What does the future hold for shopping centres?

11 May, 2018

Shopping centres are entering a new chapter, partly as a result of change in the consumer experience.  In the UK, approximately 20% of all transactions are now conducted online, and when taking the end-to-end customer journey into account, the online channel influences 90% or more of purchases across many categories.  With these figures in mind, we explore what this means for the future of shopping centres who are innovating to enhance the customer experience by incorporating value-added elements, utilising technology and modifying centre layout.

Experience and convenience

Convenience is a key driver of change for shopping centres.  Amazon Go, which was recently launched, operates with payment for items simply collected by smart phones.  This is part of a growing trend with consumers; they want to pick up their purchase and go.  The centre:MK in Milton Keynes have recently opened a new guest services area which includes a desk to collect click and collect orders, a changing room so that you can try them on without leaving the centre, and then a returns facility to send back the bits you decide against.

Shopping centres are also incorporating experience as value-added elements.  Centres we work with have used various innovative marketing ideas to generate footfall and dwell time; centre:MK hold regular events at the centre to attract visitors, from ice skating and Christmas grottos to German Markets and Craft fairs, and Cwmbran in South Wales have used a pop-up beach and Christmas light switch-ons in conjunction with the local pantomime characters.

Bluewater is also exploring how they can increase dwell time by including experiences in their centre to attract a broader range of visitors, by introducing a trampoline park, adventure park and cinema.  Other centres have experimented with expanding their dining offerings to increase the use of the centre outside the core shopping hours.

Centres are also exploring how to use unused space for uses other than retail.  One example is to convert these spaces into gyms, for example The Gym Group, who have opened up in part of a former BHS in Walthamstow, North London.

Technology and multichannel

Retail Think Tank members predict the future of the store could be more akin to a show room, perhaps even leveraging the latest technologies, whether that be virtual reality, augmented reality, smart mirrors or even digital screens.

Westfield’s latest initiative is a great example of a centre leveraging the latest technology.  Its Westfield App product-search feature allows consumers to search for specific items, view product information and pricing, find out which tenants at their preferred Westfield centre carry the items and “click to call” the stores.

Location, Re-location and Layouts

Equipment has been introduced by shopping centres in the UK, for example, Lakeside in Essex and Manchester’s Trafford Centre, to track the movement of customers.  Big brother does indeed seem to be watching!  Although landlords insist the data is anonymous.

DOOH!  No, this isn’t a reference to Homer Simpson, it is an acronym for Digital Out of Home.  This advertising reaches consumers while they are outside their homes.  The American branch of Westfield shopping centres has recently rolled out over 200 digital out-of-home ad “pods” in shopping malls across the country.

The future of shopping centres may not even lie in individual innovations within centres which focus on Proptech.  Instead, the future may focus on enhancing a network of centres to share data and information.  Check out Westfield’s 300M PropTech Spinoff for more information.

Shopping centres are coming up with more innovative ways to compete or complement the online market.  We wait to see what they have in store for us next … no pun intended!