Credit: MK Illumination
Feature | Management

It’s All About Connection

Marketing a location in 2019 is no longer about being the biggest retail space in a region, having a diverse mix of sought-after tenants, and handing out a few flyers. In order to stand out from the crowd, cope with rapid societal changes and expectations, and drive footfall, retail properties need to offer more than experiences: they need to create opportunities for people to connect. MK Illumination discusses how to forge connections and create a powerful location marketing strategy using light, design, and innovative thinking.

For many years, MK Illumination has talked about the importance of creating experiences to attract visitors and engage them with retail spaces. This has been crucial in helping people think of retail properties as not onlyt places to shop, but as destinations in their own right. Research has continually shown that we live in the age of “the experience”, and offering new and exciting experiences certainly plays a role in visitor attraction and retention. What’s becoming obvious, however, is that not all “experiences” are equal. A truly successful experience is one that resonates with people by creating a strong relationship between a retail space, its audience, and the experience itself.

That means that to take your location marketing to the next level, the most powerful tool in your toolbox is your ability to create connections. Connect people to your brand, to a cause, to a community, to each other, or to themselves, and the result will be an emotive association with your retail space that will act as a magnet and be a catalyst for user-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing that money simply can’t buy.

The question creates: how can you craft a campaign that creates opportunities for your audience to form meaningful connections? A connection has to mean something to people on an emotional level otherwise they simply won’t engage. One of the quickest ways to trigger an emotive response is with light, through the eyes. With that in mind, here are a few examples of how light and design, tailored to a space and the unique experience on offer, can help you market your location in a whole new way.

Create Interactive Experiences That Connect Groups of People

Although sharing experiences online isn’t going to go away, people’s need to share and connect with others in real time is stronger than ever. Shanghai’s Ruihong Tiandi shopping complex –a true innovator when it comes to creating light-filled experiences that bring people together–understands this only too well. That was why they unveiled a festive lighting and decorative display in 2018 that invited visitors to “connect” on multiple levels.

Their “Zootopia” installations featured indoor and outdoor lighting displays that brought the wonder of the natural world to city dwellers as well as outdoor displays that encouraged active participation, like the pressing of a button to animate light sculptures. People were able to connect with nature without leaving the city, alone or with friends, and share their experiences both in person and online through social media channels.

In an outdoor square, a “Tree of Hope” adorned with 1,000 origami-style cranes, each of which contained a light point, invited people to engage in a completely different way. As visitors entered the square to take a break from shopping, the cranes began to glow and emit sounds. The colors became brighter and the sounds became louder as more people approached the tree and as they circled the trunk, light and music rippled through the tree’s branches. The result was an immersive, multi-sensory experience that connected people to friends, family, and other shoppers as they explored the novel effects. The “Tree of Hope” stood tall from December to February to celebrate both Christmas and Chinese New Year, connecting people to a cultural celebration, too.

Use the Ruihong Tiandi story to: inspire you to connect people to your brand, to nature, to friends and family online, with family and friends in person, with other shoppers, and with cultural values or traditional celebrations.

Credit: MK Illumination

Connect to the “Zeitgeist” and Turn Your Retail Property into a Community Champion

The global awareness of environmental challenges is on the rise, and reducing plastic is a goal that individuals, organizations, and cities are setting for themselves, often with pressure from the public. Zagreb Arena in Croatia picked up on the public’s opinion about plastic and people’s desire not only for change, but to be part of the change. As a result, the center designed a campaign to engage local residents, raise awareness about a topical subject, create a unique festive lighting display, and give back to the local community. Using traditional media, digital channels, and in-house marketing, the shopping center invited people in the region to collect discarded PET plastic bottles and deliver them to the center. Four thousand of the bottles were then turned into a 12-meter Eco Tree that glittered with energy-efficient LED lights and was topped with a symbolic “black pearl of hope”. The tree was recycled at the end of the season, with the proceeds from the recycled PET bottles being donated to a local charity.

This clever campaign not only generated extensive media coverage for Zagreb Arena across traditional and new media channels, but it connected the brand and the center to the local community, to a cause close the hearts of their audience, and it connected individuals and organizations who came together to make their symbolic tree a reality.

Use Zagreb Arena’s story to: inspire you to uncover what’s important in your region and involve your community in creating a unique and highly visible display that brings people together, connects your brand to your community, and connects your brand values to those of your audience.

Credit: MK Illumination

Connect People across Generations with an Event That Makes Your Space Extraordinary

Cities and public spaces have long been wise to the idea of using festivals and light to attract visitors, but shopping centers and retail spaces have been slower to do so, which is a missed opportunity. Creating an extraordinary event at your retail property–like a Light Trail, for examplehas the potential to actively drive footfall, bring multi-generational families and friends together, and direct visitor flow throughout your space while keeping people in place for longer periods of time.

