As we return to the ‘new normal’, it’s clear, particularly for brands, that things will never be ‘normal’ again: behaviours have changed and mindsets have shifted. Changes that would usually take a generation have altered in a single business quarter – and will continue as brands navigate returning to in-store retail.

How can brands drive customers back into their stores, in a sustainable way?

The biggest question we are being asked as retailers open back up is “how do we drive high-value footfall back into their stores in a sustainable way?”. Here at Zenith, we believe this will be achieved through a mixed-model approach, taking a leaf out of the B2B playbooks and using micro-conversions or interactions to drive both engagement and footfall in-store. 

Many brands switched to an online model during COVID-19 and now want to drive those customers in-store/on location to ensure retention. So how can brands go about this? The first thing to challenge is the attempt to reverse user behaviour. If you have switched your existing customer base to a new behaviour pattern, then it already shows you have a loyal and engaged customer base. Instead, these brands should be looking to improve their user experience and find more loyal customers. 

How can brands improve their user experience, and expand their loyal customer base?

  • Less time queuing: As if we didn’t spend enough time in queues before, we seem to have taken it to the next level. Depending on the product being sold, is there an opportunity to switch to a virtual queue system or appointment to ensure we don’t waste customer’s time? 
  • Make environmentally-friendly travel easy: If there was one positive aside from the fact that humanity came together to fight this awful virus, it’s realising just how much we appreciate where we live and the beautiful planet we live on. Electric vehicle sales are soaring and bicycles are sold out everywhere, is this an opportunity to review your parking infrastructure and offer greener parking solutions to resonate with your new audience? With 89% of EV drivers taking the availability of charge points into account when selecting their parking, this seems like a time to review existing setups.  
  • Implement stock alerts or livestock control: Distribution and stock control have become a major factor in the “new normal” as brands scramble to scale back up to standard stock holding levels. 46% of shoppers actually browse the inventory and check stock before visiting the store. A simple win here is livestock control, or, stock alerts for out of stock items. 
  • Build your local presence: The “Last Mile” revolution has changed transportation as we know it and will change again as working from home redistributes where people live and work. Through the pandemic, we have seen a meteoric rise in “near me” searches over and above the average 200% YoY increase and this will only get bigger, ensuring your brand has the best local presence will be key. 
  • Keep safety front-of-mind: Utilising the COVID-19 specific support tools on Google, Facebook etc will ensure your customers feel safe enough to come into the store and understand the processes put in place. 
  • Improve your mobile experience: Every 0.1-second improvement in site speed on mobile improves conversion and interaction rate by 8.4%. 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a store within five miles. The importance of mobile and site speed is absolutely paramount and should be top of the list when thinking of user experience across digital and in-store. 
  • Targeted messaging: With 42% of users shopping for items they want or need for after COVID-19, update your messaging split to ensure you are targeting both the at-home audience and the local store audience correctly. 

How can we measure the impact? 

With normal behaviour patterns out of sync and data modelling skewed, it has become a very reactive market model. This means we have to be even quicker and more agile when it comes to planning marketing activities and engagement with customers. Depending on the size of business or organization, the answer may vary, but one constant is that there needs to be a Digital Transformation in progress. Since the beginning of March, search interest in online shopping and how to buy online has grown by 2X worldwide. There has never been a better time to start investing in a digital program or transformation. 

How do we drive loyalty and retention?

Customer loyalty will be driven through mission alignment compared to pure-play sales tactics that may have worked in the past. 72% of consumers say that a brand’s values reflecting their own beliefs is a deciding factor in what they buy. Running a Brand/Store Audit will quickly identify the change in experience from the customer’s point of view and give direction on what message would resonate with your audience. Taking advantage of the digital messaging platforms, you can reach your audience in a meaningful way at scale that is real-time, allowing you to react to market conditions as they change. For example, you could consider: is now the time to set up that chatbot on-site?  

While the tactics above drive engagement online, you can then start having a think about how to bring those customers back in-store by segmenting your CRM lists into relevant user groups according to their status. Pre-COVID-19 messaging will be very different to post-lockdown and simple A/B Testing on the messaging between these groups will quickly help identify what will resonate with your audience. 

Acting quickly is essential

To wrap up, there are a number of actions that can be taken, but overall there is one theme that comes through and that’s the need to act quickly and be as agile as possible. Work in Quarters vs Years and be able to react to market conditions by leveraging technology both offline and online.