Opinion

What will the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions mean for UK businesses?

BBI

,

07.07.2021

Open for business UK

Businesses and consumers have been waiting for what seems like forever for restrictions to lift and get back to some sort of 'normal'. The Covid crisis shone a bright light on the how important digital agility is for brands to thrive, the period after restrictions lift is likely to be just as important. Brands should anticipate a change in consumer behaviour and expectations, and learn from the series of lockdowns that investing in a multichannel strategy isn't just for a pandemic - but a power play for the future.

First impressions count

First impressions count and in the digital age, this translates to your online presence. Falling behind on updating your socials, or lacking a digital marketing strategy simply is not an option. 

Even before the pandemic 97% of consumers would check a company’s online presence before deciding to visit a bricks and mortar store. The world has been shifting towards seamless, omnichannel experiences for a long time – only now, consumers have had over a year depending on digital to access their favourite brands. New habits are likely to have developed and brands that demonstrate understanding of their customers’ new needs stand to win the most.

Just as customers flocked towards brands who were leading the way with digital during the lockdown to make life as easy as possible for their audience, consumers will be looking to brands again for this reassurance as the world re-opens.

There’s a long list of ways to stay connected with customers, but starting with a strong social campaign and multichannel presence is a good place to start to capitalise in the ‘next normal’.

After a long wait, businesses have the opportunity to convert their online traffic to offline footfall. Its time to create seamless, meaningful, immersive experiences. 

A ticket to freedom?

There are multiple sides to the question of success when it comes to high street retailers and the hospitality industry. Whilst some consumers might see July 19th as a ticket to freedom, after a barrage of confusing government slogans and announcements, others might still have their reservations when it comes to socialising with the community and visiting places further afield. 

It seems inviting; the idea of socialising with no constraints after so long. Gigs and large sporting events will finally be able to take place, with thousands of fans flooding into stadiums. And even though for many it will feel like unfamiliar territory at first, and might need some time to re-adjust – brands must be mindful of their audience and find ways to reassure their customers that they’re in good hands – that their business cares and really can demonstrate customer centricity.

After a survey that took place in June, one in five people received high scores on the COVID-19 Anxiety Syndrome scale, with 23% of people avoiding going out to public places due to the pandemic. It is clear that the pandemic has affected people in a number of ways, but for club and other business owners, the uplifting of the restrictions on July 19th brings great opportunity to thrive and give their customers face-to-face experiences we’ve all been longing for.

Too much, too soon? 

For those with reservations and anxiety surrounding the lifting of restrictions, the abrupt transition from seated and limited capacity venues, to the abandoning of COVID secure requirements, might feel overwhelming. Such changes might seem like the government’s attempt at a giant leap of faith amongst the current climate and may drive some consumers away from their favourite shops or cafes. Brands need to consider how they’re going to reach and engage all of their audience and possibly begin to segment their audience based on post-lockdown behaviour. Some brands are already using digital marketing tools to achieve this. 

The Gym Group owns gyms nationwide, through their various social channels, personal trainers and email they have consistently checked in with their members, often with surveys to get a better understanding of how they needed to adapt and retain their business. Since gyms were allowed to reopen, members were encouraged to download The Gym Group app which includes a new QR code scanner to access the venues without needing to touch a keypad and a capacity checker. The capacity checker shows members how busy the gym is by a traffic light and percentage system and includes a graph that shows how busy the gym is each day, hourly. This is a great example of how brands can use digital to give their customers safe and empowered experiences. 

What will the uplift mean for retail and hospitality?

Compared to 2019, restaurants have seen a 36.14% decline in seated dining as of 25th April 2021, but how will the stats look after July 19th, when social distancing, plastic screens, and masks are no longer mandatory? Through an optimistic lens, we’d hope to see a big increase in the number of restaurant-goers for the industry. The key here is for brands to remain front of mind and keep communication channels open. Every is bound to feel a little cautious, some might not even remember how to be ‘normal’. Providing an FAQs section on your brand site or sharing videos to keep your audience well informed is a great way to position your organisation as an authoritative, trusted brand. 

Similarly, what will stats for the high street look like? Shops will no longer have to limit their capacity (causing significant queues) and instead will be permitted to open without COVID secure guidelines. In 2019, 38% of UK consumers shopped online at least once a week, but now, in 2021, what kind of trends and patterns will we see after over a year of restrictions? 

Once again this comes down to making sure you know your audience well and using data to lead your marketing efforts.

Finding and activating your target audience

With the surge in popularity for staycations, Air BnB seem to be a convenient choice, with their easy-to-use app and reasonable prices. However, with an effective social campaign, do hotels have the capacity to drive in footfall? Absolutely! If brands target the right demographic, and implement a well-considered multi-channel marketing campaign – businesses stand to secure a great ROI. 

Do you have a post-lockdown marketing strategy?

We are BBI, an award-winning integrated marketing agency that has been helping brands activated audiences and achieve their marketing goals since 2011.

We’ve helped several big household names during the pandemic to thrive with creative and smart campaigns. No matter where you are on your current marketing journey, we’re here to support you, boost your engagement, and develop ideas that deliver great ROI. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business to grow.

Alternatively, sign up for a Digital Transformation Sprint to get your brand where it needs to be – faster.