By Steve Leigh - PR Agency One
You could be forgiven for thinking that 15th June had become England’s National Queuing Day as news crews lined up to interview people who had been camped out since the early hours.
Even more remarkable was what they were queuing for – not a limited-edition Nike trainer or new iPhone, but commonplace items that 100 days ago shoppers would have picked up incidentally on their way home.
This behaviour is part of a global bounce-back in retail. In both the UK and US, analysts have reported record rises in retail during May. As restrictions continue to be eased, across the whole of the UK, retailers will be eager to harness this trend to help repair the damage of previous months.
Customers, it seems, are only too keen to oblige. Our own research into the emotions of lockdown shows that the reopening of shops is eagerly awaited. Retail’s re-emergence is second only to schools as the most talked about topic in online conversations. What’s more, while talk of reopening schools elicits fear and anxiety, reopening retail is greeted with optimism and excitement.
So how best to harness this momentum and rekindle the nation’s love of shopping? Here are some tips for your PR and communications:
Don’t be afraid to state the obvious – in retail PR and marketing, we often try and find the ‘magic’ campaign that will stick in consumer’s minds. Just at the moment opening hours are national news, so don’t miss out on your share of the spotlight. Consumers will still be unsure and uncertain of which retailers are doing what. Spelling out that you are open for business and eager to see shoppers back will see sales rebound more quickly.
Show your preparedness – detailing how you have prepared for reopening sends a message of reassurance to shoppers. Not just that they’ll be safe, but also of what to expect from the shopping experience. We want to know the rules before we cross the threshold – where do I go, can I collect, is it ok to browse, should I try on at home? Show how you have innovated to make their shopping experience as normal as possible.
Manage expectations – using communications to prepare people in advance can help maintain trust and prevent a negative reaction. This may be to do with stock shortages of in-demand items, estimated queuing times or entry restrictions. You have one chance to make your post-lockdown first impression, don’t let people go away disappointed.
Add some sizzle – what can you do to say ‘thank you’ to returning shoppers? These are not normal shopping trips. Something has made these people leave their homes in the middle of a pandemic and come to your store. Give it a sense of occasion – even if that’s just a warm welcome from the newly installed queue-master at the entrance. Enterprising buskers have already spotted the opportunity for in-queue entertainment as shoppers head back to city centres. What can you do to make their trip special?
Build loyalty – as you might expect from a dedicated gift card PR, I can’t help but plug the power of gift cards to help amplify the rebound in retail. Gift cards have increased their significance during lockdown, whether that’s for remote gifting, supporting businesses while they are closed, or enabling safe and secure self-gifting of gaming or entertainment. Maximising a gift card programme delivers new customers to your business, encourages top-up spending and breeds loyalty.
Find your relevance – crises give businesses and brands the opportunity to show their true character. This is the moment where you have to live the brand values you’ve been trumpeting for the last decade. So, whether it’s ‘every little counts’ or ‘this is not just food’, find a way to make your brand relevant to people’s current experiences or fears.