The high street has been at the mercy of changing consumer habits for several years but became an inevitable and wholesale victim of the pandemic this spring. And now, as we emerge from lockdown, it is clear our retail experience will not get back to normal for a very long time, if ever.
In order to get through these unprecedented times unscathed, it is crucial that brands and retailers rethink their approach to every single aspect of their offering and of the customer experience.
Whether it’s the layout and design of your store, the way you offer contact time with customers, the alternatives to in-store browsing, or the way you communicate with or reward your customers, every element must be considered in this new light.
It is clear there are going to be some winners and some losers on the high street, but there is an important role for retail marketing. It is just imperative we are all thinking laterally about the ways in which we can navigate these unchartered waters with our clients.
Retail is close to my heart because I grew up in an extended family of shopkeepers. Not some retail dynasty, just a handful of aunts, uncles, and other relatives who owned thriving little shops on the busy high street of a North Nottinghamshire mining town.
Today all my relatives have gone, and even in pre-COVID times that high street wasn’t busy at all, which breaks my heart. That’s because the high street should be the place where community happens, where we communicate with each other, learn about each other, learn to get along with each other, and support each other.
So, whether you’re a small independent retailer in a former mining town or the CMO of a national retail brand, what is the role for retail marketing in times of COVID?