ACROSS: How has the relevance of brick-and-mortar retail changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?
MARKUS PORVARI: 2020 has been a major turning point for the retail real estate industry. Even the most conservative industry leaders have now realized how much the brick-and-mortar retail sector is under threat. However, that does not mean that the end of brick-and-mortar retail is imminent. After being socially isolated, consumers are eager to meet other people and experience things together, and they will soon be able to enjoy the personal touch of customer service again. What has changed is the way physical and digital consumer journeys interconnect with each other. That connection will only grow stronger and will be key to success in the future.
ACROSS: In order to prevent the irretrievable loss of customers to online shopping, what mistakes must landlords now avoid?
PORVARI: There are numerous possibilities. You just have to play your cards right. We believe that direct competition in the field of e-commerce is a very risky battle. Earning a profit from the online sales of tenants has proven to be quite challenging lately. Landlords have assets at their disposal that e-commerce lacks. They offer a unique mix of services and experience under a single, local roof. By continuing to invest in the development of both digital and physical customer journeys, landlords are building the competence required for the future. However, they need to bear in mind that future competitors will increasingly include players such as Amazon and Google as well as the online channels developed by retailers themselves.
ACROSS: Why is it so important to know how many people visit a center – as well as when and where?
PORVARI: In short, the whole essence of future business will involve getting the right kind of message to the right people at the right time. In the case of shopping centers, that will be done both online and on the ground. In order to be successful, you have to have a deeper understanding of your visitors. You also need to be able to share this insight with your tenants. That will enable you to plan high-volume campaigns together with your counterparts. As a result, your tenants will be both satisfied and successful.
ACROSS: What technology is available to that end?
PORVARI: The easiest way to start is to count the flow of people at the entrances of your location. Things become more complicated when you try to determine how many people are moving throughout the premises and in each store. There are a number different technologies available for that purpose, from beacons to mobile tracking solutions. To become more competitive, you need to be able to understand such information in relation to your commercial performance. Moreover, you need to be able to compare that relationship with your digital interaction: websites, search engines, wayfinding, and loyalty solutions. For each of these interfaces, a great deal of advanced technology already exists.
If you implement all of this in the daily operation of your shopping centers, you have to be able to simultaneously manage “the big picture”. HyperIn has more than a decade of experience in this field and provides easy-to-use shopping center management solutions that allow you to track and understand the commercial performance of both digital and physical consumer journeys.
ACROSS: What expertise and services does HyperIn offer in this context?
PORVARI: Since our inception over 12 years ago, we have built a platform that connects landlords with tenants and consumers. At the same time, we have helped to implement the latest innovations for consumers, such as mobile indoor navigation, without having to install any hardware on site. By doing so, we have helped our customers improve their digital consumer journeys in the most efficient way. An ecosystem has grown in the background, which allows us to connect any third-party applications to our platform. This experience has given us an understanding of many of the challenges that retail real estate currently faces and enables us to offer many solutions to solve them.
ACROSS: Could you give us a good example of multi-channel communication?
PORVARI: In hyperlocal (closed) environments, such as shopping centers, as opposed to pure online environments, there is huge potential to provide consumers with accurate product and service information and to derive large amounts of data. Shopping centers can deliver the next generation of suggestive keyword search capabilities, for example, using Augmented Reality (AR) based indoor wayfinding. This completely new way of shopping can be enriched by profile-based advertising and information about the local community. Digital ways to move around within the physical location can also be used online for the same purpose, but without setting foot inside the center. That would enable shopping centers to be digitally open 24 hours a day, even during these challenging times of Covid-19.
At the moment, there is a huge demand in the marketplace for the connection of digital and physical environments, and that is something we can deliver in a way that is unlike what has been done before in order to help the retail real estate industry prevail now and compete with e-commerce in the future. There is so much more to come, so stay tuned.