Retail Marketing

3 opportunities in the retailer response to COVID-19

May 2020 Written by Papirfly

There isn’t a single sector across the entire business landscape that hasn’t been impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak. But the retailer response to these challenging circumstances has been more pronounced than most, on both sides of the spectrum.

On the one hand, supermarkets and similar stores deemed essential have seen their infrastructures stretched to their limits, with a surge in e-commerce activity and pressures placed on their delivery procedures.

At the other end of the scale, some retailers have faced widespread closures of high street stores across the globe, such as those operated by Primark, Nike and Patagonia, while other segments of the retail sector, namely fashion and luxury goods, are expecting significant downturns in sales.

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Many are calling attention to the “UK retail crisis” and focusing their full attention on the undoubted challenges and hardships numerous brands are undoubtedly facing right now. Yet, amid the uncertainty surrounding retail right now, there remain opportunities for brands to ride this out, form deeper bonds with existing and potential customers, and position themselves for growth when the outbreak is contained.

“It is very important, particularly on systems, that we continue to move the business forward because at some point this coronavirus will pass and trading online is all about having great systems. Anything we can do during this period, where actually volumes and all the systems problems associated with high volumes online will disappear, gives us a bit of breathing space to accelerate some of the developments we were planning on doing.”

These are the thoughts of Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive of Next, in a recent interview with Marketing Week, and we couldn’t agree with his sentiment more.

Rather than sit and wait for the end of this crisis, now it is time for the retailer response to COVID-19 to be one of innovation and adaptation, using the tools at their disposal to prepare for life post-pandemic. 

With the unprecedented challenge confronting retailers worldwide, here are our thoughts on how these organisations can use these unique circumstances to benefit their brand beyond the current situation.

The retailer’s response: Opportunity 1 – Identify and adapt to customers’ changing behaviours

Much of the world now finds itself under some form of lockdown, and this could lead to dramatic shifts in behaviour for consumers, both in the short and long-term:

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Furthermore, particularly in relation to food and other basic essentials, there is the potential that shoppers’ brand loyalty is gradually reduced as their priorities shift from what they believe to be the highest quality to what is both affordable and available at the time.

For some these trends will begin and end within the bounds of the COVID-19 outbreak. For others, this will influence their purchasing decisions for the foreseeable future. The onus is on the retailers’ response to these changing behaviours and using their observations to determine their approach both during and after the Coronavirus.

In order to keep on top of these adjustments, it’s important retailers stay in touch with their customers. Consider utilising email marketing, social media and other channels to conduct surveys of your wider audiences and learn how they are handling life in lockdown. This approach will help inform your understanding of their behaviour, as well as help keep your consumer base engaged with you as a brand.

While the future for retailers and the world in general remains uncertain for now as brands confront the retail crisis in the UK and globally, having access to these insights could help you handle the present circumstances and thrive when normality resumes.

The retailer’s response: Opportunity 2 – Experiment with new experiences for customers

Customers are waking up to a world where travel is massively restricted and shopping is largely reserved for essentials only. Retailers that adjust to meet the challenges their audiences are facing could significantly boost brand loyalty levels, as well as attract a new wave of consumers disillusioned by how others are addressing the current situation.

For retailers who have already embraced an omnichannel approach to their retail marketing, this transition will likely be more straightforward. As the focus shifts heavily towards digital experiences and e-commerce, now is an opportunity for more traditionally-minded retailers to experiment with different techniques that will engage with an audience they can’t currently meet with face-to-face.

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How can this be achieved? Here are a few options for you to consider:

 

Virtual shop floors

While high-street traffic has taken a hit in recent years, many still get a lot of enjoyment of the in-store experience. So, for those who’ll miss it in the coming months, see if you can offer an effective alternative in the form of a virtual shop floor.

IKEA has recently utilised this as a means to tap into the Chinese market. For the investment of hiring a videographer and a 360° camera, you can connect customers with your products in a new yet familiar way.

 

Improved customer loyalty programmes

In these hard times, showing generosity towards your customers can go a lot further than usual. For instance if your company employs a customer loyalty programme, consider extending the deadline for them to spend the points they have accrued, allowing them to delay purchases for when they’re required. 

Alternatively, consider implementing greater discounts or reduced point requirements on certain purchases. Customers will likely appreciate these acts of kindness from their retailers in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, especially if they’re experiencing new hardships, and it could encourage them to return that loyalty when life returns to normal.

 

Make it easier to shop from home

Although it seems like e-commerce is pretty ubiquitous in this day and age, certain demographics won’t be as familiar with online shopping as you might expect. Therefore, whether it’s the capacity to offer free shipping or a short guide for customers on how to navigate your online shop, consider what steps you can take to make people’s experience simple and more enjoyable.

The retailer’s response: Opportunity 3 – Concentrate on content that expresses your brand values

Right now, the buzzword for retailers isn’t sell – it’s serve. While retailers’ response to COVID-19 may incur a short-term financial hit, this period represents an opportunity for brands to create content that connects customers with their unique values, and what they mean at this unique point in time.

Take Nike for example. Although they have taken a hit in many of their stores across the globe being closed indefinitely, they have been proactive in gearing up their e-commerce capabilities and providing content for customers relating to home exercises, including a dedicated app. This aligns with their brand characteristics of helping people get active and break down barriers, as well as helping their consumers cope in difficult circumstances.

Retailers across all sectors can take a leaf from Nike’s playbook and hone in on where their expertise could benefit their customers at this moment in time. Whether you’re an electronics company that produces a video series on fixing common household appliances, or a toy retailer sharing inventive game ideas for families stuck at home, this is your chance to use relevant content to build tight bonds to new and existing customers.

Plus, if your employees are working from home, get them involved in producing webinars and video tutorials for your audiences. Take advantage of the video editing software in your BAM Portal to empower your team to create engaging, on-brand clips for your various content streams.

It could be a make-up guide, or a live product demonstration – with so much dour, depressing content invading people’s social media feeds right now, this type of content has the potential to teach them something valuable and provide a welcome escape from reality.

That’s the key – delivering value to customers through your content. If you can provide helpful skills, advice or simply entertainment to your followers right now, they’ll feel more closely connected to your brand than prior to this outbreak.

With several retailers already responding to the current crisis in ways that are unlikely to endear themselves to customers, employees and the public at large during difficult times, those who can keep their audiences happy and engaged stand to benefit most when we return to life as we once knew it.

The power of BAM in retailers’ response to COVID-19

As many non-essential shops around the UK and worldwide begin to open their doors for the first time in months, how they approached the 3 opportunities identified above could prove critical to how they meet and engage with customers who have become accustomed to these new restrictions and lifestyle changes.

Now is not a time to clam up about the good work you’re doing for your communities and audiences across the globe. It’s time to shout! And your BAM Portal can offer valuable support in communicating to customers how your brand is helping out in these challenging circumstances.

While times are certainly tough, businesses who try to stand still will inevitably find themselves going backwards, both financially and in regards to their reputation. By taking initiative with your campaigns and showcasing the expertise you can offer for those struggling at this time, your organisation will go a long way to maintaining the loyalty of consumers when things take a turn for the better.

If you’ve found this useful and would like to discuss how your BAM Portal can help you meet the needs of consumers in greater detail, get in touch with our team today!

by Papirfly

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