Investment in innovation has been key to driving Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s (URW) position in the market. Over the last two years, the company has partnered with Toolbox Group, a leader in proptech and placemaking solutions, to develop Mallcomm, the new retail community operations and engagement platform. URW innovates with external partners through its open innovation platform URW Link, created in 2015, which sponsor proofs of concept with new solutions in its shopping centers and, if relevant, deploy them throughout its portfolio. Mallcomm technology was adopted by URW under the name “Connect” as the application through which their center teams communicate with retailers and with each other, and through which operations would be more efficiently managed, covering all areas of running a shopping centre. Examples of the types of functionality include management of operational tasks, auditing, sales collection, CRM, retailer-to-retailer offers, news, feedback and job vacancies. Since an initial pilot in July 2015 at Parquesur in Madrid, Connect has now been deployed in 48 centers across 11 countries including Netherlands, France, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the UK, with more planned. More than 65,300 users have joined the Connect community across URW portfolio. The platform connects center teams with more than 8,300 retailers, and more than 90% of all tenants are actively using the app as their main form of communication with center management teams.
What was the main reason for implementing Connect?
Alexis Veron, Head of Shopping Center Management Quality and Services at URW, says: “We were looking for a solution to facilitate the communication and interactions between the shopping center management and the retailers. With Connect we saw the potential to create a community and build a retailer-center relationship that would improve life in the center and the service provided to our customers.”
Veron explains: “We now have a much improved two-way communication with retailers that allows us to collect essential feedback. The technology has helped to streamline processes and improve efficiency. Connect also supports retailers’ businesses through features such as staff-to-staff discounts and job vacancies in the captive retail communities – over 50,000 retail staff across the portfolio. Connect is more than just an app, it has made a major contribution to both understanding how our centers are running and engaging in conversations with retailers.”
And what has this collaboration meant for Toolbox Group, Mallcomm and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield? Michelle Buxton, Toolbox Group Managing Director, says: “Mallcomm was already a proven platform making a difference in retail communities of all sizes, but in order to grow and develop we needed a like-minded partner with scale that would support our continuous product development. Mallcomm is a grown-up not a start-up but we never cease to develop the product, and working jointly with URW, both sides are inspired to keep Mallcomm the leading PropTech platform.” From URW’s view, Veron adds: “Both sides see the benefits of a truly innovative and collaborative partnership. It was a way for URW to always adapt the solution following the request of our centers, build a powerful tool for our team and rely on an value-added partnership.”