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Paps Shaikh
Paps Shaikh 10 May 2021

Why Retailers are Pivoting to Local to Rebuild Following the Pandemic

Local advertising can allow advertisers to pivot their messaging to reach consumers on a personal level, communicating changes such as store opening times and delivery availability in a constantly changing time.

Following a devastating 12 months for retail, the initial signs from the first tentative days of the re-opening of non-essential retail is that the UK’s high street footfall is showing significant bounce-back, with crowds of people reported queuing outside big retailers in towns and cities across the country. 

This falls in line with a recent report carried out by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) (in association with VoucherCodes) which predicted that 7 million shoppers would hit the high street and spend £600m in-store on the first day of trading. 

This was expected to peak on Saturday 17 April, when spending would break the billion-pound barrier at £1,013bn, with 10.8 million shoppers out and about. The report also predicted consumers will spend £4.54bn across the week, based on 50.3 million people visiting stores.

While this is great news for the retail sector, we need to remember these are just the first tentative steps out of lockdown. With such a huge potential for bounce back, but also a continued sense of uncertainty, it's never been more important for retail brands to keep their consumers up to date with everything from store opening times to any new health and safety measures they've put in place. 

And doing this effectively means getting the message out at a local level.

The sense of community we have seen develop over the past year has been proving to be a powerful force for change in terms of how brands communicate. During the various lockdowns, local targeted advertising has become increasingly important to keep customers informed – regional campaigns haven’t come close enough in that respect.

Today, community matters more than ever, and those brands that can effectively communicate at the neighbourhood level are able to connect more easily with their target audiences. 

New research by CensusWide – commissioned by Nextdoor – suggests that retailer brands are embracing this change and turning to local channels to communicate with consumers. For almost half (48.5%) of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) surveyed in the UK’s retail and FMCG sectors, local advertising has become more important since the pandemic, and 72% strongly agree that local advertising offers them an advantage. 

Furthermore, as highlighted by the research, more than half (52%) of those CMOs surveyed believe local advertising has become more important for raising awareness of new products and services, and slightly more (54%) said it’s more important for raising awareness of their brand/business. The findings also suggest senior marketers are putting greater emphasis on supporting local communities, with 52% stating that this was very important to their business. 

What’s been driving this change? National campaigns can sometimes be too broad – almost a spray and pray approach – while local activity is a far more considered approach and can be tailored to communicate to a wider audience more personally. Leading brands to the realisation that regional and even national advertising can no longer have the required impact on their own.

However, this doesn’t mean marketers and advertisers should be considering this as a case of “either/or”; local campaigns can (and should) complement national campaigns. 

The challenge for many CMOs is that there are some areas which require a change of mindset when it comes to local advertising. There is a long-standing misconception about local advertising; that it is difficult to implement. This was highlighted in the survey, with “being too complicated to set up the boundaries for local targeting” cited by 44% of CMOs in the survey as one of the key reasons they hold back from local advertising. 

However, in reality this is a myth.

Modern SAAS platforms make it easy to tailor adverts and communicate with consumers at a local level by individual postcodes. You can even turn target postcodes on/off simply at the click of a button, providing a simple and effective way to approach local advertising.

So complexity should really not be seen as a barrier to entry, because local is very likely here to stay. Brands and advertisers need to be looking to leverage the power of local advertising to engage with consumers and offer reassurance when and where they need it the most.

The fact of the matter is that, due to new consumer habits triggered by the pandemic, the trend towards local advertising will continue long after the pandemic is over. Our survey found that tailored communications can give brands an important competitive edge, with 61% of UK consumers thinking more favourably of advertising which shows how a brand is responding to the coronavirus or helping customers at a community level.

This “help” includes things like keeping consumers up to date with new opening times – 51.61% of FMCG brands are using local advertising to communicate opening and closing times to consumers – and keeping people abreast of additional services being put in place to make customers feel safe, such as adding a home delivery service which wasn't a service provided before. 

Our research has shown a clear pivot from regional and national to local advertising. And it’s hardly surprising given that brands have realised there is so much value in taking their communications that step closer to their target audience.

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