New year, new decade, same challenges?

Eileen Connolly


Absolutely not.

Retail Marketing is at the sharp end of the complete rethink of how we engage and retain consumers.

So much of the current narrative casts blame on rents, rates, online shopping, economic and political pressures and poor retailing but more has happened in the last five years than in 20 years of retail and leisure development. It’s not a trend, it’s a seismic shift influenced by a perfect storm of issues.

If you add in sustainability, logistics, changing domestic and work patterns, technology and the speed at which the consumer world is connected, there should have been no doubt in anyone’s mind that radical change was coming and we now need to create and adapt to a new normal for shoppers.

So, what is the new ‘normal’ and how does a previously traditional shopping place evolve to survive?

‘Normal’ may not even last long, as the rate of change and influence of trends means consumers are constantly exploring – loyalty based on geographical constraints isn’t the factor it was in the past. Consumers have become explorers – physically and digitally.

Understanding the motivations of your consumers is key – focus on what they want and how their needs have changed.  Social shopping with friends needs breaks for coffee, cake, meals and drinks, experiences they can share and enjoy, authentic products and services that exceed expectations.  Family shopping needs regular activities and respite from routine with surprising moments that increase dwell-time. Workers and commuters are time bound – they need to grab ‘n’ go and want convenience and choice.  Weekend shopping and leisure time is increasingly blurred with consumers looking for entertaining and vibrant locations to spend time, and money. Knowing who they are, what they want and how to speak to them is essential.

Applying the mantra of ‘delivering what the consumer wants and not what we think they want’ is essential. It’s the brand essence of any destination.

With excess floorspace and a finite number of occupiers, where else do you find new uses?   

Gyms, NHS centres, Health Care providers, golf and game experiences, cinemas, soft play and art galleries, exhibition pop-ups and local artisan markets are all commonplace but why not create multi-use community space, education and culture hubs, workspace lounges,  garden centre pop-ups, interactive visitor attractions, yoga and pilates studios, pop-up museums, make and learn skills and workshops for all ages. The aim is to invest in creating space that keeps footfall moving and gives consumers something to explore and share.

And keep doing it. The nation’s attention span is dropping – whatever the offer, it needs to be constantly refreshed and adapted.

‘Experience’ is that inextricable link between leasing, management and marketing that delivers exactly what the shopper wants to exceed their individual expectations. It’s not new nor revolutionary but it is testing the industry’s ability to think differently and deliver revenue, not cost led solutions to making our shopping destination profitable.

Marketing plays a key role in how to deliver this – if you’d like to talk to us about your experience, get in touch.

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