By Ben Chesser
The ACROSS Advisory Board discussion in Cannes showed that consumers are still happy to spend money, but that their reasons for visiting shopping centers have changed dramatically. Shopping centers are no longer just places to make purchases, but have evolved into versatile, community- centric places that focus on nurturing relationships and creating memorable experiences
As a result, it has become more important than ever for retail destinations to re-educate customers on the changes happening in the retail space and how technological advancements can breathe new life into physical retail spaces.
The Forgotten Essence of Physical Retail: For too long, brick-and-mortar retailers have neglected the fundamental reasons for shopping in-store and have forgotten to emphasize the unique value proposition they offer. The allure of tangible products, testing in real life, the joy of discovery, and the social aspect of shopping have been overshadowed by the ease and convenience of clicking online. So, why shop in-store?
- Experiential Retail:
- Physical stores can offer an immersive and sensory experience that online platforms cannot replicate. Incorporating interactive displays, virtual reality (VR) experiences and hands-on product demonstrations can captivate customers and make their visits memorable.
- Community Engagement:
- Establishing a sense of community within shopping centers can be a powerful motivator. Events, workshops, education, and local partnerships can transform a shopping trip into a social and cultural experience, fostering deeper connections between the consumer and the center or brand.
- Personalized Services:
- Utilizing first-party data and customer insights, retailers can offer personalized services, enhancing the shopping experience of their customers. Tailored recommendations, exclusive discounts, and personalized in-store assistance create a sense of individualized attention that online platforms struggle to match.
- Environmental Responsibility:
- With increasing awareness of environmental issues, consumers are drawn to brands that prioritize sustainability. Retailers can communicate their commitment to eco-friendly practices, offering a chance to contribute to a larger cause through their purchases. Equally, shopping destinations can incentivize customers to test sustainable products, earn rewards for traveling to the center via public transport, or even take part in eco-friendly activities on-site, such as seed planting.
Communicate with Customers:
- Digital Marketing Campaigns:
- Leverage social media, email campaigns, and loyalty platforms to communicate the unique experiences and benefits offered by physical stores. Grab the attention of your customers using engaging content to showcase mall events, promote specialized loyalty campaigns, or capture behind-the-scenes glimpses of new products. These digital marketing strategies can generate excitement and curiosity among your shoppers and encourage them to visit the center.
- In-Store Technology:
- Integrate technology within the store environment to enhance communication and streamline the shopper experience. Interactive screens, augmented reality (AR) displays, and QR code promotions can bridge the gap between the physical and digital realms, providing customers with the convenience they desire, along with additional incentives or rewards.
- Loyalty Programs:
- Implementing robust loyalty programs encourages repeat visits. Offering customers unique rewards, exclusive access to events or personalized shopping experiences can transform occasional shoppers into loyal customers. There are many ways that loyalty programs can incentivize in-store visits, exemplified by Coniq’s client Apsys, who introduced a gamification campaign at their Beaugrenelle center in Paris. The game enabled shoppers to search the physical mall for hidden QR codes that gave them access to exclusive rewards. As a result, the center saw 341% more visits in October 2023 compared to the previous year.
The revival of brick-and-mortar retail requires a concerted effort to remind shoppers of the unique and valuable experiences physical stores offer. Shopping centers increasingly recognize the importance of embracing mixed-use retail spaces that offer customers more than just a place to make purchases. That way, retailers can once again make shopping centers community-centric destinations, offering unique value that continues to surprise and delight as the industry evolves.
Ben Chesser is the CEO of Coniq, and a Member of the ACROSS Advisory Board.