Reopening Retail – a marketing perspective

With reopening take 3 on the horizon, we’ll be taking a look at how marketing can support the reopening phases in a post-pandemic world to help our spaces and places bounce back. 

If you read all the reports in the news, and listen to conversations on social media, it is clear there is going to be a spending boom in physical spaces – people are excited! Whilst that is encouraging and positive, how are we going to maintain footfall and spend offline when the UK has become so used to shopping online from the comfort of their sofa? 

After Lockdown 1 and 2, we saw a rise in mission based shopping.  Those venturing out were keeping visits short and sweet, dwell time was a thing of the past, but ATV was up.  Post Lockdown 3 … people are bored, they have money to spend, the weather is looking brighter and confidence is growing, especially in older age groups due to the vaccination drive.  In CACI’s report 74% of consumers’ finances have stayed the same or improved as a result of the pandemic.

So what does that mean for marketing?

As we all know, marketing touches all elements of the shopper journey, and everything within the shopping centre environment – from leasing efforts to communicating one way systems – and everything in between.  Therefore the sharing of data between all roles and departments is critical.

Marketers over the past year have had to be flexible with their strategies and agile with their plans, and that is set to continue.  It is important to clearly define the objectives for marketing efforts to ensure effective delivery to achieve the desired results.  Monitoring and reviewing regularly is vital as we navigate the fundamental shifts Covid has created. 

Let’s take a look at some key areas.

  1. What will physical events look like?

Gone are the days of attracting hundreds of families to see Peppa Pig or thousands of students for lock-ins. We are assuming that events in shopping centres, for the time being, will not return in the way we are used to because at this stage we can’t be seen to be attracting lots of people, especially in an enclosed space at a set time. So how do we deliver experiential events in a post Covid world? We have to think differently and consider what our target audiences want.  If we don’t know what they want, we can use our digital channels to ask them. Families can still meet Peppa Pig, but it might be virtually, or in a controlled bookable environment.  And what if we ensure there was an educational element, an engaging element and a token memory of the event?  

It’s time to reconsider how successful previous ‘must have’ events were, as we find the balance between physical and digital with omni-channel approaches.

  1. Attracting footfall

Post the April reopening boom, how do we encourage future footfall when it will be so easy to slip back into online shopping habits? How do we create a positive customer experience? How can those experiences be relevant and engaging? It’s all about providing and highlighting reasons to visit, and each place has many many reasons to visit that your target audiences can’t get online.  People are looking for social experiences.

Ask yourself:
What special or new reasons are there to visit my tenants?
What services do we offer that you can’t get online?
What are the benefits of shopping local?
What pop ups could benefit my place?
Are my voids going to put people off?
Does bookability make my place more appealing?
Are we convenient?
Do our customers think we are safe to visit?

Take those answers and filter them through into your marketing plans and strategy to attract footfall from existing and potential customers.

It is also important to point out here that with the rise in turnover rents, footfall and experience is key.  To help improve turnover, it is vital to promote your tenants and the reasons to visit to spend money with them. 

  1. Encouraging spend

Whilst it has been great to see ATVs increase post Lockdown 1 and 2, we need to continue to benefit from this post Lockdown 3 and rewarding loyalty is a great way of doing that.  Simple mechanics like a gift with purchase, or freebies to brighten up your customers day will go a long way.  As will personalising offers through the use of data. Creative and inspiring content will help bump up sales.  It’s that Home Bargains effect we want to capture – we only went in for one thing and came out with … . 

The support / shop / love local movement is gaining more momentum and is more important than ever, so ensuring all your tenants are represented on digital channels and through point of sale on site is a great way to unlock extra ‘treat me’ purchases.  Talk to your tenants and extract the stories to tell.  Use local influencers.  Talk about sustainability. Yes the smaller, more independent tenants will require more support, but it will pay off. In a recent Deloitte survey, 57%* of consumers said they would be more likely to spend money at a business that offers locally produced products once lockdown had been lifted.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

There’s no doubt about it, digital is here to stay. 

Your place’s digital platforms are key to reopening and allow you to respond quickly, ensuring information is accurate.  40% of consumers want a response in 1 hour.* During reopening 1 and 2 we had an 185% increase in our clients website visits as shoppers wanted to know how safe the place was, what were the rules and how they should shop. Messaging on digital channels should be clear and concise.  Whilst we are desperate to get people back, we should not be pushy and therefore use the ‘here for you when you are ready’ approach and be supportive. On average, people spend 5 hours per day on their phones, so digital must form a part of your shopper journey.  It is crucial to remain top of mind, so whilst you are active, ensure you remain relevant. 

  1. The power of community

It is now, and always has been, about the community.  Marketing should not be a cookie cutter approach, it should be personalised and unique to your place and your customers.  Ensuring you are relevant to their lives will assist in embedding your place at the heart of the community.  A Forbes article* recently said, ‘When you buy local, you are supporting your community, keeping the money where the most effective change can be seen.’ So supporting the local community, because you care, not just to tick a CSR box, is a recipe for success.  

Working with key stakeholders in your town or city allows limited or reduced marketing budgets to work harder and demonstrate greater ROI.  It also helps cement relationships with your future shoppers. 

In ‘the new normal’, marketing can help to listen and understand what your community wants and needs.  Marketing can then help support and tackle issues in the community, with a joined up approach, keeping people spending time and money in your place. 

  1. Online and physical shopping will learn to live together

Now we call online shopping, online procurement with thanks to author Sophie Kinsella! In her most recent shopaholic book, the character Becky reflects on online ordering – ‘Online ordering isn’t really shopping, it’s procuring.  You procure stuff online. But you don’t get the buzz of actually stepping into a shop and seeing all the gorgeous stuff, feeling it, stroking it and being seduced by it.’

And that is exactly why shopping, as we once knew it, is here to stay.  It will learn to live with online shopping / ordering / procurement, and vice versa! There are multiple pros and cons for both cases but physical shopping is a hobby, it’s an experience you can’t get online, it stimulates your senses and will be even more enjoyable going forward thanks to various post pandemic changes.

To conclude on the future of marketing for shopping centres and places …

It is clear that shopping will never be the same again, Covid has accelerated change and prompted new habits and expectations – and for this we need to continually adapt through our marketing efforts and channels.  We’re all consumers, so put yourself in your customers shoes and think about what you want to do, hear, see, feel and experience in a post-pandemic world where we can once again, shop, eat, play and stay in a physical place – then translate that into your marketing. 

Written by Chloe Keith