Evolution of Retail Marketing during

unlock 2.0

This article is merely my perspective on Brick-and-Mortar format, I feel this is how we retail marketers can make a difference. Our industry has seen a lot of ups and downs, especially in the last 2 years. This incessant pandemic has created a distressing situation for both, the developers and the tenants. It got me into thinking about the importance of the W’s especially during these times when everything around is ambiguous. 

Who will return? What for? When? Where? and, why? Do you have an answer yet? You do, it’s there right in front of you, it’s been there all this while. Don’t lure people with just offers, because this sordid phase has been difficult for many and no one’s actually interested in pure indulgence. What people really need is a place where they can breathe carelessly, where they won’t have to worry about enclosed spaces and most crucially a place where they can see humans but not get in any sort of a physical contact.

How do we, at malls give it to our patrons? More importantly, who do we reform our malls for? 

Data is the key to everything, go through the customer data collected over years, analyse the buying patterns segregate it into the respective geographies and do consider the demographic profiles. There yet? Now check the data of last year entirely, have it yet? Compare them all together and once you have the common of the two – Target them! Charge!!! No, not really, we aren’t there yet. Did you ask your retailers for the data? Trust me that’s the hard part, but that is the data that’ll determine the most recent behaviour. While your data only tells you about the visits, their data will substantiate sales in totality. We are in this together and we could definitely do well with some help. At least we now have the CUSTOMERS details.

How do we Target them now? SMS, E-mailers, phone calls etc. etc.? Oh, That’s all so passé! 

I say let’s personalise it now, we are living in a world trying to thrive on human affection because that is the only thing that has kept us from losing our sanity in such unreliable times. How about you send them a personalised gift hamper, sure you’ll be spending a lot on it but you’d also be ensuring you’re remembered for a really long time. Also, you can always use some help from your retail partners. Now, that you have the attention of those that are always right (CUSTOMERS), let’s move ahead to have them back on board, safely and confidently. While you’re at it lets also record the VOC (Voice of Customers), of course hitting every door in the neighbourhood may not be the answer but we can always ask them to leave the feedback on social media. One thing that I feel we’ve been doing wrong all this while, is abusing social media, there is so much that can be done and achieved. VOC on social media would be the perfect, cost efficient manner to engage with those that you sent the wishes to and also take their feedback to understand their sentiments before we start devising some elaborate Shop and Win campaigns for our respective centres. Also, presently focus on the existing database, on what you’ve acquired over the years; it’s like answering the questions you definitely know instead of wasting time on the indefinite (Remember, we were all taught this once upon a time?). 

I also feel approachability will be another important factor. My mall may be geographically located at the best location but if the topography of the interior isn’t up to mark, it’ll get extremely difficult to understand the anthropology. Yes, disband the clusters! Give people enough space for free movement, honestly if I hated someone brushing against my shoulder in the past, I might just kill them now for being within 6ft of distance; horrible scary times! I also feel that the similar category of brands should be placed at one location like floor wise, that’s so much easier for someone who just walks in to buy a pair of spectacles. I feel people will be selective in the beginning, honestly no one would show that earnestness or urgency to rush to the mall unless they really have to buy something, also because everything is available online the brick and mortar may start a tad slow; we need to be prepared for this. Most of us have already braced ourselves but what next? Next, let’s work on some merchandise, and why not?  Let’s tie up with a hygiene provider, so what if people forgot their sanitiser and we know there are many dispensers in the mall but people prefer their own thing, lets gift them a 5ML sample, if they are ok registering with us. Let’s have that as a kiosk in the mall, psychologically helps fight anxiety when I know a kiosk full of sanitisers is around my vicinity!

I won’t talk about campaigns, décor or installations because every mall functions in their own way, as per me even though this is a time to welcome people back let’s not be festive since we’ve all been through some sombre times, we need to empathise and show our solidarity is whichever way possible. We are a business model but let’s get a tad out of the box and help the community as much as possible, times to get profitable will follow soon. We should promote local artisans and give them FOC space, the budgets will definitely wobble a bit but we can all take that setback, it’s time we put community first! We thrive collectively, and not individually. The customer should comeback WHENEVER they are ready, till then let’s work on some trust building exercises.

Operationally when we talk about washrooms, there should be a head count, only 15 people in an hour on rotational basis, that would give so much time to the poor helpers. The specially abled should have proper amenities for example, those that have trouble hearing, can see constant messages flashing on the screens guiding them through the landscape. Also, the mall should be sanitised and fumigated every 2 hours. A lot of things were already tried and tested in the last lockdown so it’s not like we are not prepared, just that we will have to respect sentiments and understand the grievances. People should also get free loyalty points for sharing their VOC. A special software should be created for customers to be able to send their voices as and when they want. Tracking the VOC may help us in the longer run. 

Lastly, the management needs to be more cognizant of their employees because they are the front liners and while everyone is working hard to make a living, they still deserve to work happily. An exasperated employee will only be stressed and that’s not how they will be able to focus on their daily chores, keep them motivated. Also, this phase may be short-lived, given the way this virus has been altering like a shapeshifter we can only hope for things to not get worse. There may be a few more lockdowns before we reach the so-called normalcy but we know deep down things need to automate and evolve because the new normal will never be as good as what we were accustomed to!

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