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The role of digital in the town centre experience

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conference contribution
posted on 18.08.2017, 10:23 by Cathryn Hart, Fiona Ellis-ChadwickFiona Ellis-Chadwick, Iftakar Haji
To date, omnichannel activity is studied between consumers and an individual retail brand or within a single retail setting, whereas consumer search activity and customer shopping journeys regularly involve multiple brands and multiple channels, both offline or online. This is particularly important for consumer choice consideration of a retail channel and shopping location. Town centres have been impacted visibly by the growth of online shopping resulting in reduced footfall and store vacancies. However, scope exists for an integrated digital high street to deliver an enhanced, seamless customer experience. While individual brands and major retail organizations are developing their digital capabilities, similar evidence is scarce for retail agglomerations and town centres. This paper seeks to explore the role of digital in the town centre customer experience. Specifically, the research examines consumers’ attitudes and behaviours regarding the use of digital in town centre journeys. To achieve this objective, a multi-method research approach involving focus groups, diaries and telephone interviews is developed to capture in-depth understanding of the factors that encourage or disrupt consumer town centre experiences. The research draws from a combined sample of 234 respondents. The empirical findings reveal respondents use digital channels for various purposes before, during and after their town centre visits. However, consumers’ restricted access to dynamic information limits the scope, enjoyment and quality of their town centre experience. The lack of free and consistent Wi-Fi in town centres is but one barrier to successful multichannel experiences, resulting in a fragmented physical and virtual customer experience.


This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) under Grant ESRC/BSB/07



  • Business and Economics


  • Business

Published in

EAERCD 2017 19th European Association for Education and Research in Commercial Distribution Conference


26 - 26 (1)


HART, C., ELLIS-CHADWICK, F. and HAJI, I., 2017. The role of digital in the town centre experience. IN: Proceedings of the 19th European Association for Education and Research in Commercial Distribution Conference (EAERCD 2017), Dublin, Ireland, 4-6 July 2017.


European Association for Education and Research in Commercial Distribution


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This is a conference paper.