Whether you sell services or products, retail customers are going to be shopping differently in a post-COVID consumer world. Our Lifestyle PR Team share their thoughts on the future of retail in our latest business blog.
LOCKDOWN ONLINE LOVE
It’s no secret that EVERYONE was online during the UK lockdown. Whether it was browsing the net or browsing social media, the increase in website traffic and organic reach on our client’s social media platforms was huge. Even Baby Boomers (56 – 76-year-olds) whose tech skills may have been limited before Covid-19 have now discovered a new air of confidence in shopping online. Online retail in the UK lept up by over 32%, the highest increase since March 2008 in May 2020. And it wasn’t just food and drink at the top of the list, sales of homeware and electrical also grew according to this survey.
HABITS ARE HARD TO BREAK
Biting nails, skipping breakfast and not taking a lunch break, these are all hard habits to break. The more ingrained the habit, the harder it is to break. Having spent a considerable number of weeks confined to the comfort of their home, consumers are well versed in ‘armchair’ shopping. That habit is not going to change overnight, given the relative threat of infection and restrictions placed on retail outlets. To get consumers back through your shop doors, you need to be marketing savvy.
EASE OF SHOPPING
For consumers, shopping is about ease: Fashion stores merchandising clothes on rails with complementing colour coordination for ease of choice, personal shopping services for ease of decision making and large shopping complexes offering ‘shop and drop’ for ease of shopping.
At the time of this blog, visiting a physical store still requires planning and consideration. The future retail model is varied; some stores with hand sanitisers at the door queues to get in, some opting for one-way routes around the store. Others are limiting browsing while others are requesting that we don’t touch products unless we are buying. All these factors have an impact on decisions to purchase.
Compare this to a shopping option where you can sit at home, browse online, shop without even getting your credit card out with a click of a button and get free next day delivery. You’re looking at a stress-free experience and the chance to visit hundreds of stores in a short time frame when compared to the ‘real thing’.
Again, if your footfall is down, how are you going to be promoting your business?
How are you going to attract customers back into your shop?
You have probably built up a loyal customer following around your bricks and mortar business over time. Three in five UK consumers favoured local shops during the lockdown to support them.
57% interviewed for the same survey also that they were ‘more likely to buy from a brand that sells products that are locally sourced after lockdown has ended than they would have been before Covid-19.’
Encouraging words for bricks and mortar stores. However, were you in touch with your customers over lockdown (even if you weren’t open)?
Did you reach out to your customers via your newsletter marketing to update and remind them about your business?
More than ever, online businesses are going to be looking to snap up your customers, so if you’ve been complacent over lockdown, you’ll need to do some serious marketing to reconnect with them.
Reminding your customers why they love shopping with you and why they still need you and your services in their lives is essential.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
While many bricks and mortar businesses were forced to close, many retailers were still trading. However, failing to share with customers how you were keeping your staff safe was an epic and costly failure. In fact, 1 in 5 consumers stopped buying from a brand due to concerns such as not providing a safe working environment for staff.
Communicating with your customers during any crisis is imperative and time and time again, we saw so many businesses carrying on promoting as if they were in a parallel universe, oblivious to the pandemic!
Having a Professional Marketing Team on board enables you to communicate with your customers professionally and consistently. In a crisis, they will help manage, direct and steer your business through the minefield that is social media.
Even if you don’t have any physical competition in your area, you have global competition with online shopping and internet searches. If your bricks and mortar store does not have a website, then now is the time to reconsider your presence online seriously. Even if you don’t have an E-commerce store, having an online presence and website with well-written content and contact details is an absolute must for any business. Reviews should also form a crucial part of your new post-COVID19 business model.
Whether you are trying to decide on the best hair colour or which shade of pink lipstick to buy, virtual beauty and make-up tools are accessible to everyone. The rise of 3D and 360 images also give shoppers the next best thing to getting a ‘physical feel’ of the item. While current technology can’t compete with touching and trying on items, tech is moving at a significant pace.
The rise of virtual stores harnessing the power of tech by presenting visitors with interactive shopping experiences around their 360 virtual stores may only be a reality for big brands and budgets. However, still, there is a lot of competition for the retail store in the future.
Keeping your customers walking through the door is going to require nurturing your customer relationships, building a solid reputation and integrating technology for a stylish and seamless shopping experience, that they’ll want to repeat.
We manage social media for our clients across lots of different sectors, including beauty, lifestyle, pet and equestrian. Each industry and brand is different. Each of our client’s audiences is different. What works for one client doesn’t work for another, so your social media strategy needs to reflect this.
Your Social Media isn’t a supporting role to your business; it’s a valuable part of your business, including being an essential communication tool with your customers.
During COVID-19, social media usage peaked, and while it has naturally fallen, the habits we talked about earlier are formed. Facebook saw record usage during the pandemic, and those new users are not simply going to disappear as life very slowly gets back to a new type of normality.
THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
As human beings, we love ‘experiences’ so creating a superb shopping experience instore is going to be your trump card. Creating the same seamless experience online is going to be equally as important. Remember, people like to buy from people. If your ‘brand’ has no personality through it’s online or social media presence, then you are in danger of losing out to those businesses who recognise the need to stand head and shoulders above the competition.
Having a robust physical customer base is only going to be part of your success story and the future of retail, it’s keeping that customer base that is going to be the challenge.