The presence of the pandemic has in many ways acted as the catalyst for the consistent decline of high street business that we’ve been expecting for some time now.
Forced closures, lockdown restrictions and heightened anxiety have only accelerated the changes that ‘bricks and mortar’ retail spaces have experienced over the last decade. Altering swiftly how we, as consumers, will shop for goods now and in the future.
The BBC reports that more than 17,500 chain stores and other venues closed in Great Britain in 2020, averaging a rate of 48 closures a day. This holds the title for the worst year on record for high street brands with many experts firmly believing the worst is yet to come.
Because people have found newer, safer and more comfortable ways to shop that avoid the hustle and bustle of the high street – making the question of how we return to shopping in person, if at all, a hot topic in the world of retail.
Whilst alarm bells may be ringing for a lot of highstreet brands at the moment, it’s not all doom and gloom. I caught up with CHS managing director Chris Southgate who has shared what methods he believes retailers can use to spike their fair share of business.
It’s no secret that the decline of the UK high street is partially due to a failure on the part of high street brands to keep up with the digital age combined with the presence of COVID restrictions.
Yet not every single high street retailer is suffering at the same level. A few notable names have managed to weather the transition to the digital era relatively well. How? By employing omnichannel strategies.
It will be important for high street retailers to embrace an omnichannel experience for their future customers. They need to acknowledge the reality that today’s consumer journey touches multiple different channels and not fight the changes no matter how different they might be to ‘business as usual’.
Retailers will need to begin providing a customer-first way of moving between different channels to ensure they are present at all stages of the consumer’s purchase journey.
Embracing Traditional Outreach
Whilst much of the data points to digital marketing channels as king, Chris says high street retailers shouldn’t forget about the more traditional forms of customer outreach. Some of which still remain one of the most effective methods of targeting customers, especially on a local level.
I am of course, referring to the likes of direct mail, door drops and leaflets which still all hold the power to positively impact footfall for an in-store business in an affordable way.
In addition to embracing the omnichannel experience, high street stores should encourage more footfall through creative instore incentives and promotions that return huge rewards.
This will obviously vary store to store, but a good example of this kind of marketing comes from the likes of B&Q, who received a huge increase in footfall following the launch of the “What’s in The Shed” campaign.
If you aren’t aware, this campaign involved B&Q producing a ton of local printed collateral in branded envelopes with each guaranteeing a mystery gift to the beholder.
Lawnmowers, lazy spas, drill sets and discount coupons were all up for grabs – yet with one genius catch – the customers weren’t allowed to open it themselves! Physically claiming a prize involved going into a B&Q store for it to be revealed by a B&Q employee. Anything opened outside the walls of B&Q had its content voided and, hey presto – they got people queuing.
Be Socially Inventive
The online, social world and the bricks-and-mortar shop are now seen as complementary parts of the entire customer experience. As such your social media and sales strategy should align together as much as possible. Retailers have a vast amount to gain from social media marketing – especially when it comes to driving footfall.
According to Sprout Social, if a person follows a brand on social media, they are 84% more likely to visit the physical store closest to their home AND 84% more likely to choose that brand over a competitor.
Therefore as we approach the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, implementing a range of social media tactics to also please their online audiences, should be a vital objective for high street brands in the coming months.
As such they will want activity with a higher reach to build more brand awareness amongst these audiences. Inclusive of sponsored promotions, influencer campaigns or promoted competitions.
In-person incentives through social platforms are also a great way of driving in-store sales. Competition mechanics, exclusive information about in-store offers or events, promotional codes, check in and tagging discounts are just some of the tactics that return good results for driving footfall.
By sharing and broadcasting through livestreams and content you can also begin to acquaint your audience with the new (or old) in-store environment and ready them for their anticipated high street return.
A good example of using social media to drive footfall comes from Brazillian clothing company C&A, who showed the number of likes each item of clothing had on Facebook in-store through small displays on the hangers. This allowed shoppers to receive real-time updates on the most popular items to influence buying decisions.