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Welcome back! Or stay at home. What message are you really giving your clients?

I don’t profess to be a brand expert, I spent six years marketing for the legal sector in the past but my role at Cargo isn’t to do with creatives or digital marketing. Instead, this article is an observation from someone who has been working from home, managing home schooling and looking on as we enter a new normal…

Over the past few weeks, retail has reopened their doors to people like me, and I’ve noticed the experience that they’re creating and thought about what businesses like ourselves can take from this as we start to operate fully again.

It started with shopper’s guilt

When lockdown began back in March, we were all bombarded with the message to stay at home, save lives and protect our NHS. It’s what had to be done to get to where we are today, and regardless of political belief, it was a message you couldn’t escape. As part of this, we were told only to go out for essential items and shop once per week (try doing that as a family of 5!) and supermarkets only allowed one member of the household in at one time.

Many people expressed their opinions on this, some judging those for buying ‘non-essential’ items and certain stores were criticized for opening their doors at all. This all led to ‘shopper’s guilt’, even when shopping for essential items, we felt we had to justify buying a tin of fence paint with our bread and milk.

Fast forward a few weeks and things started to change, we start to see friends and family and non-essential shops start to reopen but the guilt remains. Although we’re allowed to shop freely between stores, mixed messages can make us feel like they don’t want us there.

Striking the balance between safety and positivity

There have been some differences in how shops now look – arrows and signs tell us which way to go – but one big difference is how experience varies from store to store.

A number of larger chains have clearly been training their staff on welcoming their customers back with phrases like ‘we’ve missed you’ adorning their windows. The staff couldn’t be more helpful on our entry, they politely point out the hand sanitiser stations and inform us of the right direction to take around the shop. Sales staff are friendlier than ever when at the cash desk, making more of an effort to create a conversation with us. However, not all businesses have taken this approach, there are many places where the first thing you see is a sign stating one of the following: ‘Only 2 persons allowed in at any one time’, ‘Please respect social distancing rules’, ‘Please knock before entering’ or ‘Appointments only’.

Understandably these are the rules that must be followed to keep us all safe, but could the message be portrayed in a more positive way? It’s as though some places are saying ‘We are open, but it’s a hassle you being here’ as opposed to the ‘Welcome back, it’s good to see you’ message from other places. They’re not saying anything wrong – they’re just not saying it in the right way.

Lessons learnt from retail

I think what we’ve seen in retail can be easily translated into all businesses. Whilst government guidance and caution remain, many companies like us have spent the last few weeks adapting to the situation. Businesses have been through the most challenging period they may ever face, and we’ve reflected, pivoted and learnt.

Business priorities, people and office environments may have changed but one thing remains the same – communication with customers and clients is key. The way people feel when they come back into contact with you will affect their overall experience with the company. Being able to incite positivity is bigger than client care – it’s providing a feeling that’s long-lasting.

So, as you write your monthly newsletter, update social channels or send out that direct mail campaign announcing your reopening, does your message welcome people back with open arms?


If your business needs support with brand messaging or development, get in touch with us.