Before you dismiss this as impractical, consider the success of “Haldenzauber” in Hückelhoven’s Millicher Halde. Millicher Halde is not a retail space and doesn’t boast the diversity of shops, restaurants, and amenities that retail spaces offer. During the winter, the popular green space is abandoned in favor of the city’s festive lights and Christmas market. In 2018, that all changed: MK Illumination, in cooperation with Hückelhoven’s city marketing team, designed and installed a Light Park over an 8-week period during the winter months, and the results were remarkable: 45,000 paying visitors, extensive coverage via traditional media channels as well as online channels through user-generated social media content and blogs posted by influencers, and the creation of a new visitor destination, which was actively promoted by local businesses and by word-of-mouth.

Imagine what could happen if you applied this idea to your retail location and created a temporary attraction that combines light and design, tailored to your space and your audience, and that complements your tenants and retail mix. The phrase “visitor magnet” comes to mind.

Use Hückelhoven’s “Haldenzauber” story to: inspire you to create a unique attraction at any time of the year using light and design that connects people to your brand, controls visitor flow throughout your retail space, and connects families and friends across generations, bringing them together to spend quality time in your space.

Credit: MK Illumination

Connect with People’s Emotions–and Their Memories

Scientific studies suggest that when people have a powerful emotional response to something, they tend to create longer-lasting memories of the event. Although the precise reason for this has yet to be discovered, retail spaces can revolutionize their location marketing with campaigns that connect with people’s emotions, linking their memories with a brand or property.

In Sweden, Väla Centrum’s incredibly successful “Year of Love” campaign combined market innovation and innovative marketing to engage the local media, tap into people’s emotions, and make it clear that the center wasn’t simply a place to shop. As part of the year-long campaign, they launched a competition that was designed to give one lucky entrant a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime prize: a fully-paid wedding that would take place at the center itself.

The center’s space, though beautiful, didn’t possess the intimate atmosphere of a wedding chapel, so a light-filled pavilion was custom-designed by MK Illumination Sweden to create an elegant and romantic setting for the ceremony within the center itself. The campaign resonated with romantics of all ages, 115 of whom submitted their love stories in the forms of poems, stories, and videos. It also resonated with traditional and digital media outlets that covered all aspects of the story and continued to publish content long after the winning couple had exchanged rings. The story was fantastic and filled with human interest. Not only did one couple win the all-expenses paid wedding, but the center also offered “drop-in” weddings on the same day, allowing other hopeful couples to “tie the knot” in their shimmering pavilion. A total of 17 couples were married on that day.

The campaign connected couples with each other, as well as their families, and with delighted center visitors who thoroughly enjoyed being part of the day-long celebrations. Everyone loves a wedding, and the idea that Väla Centrum is so much more than “just a shopping center” is now firmly embedded in the minds of the local community.

Use Väla Centrum’s story as inspiration to: create campaigns that trigger emotion, that connect friends and families, and that position your retail space as a place where memories are made.

Credit: With the kind permission of Väla Centrum

Connect People. Literally.

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to forget about the value of human touch and physical connection. Creating an experiential encounter that encourages people to physically “connect” reminds people of the importance of family and friends, and it can trigger a rush of so called “happy hormones” that people will forever associate with your space.

At Denmark’s Tivoli Friheden, a giant outdoor Christmas tree changed color and broke into song when two or more people held hands and touched panels on either side of the tree. In the UK’s Trinity Centre, a kiss–from a platonic peck on the cheek to an amorous smooch–exchanged beneath the branches of its enormous indoor “Kissing Tree” made the tree’s lights change from warm white to a romantic red. Both resulted in much hand-holding and kissing respectively, as well as positive stories in the local press. Trinity Centre also received a boost online thanks to increased social media visibility – kissers were encouraged to take photos and post them online with the hashtag #PuckerUpLeeds for the chance to win £1,000 in a giveaway.

Use these stories to inspire you to: combine light and interactivity to literally “connect” people, generate extensive local media coverage, and associate your retail space with good memories.

Credit: MK Illumination

Creating Connections Means Knowing Your Space and Your Audience

Creating a connection can inspire brand loyalty, drive footfall, engage the media, and transform the way people use your space–but only if it’s done well. To make the most of your location marketing, it’s important to take your retail space and your target audience into account so that the result is both original and relevant. MK Illumination has been creating extraordinary experiences with light and design for over 23 years, helping retail properties worldwide connect and engage with people in new and exciting ways. If you want to revolutionize your location marketing, their worldwide team has ideas, insights, and solutions to make that happen.

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