Henrie W. Kötter, Chief Investment Officer, ECE Projektmanagement. Image: ECE
Opinion

Investing in the future

For many years, shopping centers have constituted a popular and successful asset class that – provided the assets have been well managed – have offered stable returns and high value stability.

By Henrie W. Kötter

In addition, in spite of all the changes in the fields of both tenants and consumers, investments in shopping centers will remain attractive in the medium and long term if investments in the existing assets are made in the right areas and in a systematic, well-thought-out manner.

There is one thing that unites all successful companies: They always enjoy long-term success when they reinvest a proportion of their revenues in further development, thus, ensuring their futures. This principle is especially true for shopping centers, whose success – as operator-run properties – is based on active asset management and continuous development.

The crucial factor involves getting the focus right and investing in center service offerings that are relevant from a customer’s perspective. Investors and operators must systematically and individually analyze each shopping center. In other words, resources should not be invested in random measures or in a scattershot manner to a single asset or even across the entire portfolio, but they should be allocated to measures that have the greatest effect. It is important to not only decide what to do, but also to determine, from a cost-benefit perspective, what should not be done.

This requires a methodical approach, which must serve as the essential basis for the development of strategies and a set of measures for the development of a center’s service offering. With the aim of maximizing impact from a consumer’s perspective, it is important to look beyond the assets themselves – at the overall customer journey – in order to provide a seamless service experience for visitors. A customer’s decision to spend the day at a particular place is not usually made at that location, but much earlier – rendering the beginning of the customer experience much earlier than when a center’s threshold is crossed.

At ECE, we have launched the “At Your Service” initiative as a holistic approach to boost the customer experience. Through the systematic analysis of the entire customer journey and through the use of the results of this analysis, a tailored concept for each center and investor is established. This provides for targeted investments and enhanced focus on the relevant services individually.

Future-proofing shopping centers also entails a consistent digitalization approach in view of processes, products, and services. In addition to the digitalization of operational handling schemes and communication with customers and partners, good operators invest in smart retail solutions to digitally expand the brick-and-mortar offerings of their malls. At ECE, the digital mall pilot project showcases the availability of individual products of participating retailers on the center’s website. This helps visitors plan their shopping trips, select and reserve products in advance, pick them up locally, or have them sent directly from the center to their homes.

Successful destinations provide customers with a seamless service experience along all touchpoints of the customer journey, and they show their ability to repeatedly adapt the experience to the latest requirements. Systematically targeted investments in your mall – in the digitalization of assets, in an attractive service offering, and in the quality of stay – are a prerequisite for and an investment in future success.

 

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