Can influencers make stores feel safer?
In the past few years, with social media playing a larger role than ever in daily life in the U.S., retailers have taken to using the social clout of online influencers to make their stores seem like cool places to be. Now, however, with customers hesitant about shopping brick-and-mortar, one retailer is using influencers to address a unique pandemic-era concern — letting customers know the stores are safe.
Instagram influencer Wendy Nyugen, who has used her 1.1 million-follower social presence to promote chains like Macy’s and Banana Republic in the past, was recruited alongside a handful of other influencers by Nordstrom to promote the chain’s pandemic-era safety standards, according to The New York Times. Instagram posts in the campaign tout the stores’ enhanced sanitation measures, social distancing practices and the “peace of mind” with which shoppers can experience the stores, with images of the influencers masked up and visiting spacious segments of the stores without others around. Some also express the relief of the socially-distanced shopping experience as a break from full lockdown.
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I haven’t been out in months and this visit to @Nordstrom was so refreshing. Everyone was wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and incredibly kind. Even shoppers, strangers as we were, stopped and had meaningful conversations. I think we just all miss the human contact. And miss seeing pretty shoes and bags too 😍😍😍 #nordstrom #sponsored
This new role for influencers comes as retailers have had to rethink how they use social media personalities to deliver an appropriate message for the pandemic. The end of March saw a dip in the use of influencers as the aspirational content they tend to post — like pictures from lavish vacations — began to strike followers as shallow in the context of a lethal, global threat.
Customer hesitance to return to brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. remains a significant factor determining how retailers conduct business. While some states and cities hard hit by the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic — like New York City — have cautiously pursued reopening, growing COVID-19 case counts nationwide and concerns about an impending second wave have some customers thinking twice about the safety of in-person shopping.
A study released by Qubit in early August indicates that fewer than 30 percent of customers say they feel comfortable returning to stores, with 36.1 percent saying they will return in two months and nearly 19 percent saying they won’t return to shopping in-store until 2021.
- Nordstrom Uses Influencers to Promote Safety and Draw Anxious Shoppers – The New York Times
- Can influencers connect during a pandemic? – RetailWire
- Qubit’s New Consumer Survey Findings Confirm Rapid Shift in Shopper Behavior and Potential Impact on Holiday Shopping in 2020 – PR Web
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will social media influencers be able to assuage fears and attract hesitant shoppers back to Nordstrom and other retailers with the promise of safer shopping? Is this a good use of social media influence and should retailers try to pull people back into stores right now, or should they be primarily focused on their online offerings?