At a time when retailers are suffering from the biggest fall in sales in more than a decade, according to the Confederation of British Industry, being unprepared in a crisis is simply not an option. With brand reputation being the key to keeping many companies afloat, retailers have to be able to quickly adapt and react when they come under threat from unforeseen circumstances. Particularly when they are already facing decline in customers, diminishing sales and possibility of store closure.
Despite these tough times on the high street, it is not all doom and gloom for those still standing. We’re living in an age where people are automatically turning to social media to express their thoughts, share their love for their favourite brands and report on what they’re seeing and hearing. Unlocking this plethora of real-time insights enables retailers to gain a more informed understanding of their customers’ opinions and concerns. In turn, they are able to better connect with their customers and form a complete picture of how best to drive brand loyalty.
Real-time insight can also be used to protect customers and support retailers on the ground, with people using social media to report incidents surfacing before the full story is broadcast by traditional news channels.
When major disruptions such as the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations hit the high street, causing hour-long roadblocks and an inability to access shops, as was the case this summer, it is imperative that a corporate communications team be able to react in real time to best protect their customers, employees and brand as a whole. But, this is easier said than done.
The reality for retail
Gone are the days where the high street was the bustling life and soul of a town. As reported by the Local Data Company, the closure of shops, restaurants, pubs and other retail stores in 2019 has been the biggest in at least five years, with a 37% rise in net closures compared with 2018.
As a result, it has never been more vital for companies to protect their brand reputation and use technology to drive loyalty and communication with consumers. For instance, a poorly managed crisis, such as the backlash Lush faced last summer following their ‘anti-spy cops’ campaign, can irreversibly break down customer trust and make a detrimental impact on profits.
With rental rates rising, customer footfall declining and people preferring to take to their laptops rather than the streets to shop, high street stores are already fighting their hardest battle to keep their doors open. If retailers fail to successfully manage these crises, it could be “make or break” for them.
When a severe disruption to ’business as usual’ occurs, it is the responsibility of the brands and their corporate risk team to not only communicate efficiently, but also protect their staff and their customers. In these high-pressure situations, there is a fine line to walk between success and failure.
When large crowds flood to the streets for demonstrations, or a terror scare hits a city centre, eliminating the access members of the public have to shops or the main high street, retail stores experience a dramatic decrease in footfall and sales. Furthermore, the nature of the demonstrations can sometimes mean that, in addition to the physical disruption, retailers are also at risk of their brand facing extreme criticism. With the use of real-time insights powered by multiple datasets, brands are able to react to these kinds of situations and protect their customers, employees and brand as a whole. In doing so, they aren’t left to play catch up or rectify the damage a crisis may have already caused.
Real-time insights, real brand protection
As high street businesses weather the storm, retailers can’t afford to be caught off guard by events such as Lush or Extinction Rebellion. A company’s brand reputation is priceless; and a consumer’s loyalty is driven in great part by customer satisfaction, which must be top of the agenda for retailers.
The solution to managing a crisis is plan for the unplanned, with precise and up-to-date insight integrated into your crisis response and risk strategy. It is here that real-time insights from multiple data sets play a key role.
Social media provides a wealth of information that can provide brands with an accurate overview of what’s being said, about whom and where, as well as events occurring around their retail sites. Taking advantage of these insights as events unfold enables retailers to stay in control and effectively manage a dynamic situation
There is no denying that having the right information, at the right time and getting it into the hands of the right people is crucial. Corporate risk and communications teams that exploit real-time insights give themselves the edge to seamlessly deliver accurate and succinct information to their employees, customers and partners. They can, therefore, quickly eliminate worries, uphold trust and successfully steer their brand through a crisis.
Tim Willis, director, EMEA corporate security, Dataminr