Real Estate

Digital Marketing: Shopping Centres Property Management Companies Always Make The Difference

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<p>The use of digital marketing platforms in shopping centres is increasingly common.</p><p>Online shopping is growing faster and faster, and several surveys have shown, globally, that there is an increasing propensity for shopping centre customers to shop online.</p><p>Although the number of transactions still made offline is still enormous, it is strategic for the shopping centre sector to manage this trend properly.</p><p>On the one hand, we have the customers who &lsquo;demand&rsquo; more personalised and engaging information. But, on the other hand, we have the shopping centre operators (tenants), who do not always appreciate or understand traditional marketing strategies due to a lack of objective indicators to share.</p><p>In short, it is not easy to have indicators to measure the effectiveness of such tools. And even where there are solutions of this kind, the manager is faced with the dilemma of entrusting a large part of the advertising budget to a single marketing agency because few can provide adequate tools to evaluate the marketing actions they promote.</p><p>A digital marketing platform is an &ldquo;open-source system&rdquo;, as it can contain heterogeneous initiatives offered by a plurality of marketing agencies. Therefore, it leaves more freedom to the mall operator itself.</p><p>But how does a digital marketing platform work? We are talking about a tool that &ldquo;exploits&rdquo; a habit that is now &ldquo;normal&rdquo; in the purchasing process of customers (online purchasing), transforming it into greater loyalty and increasing visits (frequency and overall number) within the shopping centre. The greater the potential of the shopping centre, the higher the return on investment.</p><p>The most advanced digital platforms typically comprise three modules linking all &lsquo;players&rsquo; in the shopping centre:</p><ol><li>Tenants</li><li>Customers</li><li>Management Office / Asset Manager (representing the Landlord).</li></ol><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The digital platform finds its expression (customer side) in a dedicated app. Just download it (easier said than done) to access the rewarding system linked to purchases and simple attendance at the shopping centre.</p><p>From the same app, the customer receives:</p><ul><li>Commercial offers</li><li>Coupons to be redeemed</li><li>Shopping centre news</li><li>Shop information</li><li>Information on marketing events</li><li>Dedicated services</li><li>Catalogues with news and offers</li><li>Loyalty programmes with the indication of scores earned and redeemable prizes</li></ul><p>In short, the shopping centre creates an interactive and customisable customer&rsquo;s experience.</p><p>Digital marketing solutions are varied; some focus on loyalty programmes, and others track customer spending inside and outside the shopping centre (including online purchases made for a particular brand).</p><p>Of course, there is no reason why different platforms cannot be linked together, but they are still helpful for acquiring strategic information.</p><p>Digital technology and tools commonly applied to e-commerce purchases in physical shops make it possible to understand customers&rsquo; preferences to personalise communication.</p><p>This solution creates the conditions for adjusting marketing strategies to objective and reliable &ldquo;key indicators&rdquo;, a significant advantage in a competitive market such as shopping centres.</p><p>Landlords, asset managers, property managers are now united by the need to understand what has changed in customers&rsquo; buying and moving habits. The pandemic has shuffled the cards and even accelerated some trends already evident before this challenging period. Objective data is needed to implement appropriate strategies. Knowing one&rsquo;s customers better and better by using tools to build relevant and respectful loyalty tools that fully respect privacy regulations is necessary.</p><p>Another aspect that I consider of primary importance, especially in this phase of gradual recovery post-Covid: the need to have an increasingly close and collaborative relationship with tenants. Their activities and commercial offers are the main reasons customers visit a shopping centre.</p><p>Today more digital technology solutions can be used, beyond the customers&rsquo; services concept only, extending it to tenants. Tenants also need to be retained; we are in a mature market where many brand networks are rationalised rather than expanded. A tenant that performs well and is appreciated by customers is a valuable investment that no Landlord can afford to lose. When a critical brand &ldquo;abandons&rdquo; a shopping centre, it creates a wound that can be fatal; building a relationship of mutual respect and collaboration is of fundamental importance.</p><p>If well-structured and managed, a digital marketing platform solves many of these issues; it helps build a constructive and more engaging bond with tenants. It goes beyond simple rent collection or turnover analysis, so it is easy to foresee their increasing use by shopping centres. But why should a tenant add a shopping centre loyalty strategy to its own? It has been proven that tenants can &lsquo;intercept&rsquo; customers who are not regular visitors to a particular brand by joining such programmes. Over time, customers receive increasingly tailored offers to their tastes and needs; therefore, they are encouraged to purchase other shops they did not frequent. Evidence shows that most tenants adhere to digital marketing platforms promoted by shopping centres.</p><p>However, it is not &lsquo;compulsory&rsquo; to involve them; it is still a choice to be considered by those who choose to use a digital marketing solution in a shopping centre.</p><p>However, no digital marketing tool is effective in itself; in the end, they are tools developed, maintained and implemented by companies with know-how related to IT and digital technology.</p><p><strong><em>The digital platform is a &lsquo;container&rsquo; whose contents are determined by a marketing strategy that the shopping centre manager will have to develop carefully before its &lsquo;launch&rsquo;.</em></strong></p><p>You can buy the most advanced and technological digital platform globally and still get a colossal flop if the loyalty plan is not well thought out and there is no deep know-how in strategic marketing.</p><p>So, it&rsquo;s all very well to have a car with a 500-horsepower engine, but without a proper driver, you&rsquo;re just going to get hurt.</p><p>Moreover, this tool is a &lsquo;big magnet&rsquo; that attracts all (or almost all) the resources for communication, awards, and events typically present in a shopping centre marketing budget.</p><p>Wanting to devote a small part of the marketing budget to digital solutions investment is not a harbinger of great success.</p><p>The rewarding plan must be genuinely effective and diversified across the various user segments of the shopping centre. In addition, rewards must incentivise the use of the platform; otherwise, the initial enthusiasm of customers may soon fade.</p><p>Launching, increasing, and maintaining a marketing digital platform over time is not easy; significant investments must be made in communication on all types of existing channels (it is essential to monitor all social media and not only).</p><p>Therefore, significant financial resources are required, and months of preparation are needed before launching a digital marketing platform. However, the problem is not the cost of the mentioned digital tool itself but the dedicated investment to fill it with appropriate content to be kept constant over time.</p><p>Tenants&rsquo; involvement must also be built up well before the launch. It&rsquo;s not easy; it takes perseverance and patience. But, of course, the greater the mutual esteem, the easier it will be to involve them.</p><p>These strategies will strengthen shopping centres already performing well inflows and turnover. <strong>But we need to think carefully about applying these tools to centres with less potential, not to mention those in difficulty.</strong></p><p>I am sure that centres that are regional or smaller but well integrated into urban contexts or with a weighty primary catchment area will be the ones that will benefit most from the use of digital platforms.</p><p>Those who go down this road (perhaps obligatory for some major shopping centres) will devote more resources to advertising budgets. Otherwise, it will be an awful flop risk.</p><p>Never before has there been a need to utilise and value the professionals dedicated to digital marketing in shopping centres.</p>
KR Expert - Francesco Della Cioppa