Opinion

Starting a new conversation with marketing

The retail property industry is missing a trick when it comes to marketing. Ironically, marketing has an image problem.

BY ZOE ELLIS-MOORE

That’s a result of both the industry’s misperception of what marketing is and the value it can deliver and the marketing profession’s own shortcomings in making a robust case for what marketing can do and why it’s increasingly at the heart of successful retail property strategies.

The industry has suffered historically from underinvestment in marketing. That’s largely as a result of the challenge involved in attributing clear financial metrics to marketing spending. Retail property is hardly alone in this. For many industries, capturing marketing’s ROI is notoriously elusive. Without those “hard numbers” easily to hand, marketing is largely seen as more art than science. Marketers frequently have to defend and justify their budgets. Their activity is often only visible in tactical promotions like events, websites, adverts, etc.

Consequently, discussions with the business tend to revolve around what a marketing effort will cost, not the value it will deliver, even though it’s the latter that should be the only topic of conversation. By way of illustration, I was responsible for the marketing of the UK’s first Business Improvement District in Kingston-upon-Thames, London. That involved a detailed five-year action plan that drew on the full repertoire of strategic marketing activities—from analysis to implementation. The result? Reversing a downward trend and an increased footfall level of two million. The point is: Marketing was at the heart of that success. The retail property industry needs to take note and begin integrating marketers at the very heart of its plans for the future.

That’s going to be more and more important as the demands on the retail property industry to create compelling experiences and destinations in their own right increase. From tenant mix to the delivery of customer service, marketing has an important role to play in understanding and designing the retail experiences that digitally-savvy and increasingly demanding consumers want.

The responsibility to secure that central position rests with both the industry and the marketing profession. To do that requires a new approach and toolset. Classically, product marketing revolved around what’s known as the four P’s – product, price, promotion, and place – and, in a later evolution, service marketing around the seven P’s. While these have been augmented over the years, there has not been an equivalent set of measures designed specifically for the retail property industry.

That is, until now. I’ve developed the 12 P’s[1] of retail property marketing to achieve two principal aims. First, to demonstrate the diverse mix of marketing skills, insights, and activities that contribute to successful retail properties. Second, to give marketers a framework to support productive discussions with the business that highlight the value that marketing brings to every aspect of retail property development and operation.

It’s a timely development. With marketing very much a “frontier” career in property, with few senior careers to set the example, it’s up to today’s professionals to blaze the trail. With a tool kit like the twelve Ps, we should be able to switch the focus of conversations from cost to value and demonstrate marketing’s essential contribution.

[1] 12 P’s of Retail Property Marketing: Performance – Planning, Productivity, and Price; Proposition – Promotion, Processes, and People; Property – Place, Physical Environment, and Product.

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