The Blandalisation of the High Street

I’ve just returned from Venice - lucky me I hear you say - and yes, it was truly awe-inspiring. I’d recommend it to anyone.

But the reason Venice intrudes is that it helped confirm something to me that I’ve felt has been happening for years… a creeping ‘blandalisation’ of retail, to the point where everything that can be produced, is being produced, in Asia, and at such quantities, low costs, and ease of ordering via the Internet, that nearly every shop on the High Street now stocks the same items, whether those shops are in Newcastle, London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, or even Rome, Malaga or Venice.

Aha, here we go… another rant about Globalisation?  Not a bit of it. No… I don’t ‘like it’, but I recognise we can’t easily stop it, and indeed it might not be in our interests to do so either.

But if that’s the case, there are two consequent insights I want to explore.

The first is Steampunk. Steampunk is a niche trend that went mainstream in the 2000’s. One of the ways Steampunk can be defined is by the hand-crafting of items, fashions and environments, so that whatever is being sold or used is individualized and therefore worth more - or perceived to be worth more - because it is unique.

If there is an increased awareness amongst retailers that what they are selling needs to be unique, surely examining their ranges with an eye to ‘steampunking’ them in some way would be one way forward?

Can you ‘steampunk’ your offerings in some way?

The second is Hyper-personalisation of Service. Hyper-personalisation - in this context - is the ability to provide a one-to-one prospect or customer journey that fulfills their requirements as perfectly as possible based on preferences and choice that they have already made in past interactions.

If there is absolutely no way a retailer can steampunk their physical offerings, can they ‘hyper-personalise’ their service? Perhaps this might include a individual bolt-on offers based on knowledge that they are repeat customers, or that they are irregular patrons? Or perhaps specific levels of service can be promoted via text to those who have registered their mobile and who are in that particular geographic area at that time?  Or how about simply understanding better how an individual is using your website / bricks and mortar sales process and providing a unique pathway that suits them on an individual by individual basis?

Can you ‘hyper-personalise’ your service in some way?

Now don’t get me wrong… I’m absolutely certain that some companies – both large and small - are using both of these insights already. What I am saying is that this trend will grow enormously over the next five years, and those that don’t do this might be in trouble. You don’t have to go very far to see concrete examples of businesses both large and small that have struggled because they haven’t changed or differentiated themselves sufficiently… think BHS, Nokia, Blackberry, Woolworth, Sainsbury, Tesco, and let’s face it, most of the smaller businesses on any High Street across the UK and most of Europe.

So I want to make a prediction… I predict there will be a backlash against the blandalisation of the High Street, if it hasn’t already started. People are fed up of seeing the same things in every retail and service provider across the land. People love uniqueness. They crave quirkiness. They want to feel special.

Yes, there will always be a place for cheap and cheerful… but it will be a race to the bottom as far as profits go, so I ask you… how can you differentiate yourself from the ‘blandalisation’ through Steampunking your products or Hyper-personalising your customer journey?

For more information on hyper-personalisation call us on 0191 482 8830 or email 

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