Malls and retail destinations have been through an interesting transition over the past few decades. 

By: Danielle Hall, Head of Marketing at Coniq

Probably the steepest learning curve was moving from the reliance on the ‘find great brands and the customers will come’ approach, to creating sophisticated social campaigns, building customer databases and laying the foundations for an ‘Omni-channel ecosystem’.  Retail destinations are often at the very forefront of customer experience and connection.  But what should those who manage them be considering and integrating when it comes to marketing trends? Try some or all of these: 

1. User-Generated Content (USG)

User-generated content has exploded in the social media world and is a critical component in encouraging shoppers to engage with the centre. Malls can really maximise key influencers and customers to truly engage with the centre at a relatively low cost by encouraging them to create mall marketing content themselves. Centres can inspire customers by creating a strategy around user stories through creative competitions and sharable images. Build and feature elements within the centre that are easily photographed and interactive elements to support social sharing. Think social first. A strong content marketing strategy must be driven by shopper personas and data, taking into account all of your channels, with some careful thought around using hashtags and keyword planning. A recent successful example of user-generated content was utilised by Apple who used user generated images on billboards to showcase the camera feature on the latest iPhone. 

2.  Social listening & response

Understanding your customers is of upmost importance for malls. And with so many inbound channels for customers to utilise, listening and replying to them has become even more crucial. Aside from being just good customer service practice, social listening can also provide content to make a much bigger impact. Another great example of social listening/response was done by Bodyform (Read this, then go here) in which they responded to a man’s Facebook complaint with a very funny tongue in cheek video from the CEO. Had they missed this comment, or not responded, it could have resulted in damaging their brand yet, instead, it actually made the company more human and memorable. Turning negatives into positives is great way to show you are really listening and adapting to your customers. Furthermore, it is also great to ask questions and show you are adapting to feedback through action. Utilise the elements within your centre to show you are listening, the digital screens, and marketing areas and try different content elements such as videos, infographics and animations to get your point across.

3. Mobile shopping in store

The rise of mobile usage within stores and centres is soaring with over 50% of shoppers reportedly now using their phone in store/centre. This has been supported by payment providers allowing for queue skipping purchases e.g. Starbucks mobile order and pay. Think about how you can utilise or adapt this within the centre. Shopping centre ‘apps’ are becoming increasingly more intelligent, with loyalty programs becoming more sophisticated and connected with retailers POS and even accessed through Apple Wallet. As user experience (UX) design itself becomes increasingly user-friendly, it is easy for shopping centres to provide a really exciting experience, particularly with integrations with loyalty and payments providers.

4. Personalisation

This is not a new concept, but an ongoing ambition for many malls.  It should be seen as one of the cornerstones to the customer experience.  Finding ways to utilise the data and create links, to provide the most personalised and seamless journey for each and every shopper. Centre owners and management teams have an array of ‘tools’ to help. Utilise beacons to welcome shoppers into the centres/stores, location services to know where they are and loyalty programs to provide relevant notifications and offers based on their spend data and preference. All this can be connected to a centralised customer relationship management (CRM) system, all in the name of personalisation. Back this up with an inspiring experience and malls are becoming more of a place to experience rather than just purchase goods.

5. Community-building

While the online world is trying to mimic the offline social experience that happens every day in malls, why not make the most of those opportunities and encourage people to share their real social shopping experiences online. Create an online community for all things that happen in the mall. What better advertisement for your mall than people talking about all the fun things they got up to when they visited?

Overriding all of these trends is the edict to remain customer centric:

At the recent ICSC Marketing Conference in Berlin, industry professionals were tasked with creating a mall for Amazon from scratch. This was an inspiring experience as it forced participants to forget what is or isn’t possible right now, and think of what would be the ideal experience from the shoppers’ perspective. As you can imagine the ideas we came up with were as fascinating as they were varied -from the design of the centre to using technology to greet each shopper into the centre and ‘tailored experiences’ based on responses to how they might feel or what they might enjoy, along with what they have previously purchased.  For example, they might receive recommendations on the perfect pair of shoes to go with the red dress they purchased last time they visited. Other ideas stemmed from incorporating online experiences (described as a kind of ‘Tinder for shopping centres’) – and the opportunity for a social experience to meet new shopping buddies who might share similar shopping interests.

Some these ideas may be a little wacky, but it is important to note that the shopper was at the heart of many innovative concepts discussed.  Couple that thinking with = an ambition to truly understand and activate CRM to enable great customer experiences and our industry has the ability to make the customer experience truly inspirational.

Editor’s Note:

Danielle Hall is Head of Marketing at Coniq and is a member of ICSC’s Retail Marketing Group.

Having previously worked in marketing on both the retail marketing side (Debenhams) and more recently within the retail tech space, Danielle brings a wealth of experience from both the online and offline marketing perspective. She enjoys contributing to raising the profile of marketing within the shopping centre space. You can read her recently published whitepaper on Shopping Centre Loyalty on behalf of Coniq here.