The end appears to be in sight. After more than a year of false starts, tumultuous lockdowns and painstaking anticipation it has been confirmed that the roadmap to normality is still on track and that non-essential retail will open this week as planned.
The latest easing of restrictions will no doubt coincide with unprecedented footfall towards retailers. And for brands that have been in the dark for almost 12 months, there is no better way to benefit from this renewed demand than with a creative retail experience. Westfield’s latest in depth report ‘How We Shop: The Next Decade’ found that 75% of UK shoppers will spend more time in stores that offer experiences, and are by definition more likely to purchase a product or service.
So to help brands navigate the new world we find ourselves in, bespoke retail experience agency, Stellar, has compiled a list of actionable considerations any retailer needs to take before launching an experience as stores start to reopen.
CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
While the UK’s vaccine rollout is undoubtedly a success, retailers will still have to operate with some form of social distancing restrictions until at least 21 June. Therefore the first port of call for any brands intending on launching an activation would be to ensure their experience space is COVID compliant.
Stellar recommends certifying that there is adequate space within the retail experience so that customers and staff can adhere to the 2 metre rule, installing sanitizer dispensers and providing staff with PPE equipment such as masks, visors and thermometers. Retailers will also need to consider how brand ambassadors can best control the experience space, for example someone continually monitoring the volume of customers who enter the store to prevent overflow and flouting of restrictions.
Of course these measures have to be put in place by law, but by having stringent COVID procedures customers will undoubtedly feel safer in the environment. And when they feel comfortable, they are more willing to engage in the retail experience and learn about what it is a brand is offering.
RECRUIT BRAND AMBASSADORS REMOTELY
One of the few benefits of the lockdown is that many brands have adapted – becoming more agile and willing to operate in digital spaces. Specifically when it comes to the process of onboarding new staff. Stellar advises businesses to not abandon this flexibility now that we are once again able to interact face to face.
Through the pandemic, Stellar has supported global luxury kitchen appliance retailer Sage as they adapted to deliver immersive brand training virtually. They sent Sage’s products to the new starters’ homes so they could get some hands on practice before delivering experiences to customers.
Senior brand ambassadors then connected with the new recruits virtually and took them through the same training they would have received in person, giving them the opportunity to learn about the products, as well as the chance to ask questions and form working relationships.
A similar approach could be adopted by brands wishing to run retail experiences this April, teaching new starters about the product they’re promoting and the necessary COVID precautions they will need to be familiar with in order to keep themselves and customers safe.
RUN A HYBRID EVENT
Digital practices aren’t limited to just how brands can recruit ambassadors; they can also be used to turn a retail experience into a hybrid event, so that online attendees can enjoy the activation just as much as if they were there in person. As space will likely be limited in-store, providing customers with alternative options of viewing an experience means retailers would be capable of reaching pre-pandemic levels of attendance.
Additionally, Stellar believes that a mix of virtual and interpersonal elements are what make for the most engaging and successful experiences. In terms of the actual planning of an experience brands need to ensure the venue has the capacity to live stream the event.
Stellar’s knowledgeable team has experience in producing, directing and streaming broadcasts to promote products, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 phone range. This was made available for customers to watch live on the Samsung website as well as on YouTube.
As we approach the reintroduction of retail, those that wish to explore hybrid experiences need to ensure that the experience space has a reliable internet connection, and one that can appropriately support a decent bandwidth. Once it’s established that these requirements are available in their space, they’re ready to live stream their retail experience.
BUILD A COMMUNITY
Lockdown has taught brands the importance of staying in touch with their customers, especially outside the brick and mortar walls that they usually occupy. This connection has, for the most part, been achieved by social media but could and should be carried through to retail experiences once the industry reopens.
For example, encourage virtual and physical attendees to share their experience using a unique hashtag. This will not only let you evaluate the reach and effectiveness of your retail experience but also provide you with tangible leads as to who to contact when you launch products in the future. What’s more, by building a community, retailers can safeguard themselves against unforeseen circumstances that may prevent them from keeping in touch with customers.
Let your experience serve not only as a promotional and sales tool but also as means to build an engaged community of like minded individuals who represent and love your brand.
Those are the main considerations brands need to evaluate and implement before launching a retail experience this April.
Chris Wareham, Founder & Managing Director of Stellar, spoke about his excitement for the next few months, “We’re finally allowed to get back to do what we do best: connecting brands with their customer base. We want to help retailers instill that relationship that can only be created in a face-to face interaction.”
He continued “We’re more equipped and dedicated to helping brands activate retail experiences than ever before. We’ve not been resting on our laurels during the most recent lockdown, we’ve been innovating, waiting to show brands what we can do.”
Stellar develop and optimise bespoke retail experiences for brands – combining the power of people, data and insight to increase profitability. In a rapidly changing world where experiential retail is growing across Europe at an exponential rate, Stellar delivers the complete package from strategy and concept design, to providing exceptional retail experience specialists and optimising performance based on real time analytics.