In decades of old, local retailers were central pillars in the local community.
Local people frequented and owners and shop staff knew entire families by name and the specifics of their daily lives.
Now, the proliferation of large regional shopping centres and the rise of online retail spaces have seen the death of many local retailers – and immense pressures on those who have survived to this point.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many quirks and anomalies in how society has adapted to new paradigms of day-to-day normality.
One significant cultural phenomenon is that of a return to living local; that is people have effectively rediscovered what it means to support local businesses born of a need to keep closer to home and avoid large crowds.
Some districts effectively had this mandated with travel limits in place during the height of COVID lockdown periods.
BUILDING LOYALTY: A PROBLEM LARGELY IGNORED
COVID has shown retailers that home is where the heart is.
While small to medium enterprises have enjoyed a new vitality in local visitations, large corporations are forced to revaluate their marketing mix in driving people through their checkouts.
Heavy media campaigns and multimedia branding are unarguably effective, but this mass bombardment approach offers little support at the coalface of the retail experience.
This coalface is where significant purchase decisions are made based on customer personality traits and characteristics, where a business has the opportunity to interact and engage with people in fleeting moments.
Without the budgets for large scale advertising, local retail has long been left to their own devices and fight for market share with what they had: people.
Their own staff – through superior product knowledge, personality, and individual knowledge about their return customers – and the recognition that a heightened consumer experience is key to return visitations and long term customer retention.
Large scale retail is often guilty of adopting a mindset where mass marketing and pricing is all that is needed to maintain turnover and healthy profits.
Clearly, this is not the case.
Aisles and aisles of goods across massive floor spaces can leave a store lacking any vibrancy.
Award wage staff can often appear disinterested and disdainful.
And the stores within a chain are just carbon copies of themselves – there is nothing unique about them.
The retail experience under these conditions is faceless and grey, soulless.
THE PARADOXICAL SOLUTION: A RETROSPECTIVE MINDSET MOVING RETAIL FORWARD
Even before COVID, local retailers clearly knew that adopting a local mindset ultimately equated to greater profitability.
In throwing the casting net far and wide, mass marketing inherently lacks personalisation or tailored customer experiences.
The local business offers a highly unique capability here in really drilling down and getting to know their customers which larger stores with larger foot traffic and larger staff rosters simply cannot.
While online retail can gather a myriad of personal information which can pander to individual characteristics and help drive sales, their platforms still produce highly generic, replicable shopping experiences based upon rigid digital rules and procedural algorithms.
By returning a focus from yesteryear on a more personable approach to customer interactions experiences can be enhanced beyond any online approximation and the retail lifeline – the metaphorical rope that binds retailer and customers over time and space – is strengthened beyond question.
That is not to say that certain element of online marketing can be highly desirable if applied to real-world sites and situations…