Whilst the pandemic isn’t over it is already possible to assess some of the permanent changes in shopper behaviour brought about by lockdown, including a new environmental focus and a more local approach. Here, Neil Jones from online platform for experiential space, Location Live gave FMBE his views:
What is redundant space/ recyclable space and what are the environmental benefits?
Redundant space is currently at a high, and a key indicator of this is the condition of the UK’s high streets. Despite a slight improvement as lockdown restrictions eased, footfall continues to remain below pre-pandemic levels, with traction in April 2021 (32.7%) almost a third below the levels seen in April 2019. Well documented shifts in consumer behaviour towards buying digital is leading to brands reducing their physical retail footprint.
This is causing landlords to re-assess how they structure these assets and to look at opportunities for meanwhile use. Enabling brands to undertake PR installations or pop-up experiences in existing retail units significantly reduces production and associated consumption of materials.
White-boxing units simplifies fitouts and reduces lead times allowing for increased occupancy and quicker turnaround times.
All of which helps the industries overall push towards sustainability – an environmentally conscious trend affecting the marketing sector at large. The last 6 months has seen a real increase in expectation from both landlords and brands alike for planned productions to be not just recyclable but built with sustainable materials, this subject is currently the most pertinent it has been in recent times following COP26.
What are some of the typical or potential uses of such space? / What is the link to local or regional consumer bases and why is that important?
The importance of local/regional consumer bases has soared due to the ‘hyperlocal phenomenon’. Throughout the pandemic, consumer behaviour has adjusted to shop and socialise much more locally, this has caused brands to have to adapt and take their messaging closer to their consumers. Outdoor spaces nearer to our homes have become the new hubs for brand events, with huge demand for town/city squares, local highstreets, parks, and beaches. Thus providing exciting new opportunities for these spaces which have not traditionally been on the radar for high end brand activations.
Does this type of marketing experience have special resonance with retail areas and shopper engagement? How/Why?
Following the 18-month hiatus in which the nation was asked to stay at home, brands were unable to engage with their consumer base in ways they usually would.
‘Enlivenment’ and ‘placemaking’ are very hot topics in the industry and for good reason. Well executed and produced experiential activations serve as footfall drivers and engagement points to increase dwell time and boost shopper content. A prolonged lockdown has led to a build up of FOMO with consumers keen to ensure they don’t miss out on the next big thing and to make the most of chances to engage with their favourite brands. The growth of immersive theatre, pop up events and the bounce back of festival and concert attendance is testimony to this.
However, finding the right balance is key. Overly aggressive sampling or poor brand synergy can achieve the opposite effect and upset both visitors and existing retailers alike.
When done well, experiential activations can make the high street a more aesthetically pleasing place to be – not to mention social hubs more generally – which has encouraged consumers to go outside and enjoy the space they’ve been deprived of for some time.