not familiar with, doing that by yourself online is a far different experience to meeting an expert and being guided through everything.”

And that’s where Vodafone’s in-store experience leads the way:

“We’ve won Mobile Choice’s ‘Best in-store experience’ award for the last two years running,” Martin says, “which is a reader-led award. We’ve got a very thorough induction programme and we continue to invest significant time and money into making sure our teams stay up to date with the latest technology, making our teams a clear differentiator because of their knowledge.”

 

 

“On top of that we’ve got things like Red Box, which transfers your content and contacts to your new device. We’ve got a ‘walk-out working’ process where, if the customer wishes to, we can take them through a tutorial of their device and get it up and working before they leave. All that is part of our 5 Star Care programme, comprising of Perfect Start, Protected, Helping Hand, Always Working and Early Upgrade. That’s what sets us apart.”

So, while the web continues to grow, the high street is far from being on the brink of extinction. In fact, we’re making sure it gets even stronger.

“We definitely see a real long term co-existence between the high street and the internet, so we’re investing in and supporting that partnership,” Martin says. “One will only make the other stronger.”

Do you prefer shopping online or in person? Let us know your thoughts below. If online’s more your bag, you can read up on how we’re taking to Twitter like never before here.