Maintaining Engagement with Consumers and Driving Sales in Lockdown

Today at Retail Expo, Caroline Baldwin – Editor at Essential Retail – led us through a discussion with some big brands on how they are engaging with their customers, what works and what doesn’t.

Joining Caroline are:

  • Nicola Thompson – COO at
  • Robin Phillips – CEO at The Watch Shop
  • Beth Horn – Director, Head of Industry, Retail and Ecommerce at Facebook

Meaningfully engaging with consumers is not straightforward at the best of times, but the complexity of emotions in lockdown means it is even more of a minefield. So how do we do it well and what are some examples of success stories?

Consumer behaviour has changed a lot, with social media use increasing 70%, people seem to be more curious and open to shopping from new brands maybe through word of mount recommendations. The public are also more adaptive and flexible to how they shop with people using technology in new ways.

We have all seen and ignored countless emails from brands over the past few weeks beginning with “We are in unprecedented times…”. Clearly this dry and formal style of engagement doesn’t cut it for trendy brands such as If you take one thing away from this post let it be this:

Be authentic.

What consumers are responding to is content that they feel is authentic. Content that is to some extent gritty. Gymshark, always a disruptor, changed their Instagram handle to Homeshark “cause some of you need reminding to stay home” and it generated the more interactions than any other post before or since.

The Watch Shop has been posting videos of how their warehouse staff are keeping fit. has been showing how to make forts out of boxes for their customers’ children. Now is not the time for the hard sell, it is time to try to genuinely help your customers with what is on their mind right now. When are able to buy from you again they will remember you for it much more than a 20% off voucher.

The marketing mix will also shift. Spending on DOOH will have taken a hit while the rise in social media advertising will accelerate.

And what about in-store marketing?

Personally I believe the more authentic content that consumers find genuinely interesting or funny will be used here too. We have spoken about promoting a local feel and allowing store staff to put up their own (manager approved) content, maybe using or wearing a product themselves, will promote a much stronger customer response than the usual professional shots.

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