Following England’s and Wales’ re-opening of non-essential stores on 26th April, Scotland prepares to reopen non-essential shops fully from 26th April 2021. Therefore, we have taken a dive into how the pandemic has shifted consumer behaviour, and how owners of brick and mortar stores can give their businesses a polish ahead of the grand reopening.

How has the pandemic affected the high street?

It was reported in March 2021 that a saddening figure of 13 shops have been closing every week in Scotland as a result of the pandemic, yet the full impact is yet to be felt. We were all shocked to see some of the high street’s biggest players go under throughout 2020. Devastatingly, Britain lost 17,500 high-street chain stores in 2020, and as of March 2021, it has been reported that high-street shops are now closing at an alarming ten times the rate they did five years ago, with London unexpectedly being hit the hardest. It’s undoubtedly a worrying time for shop owners, yet Covid-19’s full impacts not yet been felt.

The change in consumer behaviour during Covid-19

Numerous lockdowns have meant that consumers have increased their amount of online shopping. This has demonstrated to businesses the importance of having a website built for e-commerce and online sales. However, despite this shift, a positive, increasing alliance towards local shopping has emerged – recent surveys have concluded that 76% of UK adults now believe in the importance of shopping locally.

The trend for shopping local

Although the pandemic has been terribly damaging for the UK high street – David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, estimates non-essential stores in Scotland lost out on £4bn of sales during the first 12 months of the pandemic – more and more people are taking the time to support their local shops. UK shoppers are making more conscious, thoughtful decisions about where to spend their money. The pandemic highlighted the value of community and togetherness, and Opinium’s latest Retail Tracker discovered that 64% of shoppers who have been shopping locally said they intended to continue to use those stores once restrictions have been removed.

Although consumerism is continuously developing virtually, and online buying is ever-increasing, post-pandemic shopping in a brick and mortar store could now be driven by the desire to support our local communities, high-streets and independent retailers, rather than convenience.

How can we encourage shoppers into our physical stores?

Here are our strategies and ideas for improving your in-store retail experience and getting your business ready for re-opening post-pandemic on 26th April 2021.

Promote your shop as a safe space

Firstly, and quite obviously, shops should promote and implement safe-spaces and social distancing in store. If shops can demonstrate how they will do so across their marketing channels, this will put any worried potential shoppers at ease.

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) suggestions are that shops provide separate entry and exit points, reshuffle their store layouts to allow 2m social distancing between customers, and apply limits to the number of in store shoppers.

Use your online channels to promote quieter periods to customers and sanitation points. Show your audience that you are up to date with Covid-19 restrictions and legislations. Upload videos of updated, refreshed or discounted stock and show off your socially distanced shop layout.

Create a community around your store

Run community and people focused events and initiatives. You could have a small number of people in store, perhaps on an event ticketing basis, and live stream your in-store events to your online followings, creating a feeling of inclusion and community. Diane Werhle, marketing director at Springboard, has advised that, “Retailers need to create communities among consumers, so that they have that desire to come and visit your shop for a reason that goes beyond price alone. Community, a sense of belonging and familiarity should be the focus.” Online, feature your customers and fans in your content – after all, they are supporting your business. Show your appreciation and involve yourself heavily in your local community, and build a strong shop community.

Continue to offer virtual appointments and services

You shouldn’t abandon the services you provided during lockdown, such as takeaway, delivery and virtual appointments, just yet. Run video-call shopping slots and a takeaway service for your customers until they feel comfortable to return to your physical store. This way you have more income revenue streams and can still cater to the customers who do not feel safe enough to visit.

Offer in-store perks

Incentivise the in-store experience and make it even more worth your customers while! Offer in-store experiences which can’t be replicated online, such as goody bags, free personal shopping or consultations, a glass of bubbly, free gift wrapping, live product demonstrations, mind-blowing merchandise and displays, birthday discounts, NHS and student discounts, an exclusive VIP programme, free catalogues, zines or brochures, photo/selfie backdrops, amazing playlists, the list goes on. You just need to use your imagination!

Your in-store perks shouldn’t need to break the bank, but they will strengthen your relationship with customers, help return custom and encourage shoppers through the door.

Overhaul your shop experience

Ensure that you spruce up any areas of your in-store experience that need improvement. Think of the 26th April as a fresh start! Is your shop pram/dog/wheelchair/child-friendly? Is there a comfy seated area? What is your hygiene rating? How is your in-store merchandise looking? Could the customer service improve?

Optimise omni-channel retail

Omni-channel commerce retains customer information and retail history across all channels, allowing customers to browse on a desktop, compare prices on a mobile device, then visit in-store to purchase — without having to restart the customer journey. Omni-channel retail merges in-store with e-commerce to create a unified commerce experience. Make sure your online and in-store experiences are smooth and seamless, creating unified commerce.

Find out more about our ecommerce website solutions here.

Focus on loyalty

If you want returning custom, you need to recognise and reward your shoppers! Implement loyalty schemes, or personalised, tailored offers to customers depending on their shopping history. You need to show your appreciation for their custom and loyalty post-pandemic.

Use your physical store to generate online attention

It really works both ways! Promote everything you do in-store online. Feature your staff in your online content with a ‘meet the team’ approach to appear personable and friendly. Stream your shop live online, show people what you have in stock. Run paid ad campaigns and strive to increase your online engagement rather than focusing on vanity metrics.

You can find out more about how LOCALiQ can help you promote your offline store online and drive sales by messaging us today. For everyone that is reopening a store, we wish you the very best of luck!

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