Opinion

How well do you really know your customers?

I had the privilege of taking part in several select industry events and expert discussions over the last few weeks. Again and again, my interlocutors engaged in lively discussions about the future of retail and the shopping center industry. Rightly so: The technologization and digitization of retail in the last decade has been a quantum leap.

BY REINHARD WINIWARTER

The concomitant developments, opportunities, and perspectives are without precedent in the more than 1000-year history of retail. Retail technologies that seemed unthinkable until recently have now profoundly changed the business and therefore the shopping center industry as well. This has naturally not gone unnoticed.

On the contrary: never before has the shopping center industry dealt so intensively with technological topics as it is today. New technologies not only directly impact the point of sale, but affect almost all business processes, center management, and even marketing. The seemingly endless flood of data that these new technologies provide us are the currency in customer relationship management and beyond.

But how do I get this information? How do I generate it? How do I analyze it and what conclusions can I draw from it? These are the questions that every center manager should now be asking. After all, data and their correct reading promise a veritable competitive advantage. The shopping center industry doesn’t exactly have an edge in data generation and analysis, however. In contrast to retailers, who have engaged particularly efficiently in data mining for quite some time, the shopping center industry has instead long practiced genteel restraint. This has perhaps been partly unintentional, since retailers’ willingness to share their wealth of data with partners has so far been limited. These limits now seem to be expanding, however.

At least there are quite a few exciting concepts in this regard. In particular, information and offers that are actually useful to customers will score points. For example, those who come to a certain mall frequently might get assigned a better parking spot by the parking guidance system as a regular customer bonus and/or be allocated discounts, other bonuses, or invitations to VIP events. Just as knowledge about customers is gaining importance, the significance of so-called “hard facts” seems to be declining. The parameters for successful shopping centers will no longer be measured on their size or the number of stores or parking spaces, but also on how well they actually know their customers.

To do justice to the growing importance of new retail technologies and always keep you up to date, we have devoted a magazine section entitled “Retail Technology” to the topic for you, which will be available from the upcoming issue.

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