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How to engage your shoppers during COVID-19

10 ways to engage with your shoppers

Casey May, Director at Redsteps Marketing shares 10 ideas that will help you to continue engaging shoppers while in-centre events are not possible. These strategies will help shopping centres adapt to a COVID-19 and post COVID world.

Customer activations and events. Just hearing these words right now will make shopping centre management teams cringe. The events that once brought foot traffic to your centre are simply not possible in the current climate. Social distancing restrictions are putting a strain on retail, particularly in Victoria where lockdown restrictions continue. Yet, we still need to develop strategies that will engage customers, encourage shopping and support retailers during this time.

Below we have outlined 10 ideas that will help you to continue engaging shoppers:

1. Adapt and go digital
The pandemic has proven that businesses need to be accessible online. According to NAB’s Online Retail Index, June 2020 saw a 50.4% increase in online sales from 2019, and in July, Australia Post reported that Victoria had its biggest week for online shopping in history. Online channels are where your centre and its tenants need to be.

Preserving the shopping centre experience is important for shopping centre managers, but to keep everyone safe, it is paramount that centres adopt digital based services like click & collect, delivery and gift vouchers.

2. Use social media to update customers and increase brand awareness
Use your social media pages to update customers on changes to tenant trading hours and operations. Social media is also great to build brand awareness and keep your centre top-of-mind amongst customers.

We Are Creative and Hootsuite produced a report earlier this year which revealed that there has been a 33% increase in the amount of time Australians spend on social media (July 2020). Take advantage of these increased levels of social media traffic and get posting!

3. Invest in Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising
If you have some extra cash in your budget from cancelled events, consider spending it on pay per click advertising. Facebook and Google Ads can help expose your centre to new audiences and increase buyer potential.

At Redsteps Marketing, our results have shown that boosting posts on shopping centre Facebook pages can increase reactions by up to 260% and comments by 33%.

4. Use email campaigns to keep customers in the know
Email campaigns are a great way to directly communicate with shoppers about changes to opening times, new tenants and special offers. Consumers are becoming increasingly engaged with email campaigns; Redsteps Marketing has seen a 28% increase in email open rates since social distancing restrictions were introduced (March – August 2020 compared to 2019). Now is the time to start emailing customers!

5. Grow your email database with competitions
Before you start creating email campaigns, you need to build your database. Competitions are a great way to gain subscribers. Ask customers via your website, social media or in-store entry forms to provide their email address when entering a draw to win prizes (remember to disclose that you will be using their email for marketing purposes!).

6. Keep your website up to date
Regularly updating your website with the latest tenant information is essential right now. It can be incredibly frustrating for consumers if they visit a website and are fed out-of-date information. We have seen a 90% increase in shopping centre website visits as a result of COVID-19 (July 2020 compared to 2019). This tells us that customers are relying on centre websites to get the latest information.

7. Improve the online customer experience
As shopping centre customers are now relying more on online platforms for information, we need to focus on improving the customer experience. We can do this in a few ways:

  • Install an instant messenger tool on your website so customers can easily ask questions
  • Set up FAQ responses on Facebook Messenger so customers aren’t left waiting
  • List tenants’ popular products with prices and other sought-after information on the shopping centre website

8. Introduce your retailers to digital marketing
We often find that tenants aren’t utilising digital platforms to advertise their business. While retail is having a quiet period, it is a great time to encourage tenants to work on building their digital presence. Our top three digital must haves are a website, a social media page and a Google My Business Listing – make sure your tenants have these!

9. Engage an external marketing agency
Using an external marketing agency can help get your tenants more actively involved with marketing activities. We often find that tenants feel more willing to engage with marketing efforts if calls come from an external agency. As they know that the call will be about activities that support them, rather than about rent or other leasing issues, they are more ready to get involved.

External marketing agencies also have invaluable experience from the multitude of businesses they work with. They can recognise trends and opportunities and direct your centre on the best way to take advantage of them.

10. Offer a gift with purchase
Where seasonal holidays might have been used to run activations and events, COVID-19 has required us to update what an in-centre marketing activation entails. A gift with purchase is a great alternative to events, with books or toys being a popular choice at the moment.

To find out more, visit the Redsteps Marketing website 

About the author

Casey May

Casey May is the Director of Redsteps Marketing and has been specialising in retail marketing for more than 18 years. Her experience has gifted her with solid understanding of the shopping centre industry which she uses to create innovative shopping centre campaigns that engage with local consumers.

Casey and the team at Redsteps are passionate about driving foot traffic into shopping centres and retail environments through a range of integrated marketing activities including events and activations, sales promotions, social media, digital and print advertising, website management and SEO.

Prior to launching Redsteps, Casey worked as a marketing manager within centre management teams including Colonial First State Global Asset Management (now Vicinity Centres).

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