Restaurants and retailers in the U.S. are beginning to reopen after weeks of stay-at-home orders. Getting the country back to business will hardly be a uniform process, though.

Specific decisions about when and how to open — and even which businesses can be open — will be decided on a community-by-community basis. And even when state, county, or city officials permit businesses to reopen, consumers in each community and neighborhood may very well respond differently.

For example, even though restaurants in Tampa, Florida, were officially allowed to open at 25% capacity on May 4, Valassis foot traffic data indicates that visitation to Tampa restaurants started to rebound as early as April 4. By May 11, the restaurant business was back to 70% of its pre-coronavirus levels and steadily climbing.

However, that wasn’t true of all parts of the city. The eastern and central sections of the city saw higher levels of foot traffic, but consumers in the northeast neighborhoods and those living in pockets throughout the metro area tended to stay at home.

And that’s just one city.

When you look at the nation as a whole, a real patchwork quilt of varying degrees of comeback becomes apparent. Places like California and New York City have been slower to reopen, showing a low percentage of recovered visitation, especially compared with the Southeastern states that have opened more quickly. But in much of the nation — even in areas that have only recently opened for business — the variance within those states is quite extensive.

Safely Getting Your Consumers Back

Of course, returning to business involves more than just opening the doors to allow patrons into your store or restaurant. It also means getting your message out in an incredibly competitive marketplace. But during a period of reset and recovery — such as we are in now — marketing activity has to be sensitive to several factors:

  • Timing: When is each location allowed to open?
  • Messaging: What is the right tone to be appropriately aware and cautious?
  • Focus: To what end and through which channels should your message be sent?

A uniform, national advertising strategy is unlikely to work and will lead to wasted ad spending, not to mention potentially confusing your audience. Further, the tactics you use to get back to business cannot simply be a continuation of pre-crisis tactics — it’s important they be tailored to account for what’s permitted within each community.

Fine-Tuning Based on Consumer Behavior

Businesses looking to engage consumers now must have a keen focus on messaging to get their tone right. They must be able to understand and act on hyperlocal differences to know how and when it is best to engage. Hyperlocal advertising based on each neighborhood’s behavior has always been a smarter play, even in simpler times. Matching the message and media to the buying and interest signals coming from the marketplace ensures that advertising is relevant and effective.

In addition to demographic and current interest data, the ideal engagement strategy in this environment will also include an understanding of the likelihood that your audience will visit relevant stores and locations. A best-in-class solution should enable your advertising program to pivot messaging, creative, and even channels automatically as the signals coming from each neighborhood change over time.

For example:

To learn how the Valassis Consumer Graph™ connects online and offline data to help you know the right consumers to engage for more accurate and relevant campaigns, visit: