Next Generation Retail Experience - Insights from MAPIC 2014
In the wake of online retail, there have been fears that the writing is on the wall for the traditional mall. But after visiting MAPIC, a leading international retail property market conference in Cannes, we came away with many insights from global thought leaders to indicate the contrary.
We returned home with much food for thought, but the one common theme was undoubtedly the importance of creating a rich in-store experience and merging it seamlessly with an online experience. Online retail is here to stay, which means physical retailers absolutely need to use it to their advantage, rather than attempt to swim upstream.
Here are a few of the international trends that are worth considering:
OMNI Channel is the seamless melding of the benefits of in-store (brick and mortar) shopping with the information-rich experience of online shopping. Statistics reveal that around 48% of consumers actually begin their search for an item online, usually researching online and then purchasing the item at the physical store. By recognising the 'Web Room' approach (as opposed to a physical 'showroom'), you can encourage people to do their research and selection online, and then follow through by inviting and incentivising them in-store to close the sale. This is an opportunity where you can leverage technology to enhance the sales process.
API's have been used for years, but now - more than ever - there is an emphasis on using this technology to really benefit the consumer as it can serve up a personalised experience for each individual. The power of this technology lies in the fact that you can convert anonymous visitors into customers with whom you have a long-term relationship. This will become increasingly valuable in the retail environment. The more you learn about a shopper, the more you can enhance their experience.
When it comes to social media, retailers should be spending more time listening instead of merely pushing out content. When they communicate with your brand, customers are expecting to be heard and responded to. So instead of just sending out tweets and posts, try to be responsive and proactive by paying attention to what your consumers are looking for.
Karl Kalcher from MindFolio said that "Consumers have become stimulation junkies". Try to find new ways to satisfy the appetite of your target market through alternative stimuli. For instance, in a Singapore mall, they created a 'Selfie Room' where customers were invited to take selfies as they tried on the merchandise. The space allows customers to feel more attractive through clever use of mirrors and lighting. This is just one innovative way in which to bridge the gap between the online social and physical retail space.
John Hadden of MH Alshaya co said that 'The malls that are going to become the malls of the future are the ones that can give a full day experience', like The Dubai Mall which has integrated an aquarium into the shopping centre itself. It all comes back to listening to your customer in order to discover what really makes them tick, and then providing the right experience to satisfy their needs.
Rethinking Anchor Tenants
Currently, you may define your anchor tenants as those who occupy the greatest floor space. But adapting with the times, this term could very well shift to define a tenant who brings a specific experience to the mall, attracting customers for different reasons. Remember that it's important to think differently to satisfy those stimulation junkies.
Get the right technology in your corner
Make sure you capture every opportunity to secure a potential sale. Why not create a space in the store where customers are invited to hop online to complete the sale of a product that might be out of stock, or do additional research.
Always consider how specific technology might enhance the consumer experience. Instead of using tech for tech's sake, plan how you might bridge the gap between the virtual and real worlds. For instance, you could create an app that remembers a customer's product preferences from their home surfing session. When they arrive in-store, they could receive information about their favourite product… where it is on the shelf, the colour variations, sizing etc. Perhaps they could even receive a voucher to be redeemed at the till to further incentivise the sale.
From iBeacon to Wifi and Augmented Reality, there are many interesting technologies which are already being used in the retail space. The Head of Strategic Planning & Social Media at Publicis K1 et Publicis Shopper, Mathieu Genelle said 'Don't be afraid to test the technology before jumping in 100%'. The technologies that you ultimately commit to need to enhance the customer experience.
The buzz words of a few years ago are now becoming common practice. These technologies, which were previously in the realm of early adopters, are now becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. So the good news is, the future for shopping centres is indeed bright… you just need to be willing to evolve.