News | 20/05/2021

Why face-to-face can never be replaced

Posted by Lisa Seymour

With many businesses’ doors now open, business owners are welcoming back their customers with open arms. For retailers, this can be emotional stuff as they are celebrating weathering the storm and emerging from the other side of one of the most challenging times they’ll ever face. It is also an opportunity to thank and reward those loyal customers who stuck with them.

Many of the big brands are playing to this deep feeling of nostalgia in their campaigns and nodding to the pre-lockdown times when our freedom was taken for granted. They are celebrating a predicted summer of hedonism, throwing caution to the wind and euphoria where, finally, we can interact and spend time with those we love, or those we are going to.

A year of limited physical interaction has taken its toll and for retailers this is something that they can tap in to to help see their tills ringing and customers visiting again. It almost seems like the last year’s forced digital incubation has acted like a pause and reset for many to really digest and understand the value of in-person interaction and how, as brands, this cannot fully be replaced digitally.

Customer-first experience

The retailers who are harnessing this and putting their customer experience front and foremost will reap the rewards and all brands need to be focussing on their face-to-face interaction and experience first. Many people are, and will be, nervous about stepping into a physical store again so the onus is on the brands and staff to ensure that their experience is an enjoyable and safe one.

Harnessing and generating meaningful connections is a big player here too. Of course, a one-stop good experience in your shop is great, but wouldn’t it be greater to have that customer come back again and again? Brands are looking at retention and how to develop long-lasting relationships with their customers and what they expect and need in order to do this. At the moment, the product is a key part, but it isn’t everything – there has to be a whole 360 experience for the end consumer.

There are many avenues to do this. Brand values are big and customers are shopping with businesses that represent something they stand for. A brand that gives back is hugely appealing as is one that is sustainability focussed. There will be an increasing level of noise leading to the COP26 in Glasgow in November and consumers will, rightly, be demanding big answers from the brands that they love. If you, as a brand, are on the Net Zero learning path, take your customers on that journey with you and show them how you are progressing, learning and making the necessary changes.

Connect with your audience emotionally

Being emotionally connected as a brand reaps rewards too as gone are the days of shiny, showy and perfect, replaced instead for a desire for more authenticity, vulnerability and realness. Brands that are giving people a peek behind the finesse are getting a great reaction, seeing a benefit in the bottom line as well.

With bricks and mortar businesses, authenticity is key and representing what you are and what you stand for fully. You won’t be for everyone, and that’s fine, but the customers that love you will be completely on board and immerse themselves in what you have to offer – and they are the best pieces of marketing you could ever have.

Of course, there is still a huge place for digital (even if we may need a tiny break from it for a while!) As a brand every touchpoint your customers have need to have the same level of customer care and represent your brand values and ethos fully. As a result, it is vital that any changes to your marketing approach are replicated in both physical and digital spaces.