Insights

Power up – destination marketing for the retail revival

A quick blink into the sunlight after more than three months of lockdown shows that predictions abound for a rush back to shops and restaurants.

As consumers shake off lockdown fatigue and prepare for a summer of social activity, pent-up demand for a return to normality is set to spark a retail footfall rise of 48% when non-essential retail reopens in England from April 12, according to Springboard. The forecast increase means footfall will be 128% higher than the same week in 2020, although it will still remain 62% below 2019 levels.

In shopping centres and retail parks, which have maintained a steady flow of footfall during lockdowns due to their higher proportion of essential retail offerings, footfall is predicted to  rise by 46% and 26% respectively in the first week of reopening, says Springboard.

At the end of the first two lockdowns, footfall rose by more than 40%, yet greater increases are expected this time due to the success of the vaccination programme and the concurrent opening of retail and hospitality.

As shopping centre and retail park managers looked to keep their brands alive, they turned to destination marketing as an essential tool. And in the absence of live events, they have pivoted towards digital marketing and social media. Even in the case of significantly reduced marketing budgets, centre managers have been able to grab a bigger bang for their buck by leveraging the expertise of Activate’s Destination Marketing team.

How destination marketing will boost retail rebound for 2021

Many centre managers and retail real estate owners have reapportioned budgets to focus on digital engagement through social media. Their properties have benefited accordingly by remaining front of mind, and front of wallet, for consumers. Our Destination Marketing team works to research and present a menu of covid-secure promotional options, from which individual centres and retailers can select.

Campaigns around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter have kept customers interested, with online gift guides and creative video content designed to drive visitors to shopping centres and retail parks. A mix of content has been developed for a range of platforms, including animation and video for Instagram Reels, in partnership with individual retailers and sponsors, for promotions which are activated on site. These have included competitions to win an M&S Easter hamper, handouts of single red roses, chocolates, branded face coverings or hand sanitiser giveaways.

In one cost-effective campaign, designed to appeal to a regional audience for Vangarde Shopping Park, York, the marketing team achieved more than 17,000 engagements and 1700 comments from one single, simple post. ‘What do you call this?’ with the hashtags #Yorkshire and #Vangarde showed images of simple items such as a bread roll and a bath robe, and invited comments on their different regional names. This kind of engaging content, which has encouraged communities to use destination social media platforms, has kept the brand and its retailers alive and top of mind during challenging times, when many stores have had to remain closed. The key is to get online communities talking and create the intent of physically visiting the properties at the heart of any creative material or activation at some point in the future. Onsite teams across a range of properties have also been encouraged to create their own ‘welcome back’ video content, showing they are ready for customers to return.

Campaigns to suit properties large and small

Our Destination Marketing team is equipped to deliver projects to suit the needs and budgets of a variety of schemes, and work is designed to fit the demographic of shoppers and retailers within each property. While some schemes have benefitted from multi-channel marketing, incorporating radio and print campaigns, others have maximised a retailer-sponsorship approach. For example, when delivering messages around the covid-secure aspects of each site, the team has built in short, sharp, sponsorship tags for affiliate retail brands to ensure that they are driving the impact for those retailers that are open and ready for custom.

Many properties that feature restaurants with al fresco dining areas have been revamping these to be covid-secure. Here, we’ve worked directly with the restaurants to promote their rejuvenated outdoor space and used the content to include instructions about making reservations in the new seating areas, in order to drive bookings.

Looking ahead, the team is optimistic about real-life events at shopping centres and retail parks returning later in the year. In the meantime, it is also delivering marketing activations that provide social value, such as the #nochildgoeswithout campaign being run at The Core in support of a Leeds charity that aims to give every child in need an Easter egg.

As the big reopening on April 12th approaches, and customers become keen to visit bricks-and-mortar destinations as a leisure activity once more, it’s time to make sure all that footfall is heading in the right direction: towards your property.

By Michelle Atack, Digital Marketing and Events Associate, Activate

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