I have realised over the years that most people are no longer satisfied with simply buying goods and services. They expect engaging experiences and want shopping to be fun.
Entertainment is playing an important role in the customer journey through concepts like gamification and pop-up shops for instance, but it seems that not everyone is taking advantage of this.
Almost everywhere in the world shopping centres are currently revamping or downsizing to survive.
Their future may not include stores as we know today, but increasingly more pop-up retailers showcasing their products or services and the use of mobile and digital technology to enhance the in-store experience.
A good example of what seems to be the right approach for pop up shops was what Kellogg’s did in London in September this year.
The brand featured a pop up shop under the scope of a campaign that offered consumers a bag of Special K cracker crisps in exchange for a tweet to #tweetshop.
This simple campaign encouraged people to interact with the brand in a positive way. At the end of the day positive interactions and sales are all that matters.
Pop-up stores are a great way to test different markets, launch new products, showcase a collection, increase brand awareness and entertain. The property market needs to be more flexible to allow retailers to innovate.
There are five reasons why shopping centres should be innovating and leading by example.
1. It’s all about the branding.
Brands are still far from offering a seamless multichannel experience and according to a recent Econsultancy survey, only 4% of shoppers never use the internet to look for information about offline purchases.
Q. Do you research purchases on the internet before buying from a local store?
One of the most remarkable initiatives to improve the multichannel experience is the endless aisle concept designed by the traditional bricks and mortar department store Debenhams.
The objective is to increase fulfilment rates through an additional stockroom where Debenhams can sell online stock coming directly from 36 big stores.
When it comes to etailers, the trend we’re seeing is a gradual increase in their offline presence with services such as click and collect.
For instance, Amazon has removed the barrier of offline accessibility when it started to provide a variety of delivery and return options to customers through 5000 conveniently located pick up centres nationwide.
I believe that shopping centres are in the right position to create a branding experience that joins the best of both worlds (online and offline) allowing customers to gain absolute control of all the 'bricks and clicks'.
This means that shopping centres need a new proposition, a multichannel proposition.
2. Anchor stores are not that profitable anymore to shopping centres
An anchor store is usually one of the largest, most important and prominent stores in a shopping centre, a key brand capable of generating awareness and footfall, with the magnetic pull to entice and attract visitors.
For example, Meadowhall, a regional shopping centre, has nine anchor stores including House of Fraser and M&S. Westfield has five anchor stores in total: Debenhams, Next, M&S, House of Fraser and Waitrose.
To say that anchor brands are not that profitable any more to shopping centres is probably a big assumption but I guess that when the first shopping centres were developed in the 1950’s reality was quite different and anchor brands were needed for the financial stability of the underlying projects.
Anchor stores were seen as the reason why a customer would go often to a specific centre. With online growth and the low differentiation between the anchor brands in the shopping centres this isn't necessarily true anymore.
Being an anchor store means that rents are heavily discounted and in some cases may even mean receiving money from the shopping centre to remain open. What is the point of a big discount in a fantastic but empty shopping centre?
Would these typical anchor brands still open in shopping centres if they weren’t considered anchor brands? If the answer is no, then would the shopping centre lose any significant business because of that?
3. Online and offline are merging
The suggestions made in Econsultancy’s recent report, “How the internet can save the high street”, should also be adopted by shopping centres.
Shopping centres should use their brand on the web to drive customers into stores and help their tenants improve the in-store experience through online as well.
Shopping centres should create marketplaces where brands trade products and services and where the physical spaces in the shopping centre work as a place to find entertainment and a smart showcase of the products, thus combining everything to create a seamless experience for consumers.
When I think about marketplaces I think about Amazon. Wouldn’t it be great to have a Westfield marketplace competing directly with Amazon UK?
4.The best business models are agile
To remain competitive in a multichannel world, retailers need to find a solution to showcase the products in the physical world and to sell online while creating a seamless experience across all touch points.
Pop-up stores may be a good strategy even for independent retailers, since these stores require less investment and commitment. Marketplaces under the umbrella of the shopping centre brand can help to outperform results, however, no one is really doing it.
Now is the time to move from highly linear and rigid ways to more dynamic and agile approaches. A good business model must be flexible and offer good solutions to all involved.
Think about Shutl for instance. With Shutl integrated in a transactional website the consumer can expect to get everything within as little as 90 minutes or choose a one hour window for same day delivery.
This is an agile business model and the exact type of proposition that companies should be looking for – fast, relevant and consumer centric.
5. Theme parks are fun. Shopping centres should be fun too
Shopping centres have spawned a new wave of consumers looking for places to shop and play.
While having fun, shoppers may be very open to unplanned purchases of novel goods and services, providing the opportunity for spontaneous purchases.
Bluewater in Kent is one of the shopping centres making a real effort to create a leisurely shopping market in the UK. According to Bluewater, their average guest spends around three hours in their shopping centre and 98% of the guests surveyed in exit polls say their visit was highly enjoyable.
Events include wedding fairs, The Baby & Toddler show, BBC good food and coming soon live sports to help maintain high footfall levels into the evening.
The online experience both in store and on the web needs to be improved and as far as I know there is no 'online marketplace strategy' on the roadmap, but this is one example worth keeping an eye on.
All multichannel retailers know that getting an integrated view of how customers are shopping across multiple channels is key and how important it is to get a clear understanding of how data systems should be integrated.
Are shopping centres looking at this in any way? Are there any other examples worth mentioning? What are your thoughts on an online marketplace strategy for shopping centres?
Should shopping centres support retailers by allowing more pop up stores and in what way would this help high street retailers?