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How will the future of the digital age affect your industry? 4 FEBRUARY 2021

How will the future of the digital age affect your industry?
5 minute read

Following my previous blog discussing the continued decline of the banking sector on our high streets, we have seen in recent news that HSBC is announcing branch closures across the UK.

This won’t come as a surprise to many, and we only see an acceleration of the replacement of face-to-face customer service with digital alternatives. AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation are already being used to aid better decisions and end-user applications, alongside AR (Augmented Reality), which is pushing boundaries beyond anything previously known. As these technologies further advance, improve, and become more readily available, consumer experiences will be entirely revolutionised.

In this blog, I make some more predictions about the changes to come, and how organisations can stay ahead of the curve.

Disappearance of banks and fashion retailers from high streets

I suspect that HSBC announcing their branch closures will begin a domino effect over the next 1-3 years of retail banks retracting from their lavish high street buildings, with fashion retailers continuing to struggle due to the ease of online shopping.

These two major withdrawals from the high street will leave small independent retailers struggling to get by due to minimal foot traffic. The lack of a reason to ‘pop to town’ will see our regular fast-food chains move outside of town centres into dedicated retail parks and increased service station presence.

Towns will continue to be dominated by cafes, restaurants, and bars, along with the increasing presence of offices due to a reduction in rental and lease costs that will be seen due to periods of unoccupancy.

Declining revenues for Local Authorities

Based on these high street predictions, there will be a direct impact on the Local Authority purse. A decrease in retailer (and therefore customer) presence will see a decline in the revenue that councils generate from Business Rates, parking charges and fines. This is going to seriously impact the funds Local Authorities have available to support their communities in the respect of schooling, social services, road maintenance etc.

Local Authorities will need to find another source of revenue through central services they can provide. It would also be prudent to re-evaluate policies, processes, and technology to establish improvements that will provide cost-saving efficiencies to reduce expenditure.

Solely online automotive sales

Who remembers spending weekends visiting dealerships and showrooms to find their next car? Like most industries, this market is also moving online, with the likes of Cinch, Auto Trader, eBay, and Cazoo providing benefits such as:

  • live and pre-recorded video viewings
  • part-ex for your current car
  • various finance options
  • moneyback guarantees
  • delivery to door.

Even manufacturers allow you to configure your new car online and order to a local dealership (essentially "click-and-collect"). The only downside is the lack of test drive; however, most offer moneyback guarantees so customers have an easy route to return.

All of this means we will again see independent retailers struggle with foot traffic and the sales necessary to stay afloat.

This will generate greater warehousing and stocking requirements, with location becoming less important. Manufacturers will begin backing the dealers who have the greatest online presence to make the customer experience as streamlined as possible.

Further regulatory changes ahead for the utilities sector

The utilities sector has seen a large degree of movement over recent years with various mergers, acquisitions, and organisations going into administration. There is no doubt this trend is not over, and with the pandemic causing further scrutiny from the regulators regarding how customers are treated, organisations who can demonstrate support and good customer service are likely to benefit.

We have heard utility companies raise concerns over the rising volumes of bad debt, which we believe will continue throughout 2021. Ofgem is also enforcing new regulations this year; emergency credit will be offered to customers struggling to top-up pre-payment meters, along with more realistic and affordable repayment plans for customers in debt. Implementing these alongside relevant controls will require adoption of new technologies and ensuring current systems can support effectively.

There needs to be an element of safeguarding when forecasting as we enter a 2021 built on uncertainty and technology will play a big part in this. AI is already being used to help run models and simulations around effective planning, alongside predictive analytics to provide more dynamic segmentation of customer characteristics allowing better customer service outcomes. Continuing to roll out, collect, and analyse data from smart meters will assist this process to identify key areas of concern, downturn, and performance.

Customer centricity key for online supermarkets

The number of people buying groceries online has doubled in the UK since the first COVID-19 lockdown; the most striking increase has been amongst those aged over 55, which has grown from 8% in 2019 to almost 25% in the summer of 2020. This was reflected in the job market, where we saw a 143% increase in job hires associated with e-commerce related .

The convenience factor is beginning to outweigh everything else when it comes to grocery shopping and it is expected these online sales will continue to grow further. To stay ahead of the times, advanced shopping options will need to be considered and deployed to meet customer needs, including things such as greater flexibility of payment options.

Greater collaboration between entities to improve customer journeys will become more prominent. For example, organisations that historically provided separate services to customers should look at allowing customers to manage all products centrally, increasing the self-serve capability; this will ultimately improve operational efficiency and reduce OPEX.

Additional resources and references can be found here: How Britain Shops Online, Doubling of Online Grocery Shoppers, Groceries go Digital, Rise of Online Shopping

Consolidation of telecommunications and online streaming services

Netflix reached over 200 million subscribers worldwide at the end of 2020, with Amazon Prime biting at their heels on c.150 million. New apps (Disney+, Starzplay, HBO, Eurosport, etc) are being added frequently to provide a greater one-stop streaming service for consumers.

The pandemic has seen an increase of releases directly to subscription streaming services, either included within packages or with additional rental costs; these services are already rivalling more expensive and less flexible legacy services such as Sky and Virgin Media who have their fewest number of subscribers in ten years.

Online streaming requires the data services provided through the telecommunications industry, and as such, over the next few years, I predict we will see consolidation within these markets, with telecommunications providers merging or acquiring digital streaming platforms to offer a holistic customer experience. The success of this will be underpinned by the technology and processes these organisations deploy to offer unparalleled customer experience.


Arum has over 20 years’ experience helping organisations in all of these industries optimise their technology, rewrite policies and processes, improve customer experience, ensure compliance with regulations, reduce bad debt, and become more efficient. If you’d like to speak to us to discuss how we can help your organisation, we’d love to hear from you.

Owen Atkinson
Lead Consultant

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