07th Oct, 2021

What’s Working for Retailers in 2021: Language Changes Since the Start of the Pandemic

people shopping in a retail establishment

The words you use to engage customers matter. That’s why Persado is always measuring and gathering insights into how customers respond to the language we generate for brands. One major trend: just how much that language has changed for retailers during these strange pandemic times.

The language of Attention was in. Then out. And now in again. But different.

In the first months of the pandemic, there was a radical shift away from the tried and true approaches that usually work well. Using language tied to Attention to engage the customer seemed tone-deaf at a time when people were stuck at home and scared. Techniques like ALL CAPS or asterisks around a word like **coupon** — big winners in normal times — didn’t perform at all from March through May of 2020.

Then the mood changed. Beginning in the summer of 2020, Attention techniques were trending up again. Maybe the promotion language made people feel like they had something to look forward to? Or perhaps the housewares, outdoor, and athleisure booms of the late summer made customers ready for a S-A-L-E. Whatever the reason, retailers that got the message right reaped the benefits.

As retailers look toward the 2021 holiday season, the question will be how to use but not over-use Attention-grabbers. You have a **coupon** may be just enough, while A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N is too much.

And speaking of the holiday season … maybe don’t mention it.

Seasonality has been the bedrock of every retail campaign for years. In fact, in 2019, some of the most effective holiday campaigns we saw emphasized winter and the holiday season. In the midst of the first pandemic holiday season, the opposite happened – customers had a lukewarm reaction to seasonally-themed promotions. It could be that during the “most wonderful time of the year” people weren’t feeling that festive.

Major alert: the performance of seasonally-themed campaigns have continued to trend down during 2021. From merely meh in 2020, they now tend to lose. Why? Our best guess is that people are tired and burned out; they don’t want to be reminded that time is passing without an end to unprecedented times in sight.

Our take: Seasonality alone isn’t going to inspire customers to action until the pandemic ends.

So what should retailers do to create campaigns that stand out during the second pandemic holiday shopping season?

Persado answers that question in a new eBook: Easy is the Word. Click here to download your copy now.


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