Restaurant owners and retail leaders don’t have the luxury of isolating and focusing solely on their personal health. During this COVID-19 pandemic, you’re also fighting for the survival of your business as the negative impact of store closures continues to weigh heavily.
Adjusting business models and finding alternative ways to engage customers while adhering to social distancing policies has become the norm. But despite efforts to rapidly adapt, we’re still seeing record breaking decreases in restaurant and retail sales. In April alone, U.S. restaurant sales dropped 50% while retail sales fell an unexpected 16.4%.
While the situation is difficult, there’s reason for hope. Cities are moving into new phases of COVID-19 recovery, allowing stores and restaurants to slowly reopen their doors to the public. This isn’t a guarantee that we’ll return to our pre-pandemic life, but it’s a step toward normalcy and gives you an avenue to provide consumers with better, more familiar, experiences.
COVID-19 recovery depends on the location
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 recovery in retail and restaurants. You can’t flip a switch and suddenly reopen all of your stores as if nothing ever happened. Each reopening will come with unique challenges and requirements for you to address.
As you begin to open your doors again and adjust to the new normal, you have to focus on effectively promoting the news of your reopening. This process comes with a few important caveats as you consider the impact that each location faces and will face moving forward.
- Not all locations will reopen at once: The first step to restaurant and retail COVID-19 recovery is recognizing the many timelines you’re dealing with. The cities your stores are located in will have different requirements for reopening and the timelines have to be addressed in your marketing plan.
- Each location requires unique planning: In addition to timelines for reopening, each location comes with a unique and diverse customer base. Consumer reactions and local policies will impact business operations, requiring careful planning to counteract the impact of this situation. During the planning process, set goals that are specific for the needs of each location and budget accordingly. Understanding which locations will be able to open, which are likely to perform best and which will require more marketing resources to succeed is critical.
- Local consumer behavior has changed: Whether individuals were most affected by mandatory store closures or they made conscious decisions based on health concerns, the fact remains that consumer behavior has changed. When planning to reopen, focus on the ways local consumer behavior has changed, recognize that some consumers may be anxious about shopping or dining in-store, and cater to their needs in both promotion and experience.
COVID-19 recovery can’t succeed with a high level, generalized marketing plans. The marketing world has been trending toward personalization and localization for years now. But as you reopen stores, focusing on local context is more important than ever.
Two ways digital marketers can support reopenings
With coordinated efforts from many different departments, you can successfully promote and execute a restaurant or retail reopening. But what exactly can digital marketers do to help support the process?
Effectively leveraging digital media can make all the difference in the success of a reopening. The specific tactics and channels you use may change for each location. However, there are two universal keys to success that you should keep in mind—adapting messaging and remaining flexible to optimize your campaigns.
1. Adapt messaging
COVID-19 recovery and effective store reopenings in general are about building trust with customers. Especially now as safety becomes the primary consumer concern, you can’t afford to rely on generic messaging and impersonal marketing campaigns. Adapting your messaging and creative to keep everything relevant to each location and its customers means:
- Keeping consumers informed: Update customers and prospects on opening dates and policy changes for both the initial reopening and follow-up plans. Be sure to include a local phone number in all creative so consumers can contact you with questions and c
- Embracing behavior changes: Give customers a variety of options for engaging with your store or restaurant. Personalizing messaging based on individual preferences can improve marketing effectiveness.
- Offering promotions: Nearly half of consumers will require at least a 30% discount to convince them to make an offline purchase early in COVID-19 recovery. Offering promotions can be an important factor in the success of your reopening.
- Making customers feel safe: All consumers have some level of anxiety about shopping or dining in a reopened location. Clearly communicate your policies for keeping customers safe like social distancing guidelines, self-checkout planning, contactless shopping, etc.
2. Stay flexible and optimize
Reopening your store or restaurant will be a learning process for each location. During the planning process, you’ll find that reopening dates will be moving targets. As policies come to fruition, you may end up with multiple locations reopening at the same time. If you take a proactive approach and prepare as much for your campaigns ahead of time as possible, reopening multiple stores simultaneously won’t seem so daunting.
Beyond the planning phase, you’ll need to remain flexible as you evaluate the success of your campaigns. What works on the first day may not be as effective moving forward. Optimizing based on real-world results will be crucial.
Monitor the sales of each location and the form in which purchases are being made (including online, in-store, through an app, and via any other channels you may offer). As you gather that data, adjust location-level budgets as necessary to find the right balance and ensure you’re spending as efficiently as possible.
More tips for retailers: Retail messaging during COVID-19: What to embrace right now
Location Driver: A solution for accelerating sales when reopening stores
The COVID-19 situation creates unpredictability for store reopenings that simply can’t be avoided. However, that shouldn’t mean that you have to go through the process blindly hoping that you’re effectively identifying and messaging the right local people to drive results.
This is something we’ve helped restaurants and retailers with long before the pandemic hit. Our Location Driver solution can help your COVID-19 recovery plans for reopening stores and restaurants through its ability to promote sales by location and deliver personalized messaging to the right people based on their location-level preferences.
Location Driver is the best digital solution to help you accelerate sales when reopening stores and restaurants because it offers:
- Flexibility: Easily adjust marketing campaigns as you deal with unpredictable reopening dates and ever-changing local policies.
- Store-level budgeting: Launch campaigns based on when each location is ready to open from a financial perspective.
- In-campaign measurement: Receive store-level measurement to understand the impact of messaging at each reopened location. Additionally, receive online and offline sales reporting for those who converted after receiving messages.
- Scalability: Execute multiple location-specific campaigns, compensating for large state-wide reopenings that may occur simultaneously.
- Location-specific creative: Communicate any location-specific hours of operations, parking or pickup guidelines, phone numbers, directions and other information with the right customers.
- In-market consumer identification: Use CORE AI to identify local consumers, not cookies, who are ready to buy offline. Marketers can efficiently spend budget money by reaching local consumers who show intent to buy offline.
- Targeting beyond the POS: Enable marketers to target individuals and measure sales performance that isn’t captured at the point of sale using CORE Transact.
These features and benefits make Location Driver an effective solution for promoting the reopening of specific stores and restaurants. If you want more information about how it all works, watch this quick overview video.
In 2019, we used Location Driver when working with a leading beauty retailer on its goal of launching over 100 new stores. They needed a scalable solution that could drive sales at individual stores and tie marketing efforts back to online and in-store sales. Location Driver did just that.
By matching the retailer’s enterprise-level data to our 200 million+ consumer profiles, we were able to understand who was purchasing at each store, identify those consumers most likely to convert, and send messaging based on transactional insights. The beauty retailer gained $100 million in messaged revenue by driving 1.8 million purchases across 106 stores.
These results can be replicated in your own reopenings. When you’re ready to start making a data-driven plan for COVID-19 recovery and store reopening, contact us to discuss your campaign ideas.
If you're a restaurant marketer looking for innovative ways to boost near- and long-term revenue and begin coronavirus recovery, check out our new interactive guide here.