How the pandemic has changed our shopping habits: The rise of the subscription box

If there’s one business model that has thrived as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s the subscription box. From beauty boxes to craft and recipe boxes there’s truly a subscription box for everyone.

According to Royal Mail’s recent UK Subscription Box Market report, the sector in the UK has grown rapidly and is set to be worth £1.8 billion by 2025.

The report shared statistics around the highest number of subscription boxes per adult in the UK in relation to area, and in third place after London and the North East, were subscription box shoppers in our area, the East Midlands, which averaged 4.6 boxes per person per year![1]

For many people, food subscription boxes specifically became something that they relied on during lockdown when eating out was a distant memory and going to the supermarket was a weekly mission fraught with sanitising stations and queues.

Despite restrictions being lifted, the seed of convenience has already been sewn in minds of the customers that gave recipe or food subscription boxes a go. The idea behind this B2C model is that long-term relationships are forged between buyer and seller built around convenience and quality.

Delivery boxes, specifically recipe boxes, are paving the way when it comes to food and packaging waste in several ways. Firstly, as they are pre-portioned you get the exact amount of ingredients needed for a dish so you don’t need to throw any excess food. Secondly, when ordering online, we tend to only order what we need rather than being tempted by extra items that we don’t really need in supermarkets which leads to waste.

It’s not just big companies like Hello Fresh and Gousto that are offering food subscription boxes, many smaller, independent businesses are delivering this business model and thriving.

We are very pleased to have started working with local business Kerry’s Fresh who have also benefitted from the rise of the subscription box.

Kerry’s Fresh have been operating in Nottingham since 1885 where they began selling livestock from a stall in Nottingham’s Old Market Square. Over the last 136 years, the business has gone from strength to strength and adapted to meet the need of its customers. Kerry’s Fresh adapted their offering in response to the thousands of orders they were receiving during the pandemic, creating an online shop and delivering fresh produce in Nottinghamshire and beyond.

Due to their success during lockdown, Kerry’s Fresh has employed more staff and partnered with DPD so that they can deliver their products nationwide.

Their range of products now includes dairy, meat, fish, bakery items, vegan friendly products and even a selection of craft ales and wine. They expanded their range to during lockdown to include customisable boxes for family favourite meals such as roast dinners and stir fries which have been an enormous success.

What does the future hold for the subscription box? The Royal Mail report suggest that the popularity of the subscription model will remain strong as it promotes high levels of loyalty. Fewer than a quarter (24%) of subscription box shoppers said they intended to cancel their subscriptions any time soon – convenience is king, after all.

[1] https://www.royalmailgroup.com/en/press-centre/press-releases/royal-mail/consumers-drive-growth-in-uk-subscription-box-market-as-popularity-soars/

Life after lockdown: How can we look after our mental health now and in the future?

After marking one year since the UK first entered lockdown, we wanted to explore one of the hidden consequences of the isolated lives we’ve all been leading over the past 12 months – the effect it has had on our mental health and wellbeing, and what steps we can take to ensure we continue to cope and thrive through challenging times.  

It has been reported that as many as ten million people in the UK now require new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Adrian James, predicting that the lasting effects of the pandemic on our mental wellbeing will be felt for years to come.  

As many of us faced uncertainty in 2020 – be it over our health, employment, living and working from home situations, or through concern for family and friends, the pandemic has understandably sparked a wave of national anxiety, as we grow increasingly eager to return to normality.  

But just as we had to adjust to lockdown life, we will also have to readjust once again when restrictions are finally lifted. Though not an officially recognised mental health condition (yet?)Post Pandemic Stress Disorder is a term being used already.  

Lockdown has presented us with some valuable learnings and opportunities tooin terms of revaluating our lives, identifying our priorities, putting things into perspective and setting new goals for ourselves 

So, what can we do to continue to remain strong through the remainder of lockdown, and get ready for returning to normality?  

We’ve shared our top recommendations to help with moving forward, to ensure we’re prepared.

