Marketing Matters

Emma Thompson, marketing director OnBrand explains why events based marketing help drive the return of shoppers to retail destinations

As anyone working in the retail trade knows, the closure of non-essential retail in March 2020 put pressure on both shopping centre managers and retail store managers in terms of how to communicate ‘the new normal’.  As the world shut down, shopping centre retailers had to quickly adapt their messaging to focus on Covid safety rather than retail promotion.

Shopping centres that were proactive in communicating with their customers found that their hard work paid off during lockdown and it helped them post lockdown to tempt customers back in as the retail sector opened up again. 

We can still see people being cautious about venturing out, so a lot of our work with shopping centres over the course of the year has focused on reassuring customers that shopping centres are safe and reinforcing messaging around additional safety measures being taken to help customers to come back through the doors and improve footfall. 

There is new recognition as we move out of the worst of the pandemic that retail centres need to go further than ever before to attract people into their spaces. Introducing new leisure experiences alongside shops, such as escape rooms, independent cafés and cinemas, will be key for retailers needing to think of innovative ways for customers to spend their spare time. With that in mind, shopping centres particularly are becoming more creative in their approach to creating a much more personal experience for people that visit their venues. 

Some of the more traditional retail events have been deliberately booked in bigger and better than before.  Halloween and Christmas are always popular among shoppers, and many shopping centre managers have decided to provide more immersive experiential events this year.

For 2021 Christmas events, centre managers seem to be feeling more confident in booking traditional footfall drivers such as festive arts and crafts, mulled wine and minced pies.  Extra treats such as Elf Workshops at The Brewery in Romford, visits from The Grinch and Gingerbread mascots at Pavilions Shopping Centre in Waltham Cross, and even a Christmas Grotto, hand-made by the management team at St George’s Shopping Centre in Gravesend, will make local Christmas shopping outings memorable, with many centres bringing activities forward to the end of November as shoppers get ready earlier this year. 

As 2021 comes to a close, the next few months will be crunch time for many in the retail sector. We can already see that those who seek to innovate and experiment with new forms of entertainment are able to encourage shoppers to return through their doors. In order for that to happen, we are seeing that it is now necessary to create some sort of add on experience to keep shoppers engaged.  I hope that this new creativity will help to bring about a resurgence in the sector through the Christmas period and that shopping centres go into 2022 in the best shape possible.

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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