July 2016

When is a shopping centre more than just a shopping centre?

Recommended Retail Practice Report

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In 2016, achieving success in the retail industry goes beyond just the goods you sell, and developing successful shopping centres takes more than creating a place for people to shop. Consumers are looking to shopping centres to provide places to spend their leisure time and enjoy the company of friends and family, and want to spend their hard-earned money with retailers who show an understanding of their wants and needs, and go above and beyond to provide a tailored and efficient shopping experience.

This year, to develop the annual AMP Capital Shopping Centres (AMPCSC) Recommended Retail Practice Report, we gave the power to shoppers to tell us what they want from us and our retail partners when it comes to the shopping experience.

Research was conducted using a transformative approach that brought customers and their experience to the centre of decision-making and design. AMPCSC used an online consumer consulting board to engage in in-depth discussions with 750 shopping enthusiasts in Australia and New Zealand, over a period of three weeks. These findings were validated and quantified through an online survey of a nationally representative sample in Australia (1,000 participants) and New Zealand (500 participants) to understand what consumers want to see in the future of shopping.

The report has identified five key themes and recommendations for retailers. Most critical was the finding that many retailers may be overlooking an important category of shoppers, men! More than anything, shoppers told us that they are looking to retailers to go beyond supplying goods or services, and expect retailers to create a unique and memorable experience that cannot be replicated online. The time is now for retailers to embrace these findings and start relationships with their consumers that will last into the future.

Man vs. Woman

You heard it here first, men love shopping too! It might seem hard to believe, but men want shopping to become less of a necessity and more of a pastime. Traditionally the face of retail has been predominately designed for women, and male shoppers feel under-catered for in the retail environment.

Men tend to be more technology–focused than women, which makes them the prime target for digital disrupters such as Amazon, so bricks and mortar retailers need to do more to connect with men emotionally. This can be done by developing tailored communications for male shoppers, and targeting them with personalised messages that reflect an understanding of their interests – for example, sports or music.

Remember us men shop too, and some of us are serious fashion shoppers!
Customer Quote

Fashion retailers in particular have a lot to gain from this trend. As the younger generation enters the workforce, and many large corporations begin to relax their formal dress codes, the days of wearing the same navy suit to work every day are gone. This means that many men are suddenly faced with the need to develop a personal style beyond the two days of the weekend. It’s not just young men either, even older generations are no longer wearing ties to the office every day. This creates a strong opportunity for fashion brands to provide curated services for men’s styling, such as working with personal style experts and creating environments where men feel comfortable shopping for fashion items.

Time vs. Money

The old saying “time is money” has never been more true than it is now. The modern consumer leads a busy life and wants to maximise their leisure time wherever possible. While some consumers still enjoy walking up and down the aisles at their supermarket to view all the new products available, many are turning to online delivery and ordering the same trusted products every week. Just look at the uptake of ‘self-serve’ options at supermarket checkouts, where shoppers are drawn to the shorter queues and the ability to “get in and get out” quickly.

Give the shopper something that they cannot get from a keyboard, the sense that they are valued and that they’re not just there to supply the shop assistant’s pay cheque. A little more than “can I help you?” Price competitiveness has an edge with online shopping, but if the gap is not too large, the “I can get it right now” versus “I have to wait two weeks for it to come in the mail” has a distinct advantage.
Customer Quote

Retailers can take advantage of this trend by making the shopping experience as easy as possible, particularly for younger consumers who are looking for this type of convenience. Methods to incorporate this include remembering previous activity and purchases through membership databases, suggesting relevant activities, products or promotions in a way that is personalised to the customer via email or text, or creating an offer that makes the bricks-and-mortar store more appealing than the convenient online option. Essentially, the in-store experience needs to be just as, if not more compelling than online. The one element that cannot be replicated online is the human experience retailers can offer shoppers when they come through their doors, such as staff that are well-trained in delivering impeccable customer service.

Crowd vs. Community

Anyone who has stepped foot in an Apple store in the last decade understands certain brands have become like a religion for millions of devoted shoppers around the world. Brands who are able to create meaning around why they do what they do, and employ staff who are aligned with their higher purpose, are able to transcend the perception of a product provider into a lifestyle curator. It’s not just mega-brands like Apple that can do this. Smaller retailers can foster this sense of loyalty and devotion if they are able to connect with their local shoppers.

It is a LOCAL shopping centre after all. Let’s embrace the fact it is heart and soul of the community by staging community events and offering space for local community groups to meet. 
Customer Quote

For many communities, shopping centres are the ‘village square’ of the modern age – a place to connect with friends and family and feel a sense of belonging. Retailers who can show shoppers they stand for something, in particular those who celebrate diversity, can tap into the hearts and minds of consumers and foster strong brand loyalty.


Entertainment vs. Mindfulness

Many consumers are looking for ways to take the legwork out of the shopping experience so they can focus on enjoying their time out. Therefore, retailers and shopping centres should be designing technological innovations, or arming shoppers with information that minimises the effort involved in shopping, making more time for relaxation and personal growth. This can be through initiatives such as apps that allow shoppers to pre-order their goods, or providing them with tailored shopping suggestions to help them navigate their way through the store.

In an ideal scenario “The food court will have modern seating with choices of lounge chairs and tables in a more private setting. You can browse menu items from your seat and customise your order from there with food delivered along with waiting times being indicated. Simply tap your phone to pay and dig in." 
Customer Quote

Consumers are also looking to retailers and shopping centres to provide them with new and diverse experiences to entertain them during the trip to the shops. This is a great opportunity for food retailers. Reality cooking shows such as My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef continue to be hugely popular, and have renewed the interest in food among Australian shoppers who are eager to learn more about the latest trends in flavour, cuisine and ingredients. Retailers that offer cooking lessons or rotating menus so there is always something new to try will be able to entertain and engage shoppers and keep them coming back for more.


Somewhere vs. Anywhere

When it comes to bricks and mortar retail stores, the importance of the physical environment cannot be overlooked. Shoppers want the destination to connect with the land around it, creating seamless transition between inside and outside. Retailers should look at ways to integrate greenery into their store design in a manner that is both innovative and sustainable, such as water features that use recycled water.

For me, the latest trend has to be the seamless join between outside and in. A coffee shop or restaurant where you are suddenly transported into a beautiful alfresco area, without the limitations of feeling closed in. Using natural resources such as a water feature or beautiful plants would add to this atmosphere. I think this trend is appealing because it makes your trip a relaxing experience where you are taken away from the hustle and bustle of shopping.
Customer Quote

Retailers who can give shoppers a sense of pride in a particular place will increase shopper engagement and subsequently sales. At AMP Capital Shopping Centres, this is referred to as our placemaking strategy – by this we mean capitalising on the unique characteristics of a place to create a destination that is local, authentic and relevant to that community. Putting place at the heart of what we do enables us to grow the value of our centres for our communities and customers.