Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How to drive footfall post-lockdown

By Suzana Lay, Head of Brand Team & Planning Director at The Grove Media

With retail, arts & entertainment and hospitality returning to degrees of normality as the Covid 19 restrictions are relaxed, businesses up and down the country will be looking to drive footfall and audiences.

And given the torrid time that our highstreets have had, driving consuming spending can’t come soon enough. According to BRC-ShopperTrak, total year-on-year retail footfall for 2020 fell by 43.4%. And last year there were only 44 million cinema admissions in the UK, down considerably from 176 million in 2019, according to Statista.

Not surprisingly, early indications show significant economic increases following the easing of lockdown restrictions from the beginning of April. Many people rushed back to the shops last month to stock up on clothing, driving a 9.2% surge in retail sales during April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

So how should retail and entertainment businesses best use digital media and tracking to take advantage of the opening up of the market get that all important boost in numbers?  The answer is a critical combination of mobile and out of home.

Mobile has been growing in importance in recent years, but post-lockdown, the platform will play a critical role in one-to-one marketing. Mobile ID provides precise up-to-date, near real-time location data. After a year of going in and out lockdown, people’s movements have changed and are far less predictable. This means that historical location information and the standard lookback-window through which location targeting can be applied is no longer reliable. So mobile really comes into its own, at least in the short- to mid-term until reliable patterns re-emerge.

And, as people spend more time outside, enjoying time away from TVs and laptops, mobile provides an essential personal screen, that’s perfect for direct communication, particularly with product and offers messaging.

Out of home (OOH) has always been a great platform for brand campaigns, and with advances in technology and addressable media, is becoming increasingly digital enabling it to work seamlessly with other digital platforms. OOH’s widespread presence across public environments and high frequency in dwell time environments will be key to targeting people as they head back to work, to social meetings and into retail and entertainment environments.

The real sweet spot for driving footfall and audiences – and ultimately sales – post-lockdown is a smart combination of mobile and OOH. The two offer marketers a compelling combination of public and private screen, of broadcast and personal messaging. They enable brands to link people who have been exposed to both OOH – by targeting relevant mobile users at exact panel locations –  and in-store advertising. The linking of the two exposures can be the tipping point for driving consumer action through sequencing of messaging and combined point-of-sale marketing.

Mobile can also be used to complement OOH with immediate targeting against audiences exposed to an OOH ad, or by adding coverage to audiences not been exposed to OOH. It can also be used to boost messaging where OOH panels are sparse  – 85% of digital OOH panels are in urban locations. And from a tracking perspective, location data can be used to measure footfall uplift, within a set timeframe, based on exposure to OOH and mobile.

While all these specific aspects of mobile and OOH have been known to media and digital planners for a while, the opportunity to leverage them to maximum effect has arguably never been greater than in the post-lockdown environment in which we currently find ourselves.

And there are some key areas focus for both retail and cinemas & theatres when using a combination of mobile and OOH. In retail, it will be important to make a distinction between retail parks and town centre retail. Due to the avoidance of public transport, retail parks have seen a significant boost in footfall since the start of the pandemic. According Springboard, retail parks saw a 3.2% increase in footfall from 28 February to 6 March, compared to a 3.3% decline for high street retail. Retail parks have a huge opportunity to continue to drive footfall using mobile and OOH, focused on a localised catchment and driving-route OOH.

For town centres, there’s a much wider catchment, better opportunities for proximity targeting and the ability to gradually reintroduce public transport OOH. And for theatres and cinemas, audiences can be quickly identified via mobile location data and directly targeted. This can also be done using ‘lookalike’ audiences.

The fight for audiences and footfall share over the coming months is clearly going intensify. And while the initial spike in retail is very positive, many people are still nervous about travelling on public transport and there is real uncertainty about Covid variants. Using digital media to best effect is going to be critical if advertisers are going to capture the footfall and audience numbers they need to drive growth.

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