Work-life balance 

As many workers made the transition from the office to home during lockdown, we adapted and developed new daily routines in order to continue our work from the safety of our homesA stressful time for businesses both large and small, as a flexible and fast response was required to keep companies running smoothly despite the upheaval that closing offices caused.  

Working remotely, though challenging, has revealed some of the qualities that are needed to do it effectivelyIt strips away all of the other ‘stuff’ that goes along with being in an office – the commute, what you choose to wear, the vending machine chit-chat, making sure you shout loudest about how busy you are – instead, it just boils down to the work, and the quality of work, that you achieve in a day.  

This change highlights the importance of a work-life balance, which has become a hot topic of discussion over the last few years, long before the pandemic hit.  

Learning how to switch off at the end of the day and not worry about all the things you have to do the next day, is a real skill – and one that is vitally important to your mental health.   

Little things like switching off your phone, or not checking your emails outside of office hours, will allow you to reclaim some valuable me-time that you can spend how you wish.  

Reach out to loved ones 

Lockdown life meant that many families were separated, unable to travel to visit one another and were reliant on telephone and Skype/Zoom calls to connect. 

The isolation we’ve all experienced from friends and family members can be used as motivation to reach out to those we haven’t spoken to in a while – as a lack of social interaction can remind us how important it fundamentally is to us, as humans. We are sociable creatures, so once lockdown ends, we will all be more grateful than ever to meet up with familiar faces once again.  

Since lockdown has helped to put aspects of our lives into perspective, it may also be the perfect time to reconnect with those you’ve lost touch with – school friends or estranged family members for example  or if you know anyone who has a history of mental health issues, reaching out with a simple message to see how they are doing can be a very powerful way of reminding them that they are remembered and heard.  

Make time for yourself 

Similar to creating a healthy work-life balance, making time for yourself will allow you to enjoy that all-important me-time.  

Instead of sitting on the couch scrolling through your phone or watching your favourite streaming platform, decide to spend your time in a slightly different way. Self-care comes in many forms, and really depends on what you enjoy doing, what relaxes you and what fills you with passion.  

If you have a hobby, or have something you’ve always wanted to get into, take steps to make it happen and spend some time on it each week. 

If you’ve always dreamed of painting – paint, if you’ve always wanted to try pottery – take steps towards making that a reality, whether it’s purchasing a beginner’s kit, or booking a class once they’re (hopefully) open later in the year.  

Set your own goals 

It might not be a new year, but the plan to relax lockdown restrictions over the spring and summer months feels like a reset – a chance to start again. With that in mind, setting goals for yourself for what you’d like to achieve professionally and personally will be a great way to stay focused, work hard and look after yourself.  

There is little point in creating too many goals, as you’re bound to set yourself up for disappointment (how many New Year’s resolutions do we really successfully stick to?) – instead, choose two or three things that you’d like to change or work towards.  

It can be small or large – go for a walk at least once this week, spend two hours studying an online coursetry a new recipe once a week, give up meat on Mondays – it’s up to you, but achieving your goals, no matter how small, is a very rewarding experience and helps you practice self-discipline. 

Celebrate your resilience 

The past twelve months may have taught you something new about yourself or your life – you might have realised you don’t enjoy your job; you need a new car or a new home, you want to start a family – whatever it is, using the time we’ve had in lockdown, staying at home and reflecting on what’s taking place in the world, may have helped to put some things into perspective for you. 

Remember – you’ve made it this far, faced uncertainty and anxiety and that shows true strength. What would the current you say to yourself 12 months ago, having lived through lockdown? Celebrate your resilience, and with hindsight and reflection, allow yourself to realise that you’re stronger than you think.

Useful charities, helplines and websites: 

  • Mind – providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.  
  • Samaritans  free confidential helpline, 24/7, offering support for anyone wishing to talk about problems or concerns they’re experiencing.  
  • Shout UK – free confidential texting service, 24/7, offering support for anyone in crisis. 
  • CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably  a leading movement against suicide, offering support and advice.  
  • The Mix – a leading support service for people under the age of 25 experiencing mental health problems.  
  • Rethink Mental Illness – helping people with mental health issues through local groups and services. 

Social media consumption post lockdown – what’s changed?

It’s been six months since the UK went into lockdown, and with so many people saving commuting time or being placed on Furlough Leave from their job, many of us had more free time than we have ever had before. The time spent on social media in the UK surged, with the average user spending four hours and two minutes a day scrolling through social media apps as a way to soak up free time.

Apps like Tik Tok are notorious for creating that casino slot machine lost time experience. It notably doesn’t have the time or a clock visible on the screen when using the app. Is this to ensure users lose track of time and continue to scroll through the infinite content? With increased screen time and saturation of content, many users are starting to pay close attention to how they are using social media platforms, to ensure that they are getting the most out of it without letting it take over their life.

What can brands learn from this and how can they ensure that their social media content is engaging and ethical?

Use trusted sources only

Users want credibility behind the posts and the content they are consuming. We all remember the misinformation and WhatsApp forwards that were circulated at the start of the pandemic – posts which stated that drinking lemon juice or taking hot baths could help fight off coronavirus – spread like wildfire across the internet. These were later ruled as false, misleading information. As a reaction to this, WhatsApp launched its ‘Coronavirus Information Hub’ in March 2020, which aimed to work alongside UNICEF UNDP, and WHO to tackle the spread of fake news and keep its global users informed about the pandemic.

Users want to know where the information they are consuming is coming from and whether they should believe it. When brands are posting content, it’s important they are from a trusted source or backed up by factual information as to not spread misinformation.

Take responsibility

Users are also taking time out from social media for mental health reasons. One of the more recent campaigns was the #digitaldetoxday on 5 September, where users announced to their followers that they would be taking 24 hours away from their screens to bring awareness to the way social media affects users’ mental health. The campaign was created by YouTuber, Zoe Sugg, mental health organisation #IAMWHOLE and Lush, to encourage users to reflect offline about how they live their lives online, and to introduce boundaries into their social media usage. Love Island presenter, Laura Whitmore, announced to her 1.2 million Instagram followers that she would be taking part in the campaign by taking a brief social media break to focus on herself.

The way users consume social media has changed dramatically over the last six months. Users are hyper-aware and expect truth and credibility when viewing posts. It is important that brands stay transparent when communicating with consumers and customers and are using social media platforms responsibly.

If you’d like help to ensure your social media channels remain engaging but credible, please get in touch with Jennie Holland PR.

The importance of nurturing client relationships

In the PR world, doing our job well requires knowing our clients’ brands very well.

And that is why building lasting client relationships is a key part of what we do – so we can understand businesses and those who they are selling to.

Besides entering into an engagement for a contract of work – the best client relationships require careful management and are sustained and nurtured through regular and close communication, transparency and going the extra mile.

Especially during these difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that clients are well looked after, as businesses face some of the toughest times in the current economic climate.

We’ve compiled our fundamentals for keeping and looking after important client relationships, to make sure clients are content and working relationships are the best that they can be.

Gain trust

Client trust is vital in a good working relationship and this can be built through open communication, agreeing realistic goals and delivering campaigns with tangible, solid results. We work with our clients to communicate as often as possible so that we can be sure we are meeting their needs and they can be safe in the knowledge that they are being listened to and that our work is of value. Also, being on hand as often as needed is important to talk and guide clients through situations and opportunities that may arise, offering professional input and solutions.

