Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin
Retail reopening, it’s not that simple
Boy is that true. And if you’re a retailer, these famous lines from Bob Dylan may be the first words you should repeat every morning before you start your daily swim in the murky waters of this new economy. And as an advertising agency, we can honestly say-“ditto”.
With few exceptions, the nation-wide lockdown for brick and mortar retail has lasted about 12 weeks. With few exceptions, most retail (for the purposes of this article Outlet Malls) has been deemed “non-essential”. That means “closed”. As the nation and individual states begin to relax the lockdown restrictions and retail begins to open one would think that the public would be clamoring to get back to “business as usual”. Girlfriends meeting for a day of shopping and lunch at their favorite bistro. Guys getting together for a beer at a local sports bar and so on.
Attracting Customers Back to the Outlets
But the times, they have changed. There is real fear throughout the public that exposure to others will lead to serious illness, maybe even death. Although people may not like “sheltering in place”, is leaving home worth the risk? Faced with this sobering obstacle, how does an advertiser create a sense of welcoming and wellbeing as they attempt to attract retail customers?
“I look at the current status of retail and outlet retail as a quickly changing landscape. There is no doubt a pent-up demand for the consumer to get out of the house and shop, but they are clear that they want a safe, controlled shopping environment that provides value and selection. Our job as marketers is to deliver compelling and attractive communications about our offer that will entice this shopper and reward them accordingly.”
Lisa Wagner, Principal, The Outlet Resource Group
“…better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone”
At dhg we have been working with our clients and retail advisors to evaluate our brave new world in order to create new messaging that informs, inspires and most importantly creates a sense of wellbeing and security for the customer. What we have had to accept however is that the person who came to the Outlet in January has changed.
Here are 3 critical points relating to the new consumer that are trending as retail prepares to open. (data from McKinney & Company)
We’re taking this personally
95% believe that it will take 2+ months for their routines to return to normal and 72% believe that their personal finances will be negatively impacted for at least 2 months.
A Different Point of View (We’re all in this together- with Small Business)
Perhaps the most distinct difference between the COVID 19 crisis and any other crisis or natural disaster is that “everyone” has been negatively impacted- financially. And we as a society have come to realize that small businesses (80% of the US economy) and the employees working at these small businesses have been decimated. Interestingly, our collective sense of community and desire to “lend a hand” has increased. Recent surveys are now showing that consumers are willing to:
- Increase spending at small businesses over big brands
- Increase spending at high street stores
- Increase spending with brands who were pro-active and “fair” to their employees during the crisis
Evolution of the pandemic shopper
- 35% Save and Stockpile- They will shop for their families
- 27% Cut Deep-They will shop only on essential items
- 26% Stay Calm and Carry On- They will shop because others shop
- 11% Hibernate and Spend- They want and will be the first to shop in centers
An Approach to Opening
We’ve listed a few thoughts about an approach to opening your doors and how to re-attract your customer base.
- Focus on the local community only. Those you know will not be restricted by local governments
- Access your databases and target your highest-value shoppers. Foot traffic will be low so go to who you know and who knows you!
- Set shopper expectations around safe shopping. Let them know exactly what to expect when they enter your business and what Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) you can offer.
Here are some content tips our clients have used to help open their businesses.
- Avoid overusing the COVID message. We’ve noticed that people don’t like to name the crisis. Instead, you’ll commonly hear people refer to the “COVID-19 Pandemic” in terms like: ‘Since this began”, “the crisis has taken a toll”, “times like these”. So, don’t go the medical route. Our customers have been locked in their homes for almost 3 months, they need optimism, hope for the future, and a sense that you can enhance their well-being, so keep it positive.
- Empathize with your shoppers. “We know it’s been hard and we want to make your life easier” (problem-solving) You can use some of the funny, new life oddities that are occurring like ZOOM calls gone bad. Family bloopers (lifestyle), new hobbies. But don’t get silly with the virus itself.
- Do not hammer. Your shoppers have been under tremendous stress for 12 weeks. Some financially, all emotionally. Breathless ranting about the sale of a lifetime are NOT in order. They know they want to get out and consume but are on shaky ground. A little hand-holding in your offer will go a long way.
- Say thank you! Encourage repeat visits with thank you emails, texts, coupons and topical promotions.
If you would like to contact the damien harvey group to customize the messaging for the reopening of your business or any other advertising needs, please feel free to reach us at email@example.com