In this edition’s Retail Insight, Anthony Tattum, Founder & CEO of award-winning marketing agency Big Cat discusses how retail and leisure brands and operators can thrive in the current global and regional climate.

We’re almost half way through 2022. We were promised an end to economic turmoil post COVID. But consumers are feeling the cold bite of price increases even as the UK is thawing out.

People are trading up their 2021 staycations for beach holidays abroad. They are also choosing to move house as a cheaper alternative to extending and improving their current home. There’s a bun fight for the best talent and loyal customers, adding further pressure to costs and prices.

We live in times of abundance. Consumers have so much choice. Similarly with talent… there are more jobs than brilliant people to fill them. The big tech companies are even competing for our customers’ attention and disposable income with multi-billion dollar movie and box set budgets.

What does this mean to the retail and leisure industry and how can we navigate it and thrive?

In an article I wrote for RLI way back in 2020 I wrote about Survival of the Fastest in relation to adapting business models in reaction to the global pandemic. I believe now we’re back in the good old fashion survival of the fittest. There will be a thinning of the herd throughout the next year or two as the perfect storm of price and tax rises, wage pressure and war
in Ukraine.

With less consumers and colleagues to go around its crucial that brands try to attract more than their fair share. Well, luckily, marketing and behavioural scientists have given us some amazing tools to attract attention and interest. But before I get into that let’s talk about purpose.

I believe it’s our duty; as brands, entrepreneurs, business owners, senior managers, to make a positive contribution to the planet, to people as well as make a healthy profit. We can and should be looking for opportunities to emit less carbon, to support our local communities, and really care for our employees.

I’ve researched, written and spoken at length about purpose and profit. These goals aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact having purpose leads to profit for an increasing number of successful brands.

Reasons not to buy
Product differentiation is incredibly hard these days. I have many clients whose main point of difference is their positive impact on society, or the environment, or both. There’s an inexorable rise in ethical consumers and talent that will choose to work with brands that do good in the world.

If you want to be a better business check out the Better Business Act or even become a B Corp. Renowned marketing scientist, Byron Sharp said ‘do not give consumers a reason not to buy or choose your brand’. To avoid this potential own goal, ensure your business aligns the long-term interest of people, planet and profit.

Mass marketing is alive and well
Sharp also says (and proves through his work and research) brands should speak to as many potential buyers as they can, all the time. Practically speaking, this means never turning off your marketing activity, even if it goes down to a simmer from time to time.

Brands largely compete on mental and physical availability. By this I mean the bun fight for attention we talked about earlier. Being more easily brought to mind or remembered than your competition; and then being easy to find, buy or get to. Most other things, as business owners or senior managers are obsessed with, like product features, menus, experiences, stores, just aren’t as important.

Influencing consumer behaviour
Scarcity and novelty are behavioural biases that brands can lean into to influence and motivate customer preference.

Special events, limited time offers, daily specials, seasonal promotions… in fact introducing new ideas and events every day, every week, every month will give you a reason to go to market, do promotion, and talk to customers. As discussed earlier you should market to all of your customers all of the time, even light and very occasional users of your product or service.

That’s what is so great about your website and social media. Even if you don’t have huge marketing budgets you can share all of your rich and varied activities. If you do have budget to advertise, and you have a B2C product or experience then advertising on social media can be an extremely efficient way of raising awareness of your brand and special events. Particularly if you use the newer platforms or apps like TikTok or Instagram Highlights and Reels.

The truth about social proof
Attracting crowds to special events has another benefit too, because again of our innate behavioural biases. You’ve heard the phrase ‘people attract people’? Well there’s truth and science behind it. There’s a well-established behavioural bias called social proof. That is the idea that popular things become popular still because as humans we’re social animals and trust in things other people are doing.

A queue of people will often attract others to join because of the promise of something interesting or tasty to be found at the front. If you can fill an event you will attract attention from passers-by, people who weren’t specifically coming to your bar, shop, stand, or experience.

We have a tough year ahead but as Archie Norman, Chairman of Marks & Spencer said recently, the current level of inflation is unlikely to last more than a year. So stay lean, stay fit (fitter than your competition) and use canny marketing and behavioural science to attract more than your fair share of talent and customer.