eBay sets out tech vision for UK High Street rescue

Online auction site eBay has set out its vision for the future of the High Street, and how it will need to embrace the tools employed by internet retailers to evolve and survive.

Speaking at the London Film Museum in central London earlier today, eBay president Devin Wenig, said the wealth of information about products available online and proliferation of internet-enabled devices has made consumers more demanding and savvy than ever.

We're confident that as the digital world evolves, the configuration of the space will change, so that it's much more reflective of the online customer journey.

"In the last two years, a number of powerful trends have converged and we're moving to a revolution in commerce," said Wenig.

"With technological enhancements and consumer expectations rising, the world's changing really fast and what's ahead requires a new solution."

As such, both online and bricks and mortar retailers need to adapt the way they operate and find better ways to engage with customers.

This was a theme touched on by John Walden, managing director of high street retailer Argos, who said the amount of physical space retailers occupy in the UK is set to keep shrinking, as economic factors and the popularity of online shopping continues to grow.

"In the UK, we have over 600m sq feet of retail space, and more than 100 million sq feet that sits vacant. More retailers deploying more stores and building more space each year," said Walden, and these sites bring with them costly overheads.

"To cover the cost of that fixed overhead, we don't believe retailers will retain the same overall square footage...[but] we're confident that as the digital world evolves, the configuration of the space will change, so that it's much more reflective of the online customer journey, rather than compete with it," Walden added.

The comments were made at the launch of the firm's new nationwide Click and Collect trial, which will see the internet retailer partner with Argos to let customers collect goods sold by eBay merchants from 150 of its 740 stores across the UK.

At least 50 eBay merchants will take part in the trial, as the company seeks to capitalise on the growing consumer demand for Click and Collect services from UK consumers.

The company also outlined plans to let larger merchants activate Click and Collect, so their customers can pick up their purchases from any physical site they choose.

"The UK has always been a hotbed of retail innovation. Departments stores through to the incredible penetration of mobile commerce in the UK to the widespread popularity of Click and Collect services," explained Wenig.

If the trial takes off, the implications for the 200,000 UK businesses that rely on eBay to sell their wares could be huge, with Click and Collect making it easier for them to distribute larger, more expensive items to other areas of the UKs.

"[This] will give eBay merchants that don't have that a High Street presence the equivalent of one," said Wenig.

"They can ship customer orders directly to an Argos location...so think of Argos as offering fulfilment capabilities for eBay sellers all around Britain," he added.

The company also announced plans to bring its eBay Now one hour delivery service to the UK early next year, with London set to be the first major UK city to benefit.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.