The team have been chatting to us about their experiences in the past few weeks with their clients.

Marketing Account Manager Libby Zbaraska


At Shoppertainment we work with a range of centres across the UK. During our Zoom catch ups the team have been chatting to us about their experiences in the past few weeks with their clients.
In this account, Marketing Account Manager Libby Zbaraska talks more specifically about her regional and local centres which lie very much at the heart of their respective communities.

1. What makes working with a centre in the heart of a community so special?

The role of the shopping centre has changed significantly over the past 10 years and the next 10 years will be no exception. The Key thing about community centres is that they typically focus on supplying goods and services that people need. They deliver affordable and convenient retail, encouraging frequent visits and fitting perfectly into the everyday lives for millions of people.

During a time of crisis, such as the current one we face with COVID-19, our community centres have really had to step up to the mark to provide these essential goods and services. Our community centres continue to remain open to support local people and provide fresh foods, medicines, post offices and even launderettes for NHS workers and the wider community.

Despite facing several nonessential store closures, we have seen some incredible acts of kindness in store branches at our community centres making donations to local people. One example of this is at The Harpur Centre in Bedford where a local Poundland branch closed and donated all fresh food to The Harpur Centre team. The team then packaged up the items and gave them to the store managers at each of the essential retailers who have been working around the clock to support.

Upon temporary closure, a WHSmith branch collected all their Easter egg stock and delivered them to the local hospital trust to ensure that our frontline workers could enjoy a treat. A Centre team in Wythenshawe put in extra hours and sacrificed financial gain to organise free parking for all NHS staff and even removed the 3-hour maximum stay. Another example is a florist in Bedford who not only delivered flowers to an elderly lady but a bag of essentials too because she had made a comment over the phone about not being able to access any eggs.

Despite the difficult situation that everyone faces across the retail industry, where the landscape has changed so much that it is barely recognisable, we are constantly in awe of the hard work and genuine acts of kindness that we are seeing across the community centres we work with. A large number of heroes, not just our fantastic NHS staff, are still venturing out, still smiling and keeping the world ticking over to keep their community safe, despite potentially putting themselves at risk.,/span>

2. How have you had to alter your marketing/comms strategy in general – how does it make it community relevant?

Amid a crisis and in line with government advice on social distancing, it seems that people are turning towards social media for a sense of community.

We have placed a huge focus on sharing positive news stories such as acts of kindness from local people, the incredible #ClapForCarers and uplifting posts about past and future events to keep followers in high spirits. We have put in additional hours to find positive community news and shared the kind acts of local business and people. For example, Bedford Modern School donated safety equipment to the local hospital trust to help support NHS staff against and an empty space at The Forum in Wythenshawe was used as a location to pack and distribute free school meals to families who rely on them.

In line with guidance on social distancing, we have also altered our strategies to provide heightened remote experiences across our Centre’s social media channels and websites. This includes remote storytelling sessions, Superhero Academy, princess sing-alongs, digital Easter egg trails, fitness videos and downloadable home-schooling packs to name but a few. Providing free, easily accessible entertainment to followers is a great way to keep both engagement and morale high despite the difficult situation we face.

Of course, we are shifting and reworking strategies to introduce initiatives and drive people back into the Centres upon their reopening’s. But when this is all over, people will remember what we do now. This is a huge opportunity to be heard and start planning to speak more and more.

3. What do you think will make it different going forward?

We will continue to be community-builders and ensure that our Centres connect like-minded shoppers through events and services beyond the hard sell and offer support, advice, and play. By reworking our content strategy to further demonstrate these qualities, we have seen heightened engagement and have even seen people coming to the Centres for ‘a chat’ when feeling isolated. Although we hope this situation soon passes, we will continue to ensure that the Centres are not just a place to shop, but a community hub that is there to offer support to local people and organisations.

Libby finishes with a reminder that: ‘the meaningful encounters we have with our shoppers both now and in the future are vital to ensure long-term customer loyalty. These shoppers are extremely important to us and we are grateful for their continued commitment to their local centres.’

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