Weathering the Covid-19 Storm: Combining Virtual and Physical Experiences

By Anna Brettle, Founder and Director of Stellar Global Ltd

As high-street retailers begin to open following Covid-19 closures, it’s clear that the pandemic has accelerated the already rapid evolution of the retail landscape. Brands have swiftly adapted to new methods of engaging and influencing their consumer base with one goal in mind; instilling confidence in their brand and increasing sales.

With in-store demonstrations and masterclasses out of the question, any retailers trailing behind must now revise their strategies and create compelling, omnichannel experiences that reach further than the shop floor alone. These experiences are designed to excel in the virtual space and inspire consumers, both new and existing, to buy time and time again.

By forming strong and long-lasting connections through online platforms, brands can both strengthen their current position whilst preparing for the future as brick-and-mortar stores transition into yet another phase following this pandemic.

The online market comes with global reach capabilities, allowing buyers and sellers to connect easily regardless of location – meaning brand opportunity has become infinite.

However, as brands invest in creativity, they must also consider specific shoppers’ behaviour. Our research has shown that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if they’ve had the opportunity to try it first. Additionally, 84% of respondents stated they would be more inclined to buy from the same brand again if they knew an expert product demonstration would be available to them. Of course, this makes complete sense – consumers are more likely to trust a brand that they feel will go the extra mile for them whether that’s in-store or online!

Before coronavirus, the high-street was already transitioning to offer more face-to-face consumer experiences, providing bespoke opportunities to build brand loyalty. This proved hugely successful as brand communities can form and interact with one another.

As these retailers make a tentative return to their physical stores, with an almost clinical approach, the need for a multifaceted approach is obvious. Encouraging shoppers to revisit the high-street will prove a major task.

Although many consumers are eager to return to their beloved stores, others are understandably anxious to do so. This means that brands must prioritise sanitisation procedures whilst creating innovative and exciting reasons to visit stores – so directing marketing budgets towards safely distanced demonstrations is a brilliant move to ensure that staff and customers can securely, but safely, connect.

However, as we move forward, these personalised experiences must also translate to virtual platforms – allowing individuals to access them remotely and receive the same informative experience. Facilitating the duality of these events – such as demonstrations or masterclasses – must become a priority for retailers as they can help consumers make informed and empowered decisions about a product.

Brands who accomplish this and continue to push forward from a technology perspective – satisfying the undeniable hunger for physical and virtual shopping experiences – are undoubtedly more likely to succeed in the long term!

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