The C-word (Community)

‘Community’ has become a buzzword in the marketing world (and in our shoppers’ everyday life), we can thank two years of a global pandemic and minimal interactions for that. Coming out the other side we can see a real shift in the importance of community to people, businesses and shoppers.

What is Community? 

The official definition of ‘community’ is ‘A group of people existing in a place that shares a purpose, a sense of belonging and communicate with each other.’ 

While this is true, we have a more personal view of what community means to us at Toolbox Marketing. 

Community is the coming together of a group of people, leaning on each other in tough times who are there to show support in the good, the bad and the ugly. Your community is everyone and everything in and around your place. It’s about all the connections that make it what it is: the faces in the places!

Not forgetting your tenants or residents! 

So what SHOULD community mean for retail?

Brian Solis, a world-renowned digital anthropologist and futurist,  said, “Community is much more than belonging to something: it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter”. 

That’s what community should mean to destinations. 

Proximity isn’t a good enough reason on its own, it’s all about community experiences. Shoppers need to feel connected to the places they are visiting. Places should provide a ‘hub’ for the community, ensuring their needs and wants are met, but also supporting the local community. They should offer more than just shopping with services that help support the local community,  such as post offices; health centres; libraries; job centres or local markets.

We’re better together. 

Community in shopping destinations is all about working with local key stakeholders and partners making the efforts collaborative and the results greater, especially with reduced staff and reduced budgets due to the pandemic.  

Everyone could do with a helping hand to address issues in the local area and those caused by the pandemic. Connecting and communicating with shoppers is extremely important to help build and strengthen long-term relationships. Therefore, shopping and leisure destinations should be implementing ‘Community Marketing’ within their marketing efforts to ensure they are contributing and adding value to shoppers’ everyday lives.

Not just to tick a box, or because someone says so, because you want to, care and are doing it for the greater good for the community of which our places serve and support on a daily basis.

Here are some of Toolbox Marketing’s favourite community initiatives they launched in shopping centres:

Spotlight: Stockton Stories

(SCEPTRE community campaign of the year winner) 

Castlegate and Wellington Square launched their community literacy project, Stockton Stories, with two main purposes: to help children in Teesside with their reading skills and to create a record of what the coronavirus pandemic has been like for children in the Teesside community.

‘Stockton Stories’ partnered with eight local schools to create the book.  The book was sold to raise money for Bookmark, the reading charity to help children in Stockton improve their literacy skills while also getting local children involved in creative writing. 

Initiatives with proven results and benefits 

  • Donation stations: toys / warm clothing / Easter eggs / school uniform 
  • Spend £5, plant one tree 
  • Honesty Library
  • Games Club  
  • Free educational kids club events linked to nature and storytelling 
  • Happy to chat benches 
  • Collaborations with schools & colleges for art galleries and more 
  • Partnerships with local mum meet ups, emergency services and beyond 
  • Swap shops 
  • National days including: lonely bouquet / random acts of kindness / time to talk 

Not forgetting annual initiatives with all year round messaging 

  • Purple Tuesday 
  • One Great Day 
  • Sunflower Lanyard scheme 
  • Quiet shopping hours
  • Remembrance Sunday 
  • Mental Health Awareness week

Final note

Community needs to be at the forefront of marketing strategies and campaigns to keep their local shoppers engaged. 

‘A sense of community brings people a sense of belonging. Whether it’s where you live or where you work, everybody needs to be part of a community.’