Comment: Web and high street can be mutually supportive

Comment: Web and high street can be mutually supportive

I am a proud owner – like many of you, I’m sure – of an iPad.

I use it for work, to keep up with the news and to shop when on the go; to talk to my children via Skype when I have to work late, and to keep the kids amused at home.

There’s no doubting that tablet devices – Apple’s iPad, in particular – have made an incredible impact over the past two years.

And there’s no sector more excited about their potential than travel. Tablets can ‘sell the dream’ by exploiting the incredibly rich visual content the industry has at its disposal.

It almost seems as if the tablet was invented for travel retailing. And if the Google figures we report in this week’s Travel Weekly are anything to go by, that appears to be being borne out in the marketplace.

But what’s probably more interesting to the many thousands of travel agents who work on the high street is how the web, and mobile, can be interdependent.

Tui Travel’s distribution and online director Nick Longman says 60% of mobile bookings are done by people with a brochure, so they must at some point have gone into a Thomson or First Choice shop.

And, regionally, the firm’s internet penetration is highest where the retailer has the highest penetration of stores.

So it seems that far from replacing the bricks and mortar form of travel retailing, the internet is providing an additional and increasingly targeted channel to market and promote your goods and services.

Marks and Spencer recently used cutting-edge augmented reality mobile technology for a Valentine’s Day campaign in London’s Waterloo Station, aimed at driving customers into its store.

That’s not to say the web doesn’t remain a threat to some traditional aspects of the trade. As Longman suggests, it may lead to the demise of brochures within five years.

But neither is it true, as some of the more bullish exponents of online retailing claim, that the web is on an inevitable course to obliterate the high street.

Maybe there’s a more constructive view about competing distribution channels: rather than being in a fight to the death, they can support each other.

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