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What can we learn about what’s next as the High Street re-opens?

After a year of upheaval and three months of lockdown through Q1, the High Street has re-opened to crowds of eager shoppers. Everyone at Maybe* is excited about what's next, but we've learned a lot over the past 12 months, and if it's taught us anything it's to take nothing for granted.

With the High Streets gradually re-opening across the UK, we are encouraging all businesses to think about what they have learned, what they have done differently over the last year, and we're asking them to retain those new lessons and ways of operating to drive them forwards. While it might feel like we are going 'back to normal', in reality we are moving forwards.

The businesses that have thrived over the last year have done things differently. They have embraced challenges and the ever changing landscape of business in a pandemic. They've allowed themselves to be uncomfortable and learn new things and have prioritised social media as a way of staying connected to customers and serving them better. These businesses have taken on the role of entertainers, inspirers and collaborators. Here we show you some of the best examples of those that have had their finger on the pulse of what customers need - both in terms of reassurance and rallying excitement as the High Street re-opens.

How is Primark preparing for the High Street to re-open?

Primark has been social media champions throughout 2020 and into 2021. With no e-commerce presence and only a physical store footprint, the chain has continued to engage customers as the High Street re-opens.

No one has been able to shop at Primark since December. Customers in England and Wales will be able to get through the doors from April 12th, and they can not wait. Primark has teased and excited customers with new product, as well as its re-opening plans since the announcement of the re-opening date was made in February. But alongside its reopening messages, it has continued to delight customers with its upbeat content of tutorials, outfit and beauty inspiration. We expect queues around the block throughout re-opening week.

 

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A post shared by Primark (@primark)

The Entertainer creates an emotional experience as the High Street re-opens

Since February brands have tentatively started to communicate about re-opening and as we've got closer to the big day, businesses have ramped up their messaging,  doing what they can to encourage physical visits to the High Street.

The Entertainer fared well through lockdowns, communicating click and collect services and making the most of its learning and education ranges available online to help parents struggling to teach and keep the kids at home entertained. 

As you prepare your re-opening messages, make sure you capture and express everything your store environments are. Hit them in the feels. remind customers what they have been missing and get ready to welcome back your shoppers!

But The Entertainer knows that for kids, its stores are a real life playground, a place of excitement. This post perfectly captures the essence and emotion of being a child visiting a toy store, and gives parents a compelling reason that when the doors re-open, there is nothing quite like the physical experience.

Fabulous fashion retailers making moves

Back in June 2020, Maybe* partnered with Cotswolds clothing boutique Law and Co to help them put an additional £18,000 in the till in only one week. Again, this approach was about taking what was already working for the business, and teaching them how to optimise it. Law and Co already had a great story and a gorgeous social media presence. 

It was impossible not to fall in love with founder Denise’s personal style and approach to sharing her product and passion on Instagram Stories. But she was not using Facebook advertising to drive sales. Law and Co were able to successfully reach old customers, convert browsers and acquire new ones, with just a little bit of social media data and insight. The lesson here is to be brave to try something new.

Gathering insight, staying human, experimenting and adapting will arm you with tools you can draw upon to serve customers in the future. You will be able to take your digital engagement and turn this into sales and physical visits as the High Street re-opens.

Nike's social engagement just does it

Nike has always been a social media front runner. Its content is as innovative and inspiring as its product are,  but the brand is also setting out to make a real difference in the world. As consumers continue to opt for brands who prioritise challenging the status quo, Nike is putting its money where its mouth is and setting about leading by example. Its social media engagement follows because its messages are crafted with resonance, empathy, and accurately reflect the sentiment and expectations of today's consumers. And that sentiment says, brands need to care about people.

Over the last year, Nike has continued to push boundaries by making its product and its marketing more diverse and inclusive. The best post from a retailer throughout March 2021 came from the brand's Mothers' Day content celebrating mothers who raise athletes, and the athletes who themselves are mothers.

Businesses need to demonstrate that they understand the role they have to play in raising everybody up and creating an inclusive and just world. As you re-open your business think about the people you serve and what they care about. It's as simple as showing how you are doing better. Show people you care about your front line staff and their working conditions, show you know you are part of a community on a local level and collaborate with other businesses to help everyone grow.

 

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A post shared by Nike (@nike)

Coes Department store prepares to re-open

Ipswich department store Coes has embraced social media over the last year and seen real commercial results.

As they join High Street businesses in England and Wales re-opening their doors, Coes has a varied approach to content. As well as sharing what is on offer in-store, the business has invited its store colleagues to share what they are looking forwards to as the High Street re-opens.

Do not underestimate the importance of introducing the human faces that will be on hand to serve your customers. Retail staff can not wait to get back on the shop floor to greet the public as much as shoppers are looking forwards to a browse. Whether you are a Coes, a Boots or an indie baker, people want to meet people again.

 

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A post shared by COES | Clothing Store (@coes_stores)

How do we move forwards as the High Street re-opens?

Long before COVID, the retail world has been evolving. The pandemic has accelerated this process and despite the pain it has caused, COVID has left in its wake, opportunities. It has highlighted our human need for connection and shown us all that we are wired for tactile and physical experiences. It has reinvigorated our sense of community and the need to protect and nurture independent business and livelihoods, showing us the role we can all play in this. It has shown that businesses must prioritise digital touch points for service and ways of working, but that the human must also exist alongside those touch points. It is not a case of doing one or the other, but of mastering both.

Join us on a free webinar every Wednesday where we showcase the best social media performance across the UK and how you can replicate it. In the meantime, as the High Street re-opens, do not become complacent, look forwards not back.

Prepare. Gather as much insight and reflect on your learnings so far. What worked for you before, what’s worked for others? What approaches are you taking forwards. Get this clear in your head, make a plan, and work that plan.

Simplify. Can anything that hasn’t worked for you in the past, and focus on what is working. Keep your message consistent, and don't scatter your energies. Focus on safety, focus on purpose, make sure your social media content is positive and personal.

Support other businesses. Engage with their conversations, share their content, create that sense of community and inspire customers to do the same.

Pick something new. Try Facebook advertising, join a Maybe* webinar or masterclass to learn from the social media data . Sign up to Local Rewards, offer a new delivery of fulfilment service. Choose something that you can get up and running quickly, and cost effectively, but stands to benefit you in the long run. Then bake this newness into your BAU.

Be human. The personal touch is what will make customers want to come and meet you face to face. So stay connected online and help them get to know you and your team.

Share your learnings Maybe* loves shining a light on businesses who are thriving and not just surviving. We’ll work with you to tell your story. Join our Facebook Group Make Social Media Work to chat with other businesses like you and share stories

Key takeaways

As the High Street re-opens and we look to the future with both optimism and trepidation, it is vital that we all remember that things have changed and can continue to change without warning. The businesses that choose to find ways to stay connected to customers online and serve them across multiple touch points will thrive, as will the ones that embrace social media as a tool to listen and learn, as well as to communicate.

Prioritising relationships with customers and collaborating with other businesses via social media and understanding that one business is only as strong as the others in its place will help customers make the choice to shop physically and enjoy all a High Street has to offer.

With the Maybe* platform, you don’t have to be a social media pro to increase traffic and sales.

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