The use of apps has become a part of our daily lives, and shopping centers have used this trend as a leverage to develop and improve the guest experience.
Traditionally, shopping centers were designed to be a complex of stores with interconnecting walkways that enable customers to visit one building but have access to a number of retailers. Now, customers are looking for experiences beyond just shopping. To survive in the digital age, malls need to reinvent themselves and utilise mobile technology in order to compete with the online trade.
The shopping center visitors of tomorrow, are younger and tech-savvy. Shopping centers will need to have a highly advanced digital strategy which includes an app to compete with other centers.
Shopping centers increasingly rely on app technology to build loyalty with current footfall and entice new consumers to visit the center. Mobile apps are used in addition to the classic website with an attempt to merge the physical shopping center market with the digital world. The apps allow communication with the visitors and produce great data capture opportunities for future marketing campaigns.
The added value for the customer, is that most apps have maps and a shop finder search function to give directions to new visitors. They can also be used to inform visitors of upcoming events or promotions/discounts. Offering discounts and driving awareness of the center’s activities will drive footfall and build loyalty.
Having a successful mobile app requires commitment from the center management team. Apps require constant updates and new marketing material which will involve the center team working with individual tenants, encouraging them to engage and offer regular updates. However, the hard work does pay off, current apps have proven to promote a continuous increase in frequency and customer loyalty. In addition, a digital shopping list and a memory function for the car park offer additional value to the guest experience.
Furthermore, membership cards can be managed via the app and social networks such as Facebook can be integrated. This allows consumers to share their experience with friends, they can ask for advice on purchases and leave comments about their experience. An international, already very advanced app is one developed by the Westfield group. The app is active for their London and Stratford City centers and includes; an integrated route planner, social media connections and own QR code readers (quick response code). Also, together with Cellular, ECE has developed its “Love to Shop” App for iOS and Android, which offers benefits to both the customer and the tenants.
Whether you are buying clothes, tickets, games or holiday planning, there are smartphone apps for almost everything. Technology and online shopping do pose challenges to physical stores, but they also offer limitless opportunities to bring innovative new campaigns into shopping centers, enhancing the guest experience and overall asset value.
Sezen Guner, International Shopping Centers, Foundation Recruitment