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Do shopping mall operators need a digital strategy?

As many retail venue operators (venues include malls, retail parks and mixed-used locations) respond to changing consumer behaviour, they need to reinvent themselves to remain relevant. In this new era of retail, this reinvention must be supported by a strong digital strategy to build lasting and meaningful relationships with customers.

Many retail venue operators have invested in apps or the latest shiny proptech, such as beacons, but technology on its own does not constitute a digital strategy. To be successful, operators must have a clear long-term vision, enabled by a coherent roadmap, that puts them on the path to digital readiness, and combines the best of the digital and physical worlds.

1 Customers are both retailers and shoppers

Firstly, and very importantly, venue operators now appreciate their customer is no longer just the retailer. They need to understand their shoppers, which means using the available data to comprehend current behaviours and predict future requirements. With 87% of consumers believing that companies should be tailoring experiences to them and 34% abandoning a business because this personalisation was lacking, there is no doubt that the shopper must be at the heart of any digital strategy.1

There is now a huge amount of data from a diverse range of sources, such as exit surveys, credit cards, footfall, CRM, social media, and mobile phone movement analytics, as well as traditional catchment data, which can be used to drive decision making. Using the correct blend of existing and supplementary consumer data to truly understand how your shoppers’ behaviour and requirements are changing is key to building a proposition that will align with their behaviour patterns in the years to come

2 The digital vision extends across the ecosystem

Secondly, a clear digital vision and ambition across all the parties in the ecosystem (including mall operators, retail tenants, investors and other stakeholders) needs to be formulated to ensure future initiatives and investments are aligned. Research shows that 88% of senior executives believe ecosystems require a shared vision among partners to be successful, and 63% believe that developing ecosystems allows businesses to innovate. Enabled by digital platforms, ecosystems could unlock $100 trillion of value for business and wider society over the next 10 years.

The complex and multi-stakeholder nature of the ecosystem creates opportunities as well as challenges for mall owners, but it’s vital that parties work together for the future success of the scheme.

3 New business models are required

Organisational readiness is the third requirement, and this means developing new business models that differ from the traditional landlord/asset manager models. Among business leaders, 76% of them agree that business models will be unrecognisable in the next five years.

New models will need new organisational structures and employee skill-sets as businesses transform into customer-centric, insight-led businesses with strong data analytics and customer insight teams. The key will be building teams with the agility to adapt.

Technology, data and analytics need to be used to their full potential, while ensuring they are aligned with and driving the overall strategy. As it stands, only 48% of retailers perceive themselves as a data-driven company, though 63% realise the importance of supporting their ecosystems with data and analytics.2

Ultimately, innovation is crucial here – adjusting to the new normal will require teams to work at speed through testing and iterative design. Mapping use cases to existing and new technology for specific scenarios, which enhance customer experience or improve operational efficiency, will help with the prioritisation of future investments.

While shopping malls may have challenges, it is clear from recent research that over half of consumers still value the physical store environment. Despite the arrival of the online behemoths and the consequential shift in purchase behaviour, only 17% of consumers are strictly digital-only consumers.This combined with the varied nature of the mall landscape offers owners a unique opportunity to use digital to bridge the physical and digital worlds, and do this in a way that will excite and engage current and future customers.

For further reading on this topic DOWNLOAD White Paper: The Future-Proofed Shopping Centre.

FIND OUT MORE about Javelin Group’s Shopping Venue Futures service line. 

(1), (3) Accenture Strategy 2017 Global Consumer Pulse Research
(2) Accenture Strategy 2018 Ecosystems Research Industry Report