Post-covid planning and strategy: Key lessons for brands to win in their marketplace
29 September 2021
Author: Kirsty Whyte
Over eighteen months since the pandemic started, we’re on the road recovery as we adapt to the ‘new normal.’ It’s clear the worst days are behind us but what lies ahead? With retail reopened and consumer habits changed, this month we asked what does this mean for brands? Post-pandemic it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact there are new opportunities for brands as the industry has shifted.
We interviewed in-house experts across key retail sectors for a series of blogs throughout the month. We explored each channel with an insight into trends to watch out for, providing key tips on how brands can win in the marketplace.
First up we focused on Grocery retail, which saw significant shifts in consumer behaviour, resulting in a surge in online grocery shopping. Brands experienced stock shortages and witnessed mass panic buying - creating a new spike in demand for certain products. In week 1 we heard from Adrian Hussey, Customer Development Director at McCurrach, Ashley Devlin, Account Manager for Unilever and Jamil Bheepathee, Account Controller for Britvic on what lies ahead.
Be resilient and flexible in your approach: data-led agile teams will be fundamental
One key takeaway from Grocery is the growth in online shopping. This was driven by lockdown but is expected to be sustained overall, presenting new opportunities and challenges for retailers.
“This places a different challenge on retailers as they will have to manage their online presence differently and more closely than they have before. They need to transform the availability and look in store as more staff are shifted in to picking and packing of online deliveries which impacts store resourcing and availability of stock on shelf daily. This is a fundamental shift which brands will have to get their heads around and look at how they execute online and in store without one disrupting the other.” – Adrian Hussey, Customer Development Director
With retail outlets back open and approaching the busy Christmas trading periods, it’s important for brands to be resilient and flexible in their approach. The opportunity is to be more dynamic in the way that you set yourself up and plan in advance for any stock issues or changes that could occur in the marketplace. In grocery, data-led, on-demand services and agile teams will be fundamental to building big campaigns and seasonal initiatives in the next few months.
The importance of embracing digital: a demand for new technology and new ways of working
For week 2 we were talking all things Tech, with a focus on the Technology retail sector and the importance of embracing digital. During the pandemic, technology emerged as a key theme and lifeline for many as the world evolved. A shift to online shopping and digital services meant a demand for new technology and new ways of working. For brands, this meant adapting to meet the new needs of their consumers to succeed. We spoke to Kevin Hook, Account Controller for Microsoft, Will Wilkinson, Account Manager for Intel, Daniel Sherwood, Regional Account Manager for Microsoft, and Lucy Croucher, Account Manager for Beko who shared why it’s important to adopt an omni-channel approach moving forward.
“When brands prepare for their FY22 strategy they need to have adequate resource to cover an omni-channel approach. They should be considering their online arm and covering areas such as live chat, online forums and having specialists online to pick up Q&A. Mastering the bricks and mortar side is also important because when stores opened again we saw the demand was still there. People had missed face-to-face experiences and wanted to get advice from experts in store. For brands there needs to be investment and energy put into the physical side too, incorporating an omni-channel approach with online, in store and everything else between.” – Will Wilkinson, Account Manager – Intel
Post-lockdown it appears that technology is here to stay and will play a pivotal role in brand strategy for FY22 and beyond. Digital engagement should be a key factor to consider – not forgetting the all -important customer experience across all platforms.
The development of EPOS data analytics and digital engagement in convenience is a game-changer
Next, we looked at the Convenience sector, which has played a vital role in consumers lives throughout lockdown. An increase in shopping local, has led to the convenience store emerging as a clear winner in the marketplace. As retailers recognise this and look to expand their product and service offering, brands are identifying more opportunities within this growing sector. In week 3, our convenience experts Gerry McGeehan, Account Controller for News UK and Jonny Short, Account Manager for Pernod Ricard gave us their thoughts on what to look out for post-covid and how to increase visibility for your brand in this space.
“Brands need to tailor and target their support specifically for convenience retailers. That includes working with them to support their store and helping them realise the value opportunities within categories and not just a branded product approach with retailers. The development of EPOS analytics in Convenience will be huge and means that for the first time ever, convenience field teams can be in the right place at the right time. Brands can finally be confident that their field teams are being directed to the biggest opportunities locally – and tailoring their sales approach based on local opportunities, local data and local trends.” - Gerry McGeehan, Account Controller
The development of EPOS data analytics and digital engagement in convenience is a game-changer for the industry and something every brand should be considering. It has made it easier to maximise reach and tailor a winning brand strategy for FY22.
Adapt to new ways of selling and explore options out with the traditional channels
Our final week explored the Away from home sector, which was impacted by Covid as the country was forced to navigate the closures of hospitality, offices, education and leisure. A shift towards eating at home led to a growth in the QSR (quick service restaurants) and takeaway sector, which continues to be sustained post-covid. To meet new demands, many pubs and restaurants reinvented themselves and businesses had to rethink their sales approach with a move to online. Our experts, Pat Bramich, Account Controller for Britvic Away from Home, Gregor Gillon, Account Controller for Unilever Away from Home and Gordon Neil, Group Strategy and Marketing Director explained why it’s important for brands to adapt to new ways of selling and explore options out with the traditional channels.
A significant number of outlets moved a proportion of their business online through the likes of delivery services Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Strategies have now shifted from offering eat-in dining only, to focusing more on their online customer base and more recently to a balanced approach between both.
“Even with the reopening of food and drink outlets and the re-introduction of walk-in customers, outlets should continue to focus on their online strategy with support from brands. There are still opportunities to sustain and increase sales online if the right deals and product are on offer. They need to find ways to stand out across online ordering platforms to make their menus and products look more attractive, valuable and convenient to consumers over their competitors.” – Gregor Gillan, Away from Home Account Controller
As the Away from home sector continues to make a comeback, it’s time for brands to consider new ways of selling. Dedicated field marketing teams can develop relationships with outlets and streamline their menu offerings to carry key branded products. Brands should be considering this as part of their delivery strategy to increase sales across all AFH channels.
We’ve come a long way from the start of the pandemic, however there’s still work to be done. As consumer lifestyles and spending habits continue to change, there are opportunities for brands to win if they adapt. A flexible approach and adoption of digital will help navigate the next 6-12 months and beyond, in addition to the support of an experienced agency with the right expertise to help.
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