Empty13: how can retail brands maintain consumer interest?

In the first of a series of articles as part of The Drum's retail review, we speak to agencies operating in the retail marketing space to gain an insight into how retail brands can maintain consumer interest during Empty13, with no major events or inspirations.

With next year's events calendar looking pretty sparse, Empty13 is already a concern for brands seeking inspiration, prompting the suggestion that marketers will have to return to the drawing board.But how will this affect retail? How can retailers ensure they maintain consumer interest? What's clear is that whether it's engaging more with consumers online via social media, or giving consumers reason to visit brick and mortar stores, retail brands need to think outside the box in 2013.Ricky Neault, Chapter head, ChapterBy the end of this year the colours red, white and blue might make most of us feel a little giddy. What we’ll be looking for is authenticity – and brands that stand for more than the things they piggy-back. In a relatively empty year (although we’re probably all looking forward to One Direction’s national tour), the true test of retail brands will ensue. What do they stand for and why should I spend my money with them? It really is time to harness your brand’s values and create a deeper, longer-term relationship with your customers.Technology is going to play a huge part in this. There’s a lot of talk about social media influencing our buying habits – and the platforms we engage with are ever-changing and at an incredible rate. Pinterest is now responsible for driving more sales to retail websites in the US than Facebook, having really only exploded onto the scene this year. So, ultimately the retailer’s job is to continue to learn new ways of connecting with its customers and harnessing new technology as it becomes mainstream.James Willoughby, director, INITIALS MarketingRetailers should avoid getting caught up in the hype. Whilst the Olympics and ongoing Paralympics have been deemed a huge success to the UK, particularly in London, this has not translated into strong retail sales uplifts. In fact data released recently by the British Retail Consortium show that sales across the board were down 0.4 per cent year on year. Admittedly August is traditionally slow trading period, but despite this, it goes to show that big events are not always the catalysts for good business. Opening ceremonies, fantastic stadia and gold medals aside, one of the defining legacies to be left by London 2012 will be the great spirit and social goodwill generated here in the UK. Offering great value, giving consumers reasons to visit (in the form of retailtainment), ensuring first class levels of service and having multi-platform sales channels working in synergy are important factors for any retailer going forward. However, capitalising on the sense of community and pride that the Olympics have so unexpectedly and so positively brought, is where I feel they can get the edge with initiatives in 2013.Phil Marshall, director, Shoot the MoonInitial results show that this year’s events have had minimal impact on the retail landscape and for a number of retailers have merely provided themes for sales promotion. With a tough economic backdrop, retailers need to continue to innovate and deliver identifiable value for money. This relationship goes way beyond the principle transition and exchange of tangible goods/services, and increasingly involves an evaluation of how the brand aligns with the consumers’ outlook on life and priorities in general.Sue Benson, managing director, The Market CreativeWe mustn't forget that 2012 has been an exceptional year for the UK – a jubilee and an Olympic Games is simply unprecedented – and while many retailers clearly got a boost from the events, for many more it was business as usual. We may look towards a rather sparse 2013 with a little less excitement, but this is the time that retailers should go back to basics and really focus on what customers want - time to listen, observe and inspire. However, the sense of fun and occasion should not be lost on retailers – 2013 really is time for shoptainment to be leveraged.Steve Sowden, managing partner, IntermarketingRetail performance around the Olympics has failed to impress. With many retailers pinning their hopes on a spike in activity that didn’t materialise, surely 2013 needs to be about good old-fashioned shopkeeping. A focus on product quality, appropriate pricing and above all, an amazing customer experience will be the difference between success and failure.

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