Differentiation during COVID-19

Now is the time to stand out in retail and hospitality

How digital ordering, digital signage, marketing and enhancing your operations can help your business thrive through COVID-19

It’s uncertain whether the world’s retail and hospitality businesses have ever faced a challenge on quite the scale that they are at this time. Even before the pandemic struck, these markets were navigating heavy challenges. High street retailers suffered heavy competition from internet based companies, while restaurants fought against rising rents, worker and supply chain costs. 

Now, every challenge dealt with previously has been intensified by COVID-19. In the UK, we may not be in a full lockdown (at the time of writing) but the threat of another one hangs over us like a dark cloud. True, stores and eateries are open, but consumers aren’t yet spending at the level they did previously. The UK has entered a recession; social distancing is limiting the capacity of venues, and even without that, many remain at home, anxious about exposure to the virus.

It’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, this period offers a unique opportunity to stand out, engage with customers and elevate your existing brand. Now is the time to stand apart and entice people into stores and dining rooms, but how?

Marketing and communication

At a time when so many brands are cutting their marketing budgets, those that take an opposite path and invest in relevant marketing activities stand apart from the competition. 

As there’s less marketing noise filling people’s ears and inboxes, it’s the best time to reach out to target customers and relay your company’s messages. This is a chance for businesses to access audiences like never before! 

While using quirky tactics such as McDonalds used with its revamped logo (pulling apart its golden arches) grabs attention, it doesn’t measurably convert to custom. Focusing on personalisation and implementing marketing activities to evoke gratitude from customers, however, does. 

It’s never been more important to make use of the customer data your business has at its fingertips – and, if it is lacking in data, find ways to grow its database. If a brand can find out how often, what and when an individual or customer segment places an order, it can start to create personal ‘thank you’ offers and rewards. By offering out ‘thanks’ now, customers will be grateful and remain loyal, returning to spend, as we move beyond the pandemic. 


When it comes to standing out from the crowd, nothing could be bolder or more visual than the use of digital signage. Practical, modern, relevant and in line with customer expectations following the outbreak of COVID-19, digital screens help brands engage customers and enable simple brand management. Whether they’re used for displaying food menus, or as a sales tool in a retail environment, digital signage are ideal for promoting and upselling items and generating higher margins for businesses – something that’s vital right now. 

In the hospitality industry, specifically, ordering technology is increasingly being used to propel brands above the competition. Of the many digital ordering options now available, it is ‘order and pay at table’ that trendsetting brands are most keen to employ. 

The digital ordering technology facilitates a contactless customer experience on-site. Customers can call up the food venue’s menu on their mobile device (by scanning a QR code, entering a URL, downloading an app or tapping and NFC code), enter a table number, place their order and pay, all without server interaction. As well as benefiting the customer experience, it greatly simplifies in-store operations, improves ordering accuracy and encourages repeat visits. 

What’s more – and relevant to our point about marketing and communications – the technology generates valuable customer insights which can be applied to personalised marketing programmes.


With strict rules in place around social distancing, numbers of people on-site at a business and sanitisation, a change in operations is necessary for most. We’ve discussed how digital ordering enhances operational efficiency and reduces contamination touchpoints, but there are many other actions a business can take to enhance operations at this time. 

digital ordering helps covid social distancing

Employ a system to limit the number of customers on-site. That might be as simple as a socially distanced queue to enter the building, or could involve taking pre-bookings and allocating strict time slots. Ensure staff are well-equipped with pagers and two-way radios so that management communications are immediate; use radios to manage security personnel, check stock, or request the attendance of other members of staff. 

Use floor and wall signage to encourage distancing and put a one-way-system in place around shop floors. This, alongside easily-accessed anti-bacterial gels, plus frequent, visible cleaning all add to the message that your brand takes the safety of customers seriously. 

Right now, reassurance that your business is taking health and safety seriously is needed to build their trust and gain their custom. There are many companies being slack in their COVID-19 operations; this will be noted and remembered by their customers. You can stand out from the crowd by offering slick, streamlined on-site processes that put customers at ease and make them confident in returning frequently to spend with your brand. 

Theravada is an expert in customer experience and brand enhancement. We offer brands the technologies they need to stand out from the crowd thrive during this difficult period. Contact us to speak to one of our experienced consultants about how we can help your brand, now.