Be transparent

There is no point promising the world and under-delivering, as this will only spike distrust in a working relationship. In terms of deliverables, these need to be carefully considered and agreed  upon following meetings, in which the identification of targets and business needs takes place. It’s always fine to discuss ideas and to say what will and won’t work for a client. Certain ideas may be potentially more risqué and ground breaking, which is also great as it’s important to keep ideas fresh, however – it’s important to proceed with caution when handling any and all plans to ensure the best interests of the client are at the heart of any strategy. Transparency is of total importance from an agency point of view, to ensure that you negotiate and understand plans of action, which will stop you from entering into any unresolvable situations.

Go the extra mile

Clients notice the cherries on top, and any PR agency worth its salt will go above and beyond to meet and exceed client expectations – offering advice and ideas for added value regularly. Whether it’s offering proactive opportunities for media interviews when a particular relevant new topic crops up, or ensuring your brand is a trendsetter in it’s industry with out of the box ideas that pave the way in terms of leadership – there are always plenty of opportunities for news to place and your brand to get noticed – so it’s always worth going the extra mile, and clients will remember.

Be flexible

From budget, to deliverables – every client is different and a one size fits all approach is never the best option to suit varying client needs. Sitting down with a client and getting under the skin of their needs is the best way to devise a strategy that is bespoke to them – which meets the needs, requirements and target audiences of their services and products.

Whatever direction your business is going in, communicating your brand is so important, contact Jennie Holland PR to find out how we can help you, and to find out how to get the best out of your PR agency, read more here.

The importance of responding to new consumer buying habits

As a Nottingham-based PR agency, we are always looking at evolving consumer attitudes and buying habits, so we can ensure that our client content and marketing strategies work in reaching the right people and resonating with target markets.

Consumer buying habits are changing now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic, and consumers are seeking more from brands than just simply products or services.

We’ve rounded up some of the top things that businesses can be doing at the moment to go the extra mile in terms of PR, marketing and social media efforts.

Let people know about your CSR activity

COVID-19 has affected everyone in different ways, and people are looking at how brands have responded. Did you support the NHS or emergency services? For example, our client 200 Degrees donated 1,000 acetate sheets to create vital PPE, as featured in the Mirror.

Maybe you donated to a charity who was struggling? Here at Jennie Holland PR, we have been supporting local charity Footprints CEC, offering PR services for three months for free.

CSR has always been a key part of business, but more and more people are looking to see what businesses are doing ongoing, especially through times of hardship. If your business has done something good or charitable, you should be letting people know, shout about it on social media or tell press, as it further highlights and promotes the causes that you are trying to help.

Offer added value

Consumers are looking for more than just a single product or service now. They want to trust that what you are offering as a company is both high quality and of good value. Throughout lockdown many people have been looking to better themselves through online courses or reading.

Webinars and online panels are also increasingly becoming more popular, and taking part in them is a great way to position yourself as an industry leader, even if it’s just hosted internally.

Why not post top tips on your social media or a series of blogs on your website to advise and help customers?

Let consumers know your plans as soon as possible

The pandemic has shaken up how a lot of businesses operate, for better and for worse, with any initial year-long PR and marketing strategies likely to be out the window and last-minute reactive opportunities on the rise.

With changes happening so rapidly, it’s important to inform consumers of your plans and next steps as soon as you know them to ensure that you are keeping your customers regularly updated, especially on your social media channels. Long-term followers will be thrilled to see that your business is back up and running, and with things changing so rapidly, consumers will be checking social media frequently for the latest updates.

If you are reopening your business for takeaway services or even have plans to reopen safely to the public, tell consumers on social channels and by reaching out to media. 

Increase your online visibility

With more and more people spending time online, now is a good time to work on your SEO strategy to ensure your business is getting maximum visibility online. As well as providing website audits, we specialise in achieving ‘backlinks’ – these links act as a vote of confidence from other websites which works to increase your position on the search engine. Google has confirmed that backlinks are one of the top three ranking factors in SEO.

Whatever direction your business is going in, communication is key. From using social media to the advantage of your business, to regularly liaising with media, and updating your website with good, regular content – it’s important to get the right messages for your business out there.

Contact Jennie Holland PR today to find out how we can help you.