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During Covid Shutdowns, Brands Target Audiences with High Intent

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Everything is different.

The challenges that brick-and-mortar retailers face when attempting to attract shoppers to physical stores have been a retail mainstay for years, but Covid shutdowns are adding an entirely new dimension to the struggle.

As the next wave of statewide shutdowns begins, foot traffic has started leveling off at retailers in many parts of the country. According to new data from the location intelligence platform Ubimo, the uptick in foot traffic that retailers in metropolitan cities saw in May is beginning to peter out. Although cities like Dallas and Houston have still been showing signs of people out and about, consumers in other hard-hit areas are pulling back.

With consumer behavior changing quickly, and so much about the future in flux, retailers are working harder to get a complete understanding of their shoppers as they go about their journeys between the digital and physical worlds, says Ubimo Co-Founder Ran Ben-Yair. Strategies specifically designed to target high-intent shoppers are moving into the forefront, as large retail brands come to terms with the unprecedented challenges of this new reality.

“While value may have increased in importance, loyalty may have decreased, and product availability isn’t a given,” Ben-Yair says.

Getting in front of audiences with high intent has become a top priority for retail brands, but finding the best way to do that is something that takes some finesse. Targeting consumers with high intent means sometimes having to change media plans on the fly, or changing messaging based on current needs. If retailers are running low on specific product categories or running out of inventory in a particular store, they need to be able to adjust their plans accordingly, says Ben-Yair.

At Ubimo, Ben-Yair says his team is seeing a “huge revolution” in how retailers view their stores in terms of revenue generation. Pre-Covid, incremental revenue wasn’t typically a main consideration for retailers with brick-and-mortar locations. They were focusing more on conversions. Now, things have changed. Retailers are relying more on data-driven channels and tools like indoor digital screens, and that’s making it easier to track metrics like incremental revenue.

“This provides an opportunity for incremental revenue generation in a two-fold fashion,” he says. “First, brands understand the value of getting in front of high-intent shoppers in the moment of decision. Also, the ability to be a part of the full customer journey increases [with] the number of items and spend per shopping cart.”

Targeting consumers directly is a part of the equation that retailers can’t afford to ignore right now. Ben-Yair says location data can help retailers plan, execute, and attribute their campaigns successfully.

“Location data can empower organizations to unlock new layers of knowledge, creating insights with actionable next steps that enable the development and execution of smarter media plans,” he says.

One of the primary ways that brands are getting in front of audiences with high intent is by establishing inventory online. Giving online shoppers access to information about inventory at their local stores has become even more important during the pandemic, when people are taking fewer trips out of the house.

“During this crisis, when consumers are leaving the house, they’re doing it with a specific reason in mind. They’re heading to the store for food or toiletries, items they need more urgently than others,” Ben-Yair says.

Ubimo’s data team found that out-of-home (OOH) ads were able to reach six in 10 shoppers, even at the height of the pandemic. The data also points to a decrease in consumer loyalty to retailers. If retailers hope to win that loyalty back, they’ll need to implement things like online inventory tools so shoppers can see what’s available before they leave home.

“Retailers need to be able to change their media plans, and even their messages, at the drop of a hat,” Ben-Yair says. “They need to understand and leverage the benefits of programmatic to the fullest extent to drive successful campaigns and maximize return on ad spend within a climate that can be volatile.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.