By Emma Thompson, Marketing Director at OnBrand Marketing (www.onbrand.co.uk)
As the UK continues to gradually open up again and we all start to feel like life is starting to return to something near normal, continued engagement and a real understanding of how your retail customers have been affected by the pandemic is more important than ever. Are they nervous about venturing out to physical retail premises and are they happy to continue shopping online? What would reassure them and make them feel they wanted to pay you a visit? There are many complex psychological factors at play here and it is the retailer’s job to reassure and be positive about what you are doing to keep people safe.
With this in mind, I’ve put together these 5 simple steps below to help you get reacquainted with your customers and keep them loyal to your brand:
Step 1 – Do your customer research
As people come out of lockdown and get used to going out again, it’s important to bear in mind that many are likely to have underlying anxiety about entering a shop or restaurant, so it’s vital that you spend time thinking about what their new needs and wants are, and how your business will adapt for any future change. As people return to the office, think about the range of emotions people will be feeling. What can your business offer that will help them feel at ease? How has your business had to adapt? How will the customer experience have changed? Make sure you have answers to all these questions – your customers want to know what they can expect from you!
Step 2 – Communication is key
You may have spent some time researching your customers, but the key ingredient now is Communication. Think about the different channels your customers will be looking at in order to find out about what you’re up to, and make sure your content covers all the issues that you have identified in your research.
Having clear and engaging content on your website is a good place to start, but you should also be making sure your social media posts are talking to your customers in the right way, as well as thinking about signage, window displays and telephone answering messages. Make sure each and every one of your channels gives them all the information they need to feel confident about spending money with you and maybe visiting your shop or workplace.
Step 3 – How can your customers contact you?
Interestingly, one of the team had a conversation with the Manager of a Bowling Alley recently. They told us that customers should be booking online for the easiest experience, but that the phone was ringing constantly and people were getting frustrated that it wasn’t always answered. The point to this story is that it’s important to use ALL your channels to communicate any changes to your opening hours and booking processes etc. so that your customers have a smooth and positive experience.
We’ve recently built Live Chat functionality in for a number of our shopping centre clients and we’ve had really positive feedback from Centre Managers who tell us how it’s been a great way for customers to instantly get hold of someone and find out the answer to any burning question they may have.
Step 4 – Keep your brand messaging upbeat
As we move through the COVID vaccination programme and people feel more positive, they are craving normality. If you are able to authentically spread a little happiness through your comms, then do it. Of course, it’s still important to share key information about what your business is doing to keep customers safe, but don’t make this all you focus on. Mix it up a bit and think about what you would want to read as a customer yourself. Don’t get too bogged down in COVID messaging.
Step 5 – Go the extra mile for customer loyalty
Building on customer loyalty needs to be a key focus right now. People are only spending their money where they have a truly positive experience, or at shops they want to personally support. Anyone giving a bad experience will lose customers, but people giving amazing value or service will drive up loyalty and get through the crisis with better customer relationships.
Think about how your business can go that extra mile. Make sure your staff have had the right training to ensure each and every customer feels welcome and valued.
So there you have it, 5 simple steps to follow to ensure you’re engaging and building relationships with your retail customers again.