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Shopping centres will become more focused on delivering experiences as the use of online shopping and devices grows, according to Steven Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield Corporation.
Speaking at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2016 in New York, Lowy explained that although digital is shifting customer behaviour, shopping centres still attract consumers as they enjoy the physical visit. Retailers should therefore leverage their customer data to ensure a good customer experience while consumers are in-store.
“Shopping centres have traditionally been physical spaces where people gather,” Lowy said. “When people gather, the places they occupy become platforms for experiences.”
Lowy also highlighted the need for businesses and retailers to work together to provide a customer experience that will drive people into stores, saying “collaboration is the new competition”.
“Traditionally our industry has protected proprietary intellectual property above everything else,” Lowy said. “Business is beginning to realise that their biggest threat isn’t one another; their biggest threat is the status quo.”
Lowy suggested retailers should pool their data and knowledge to offer the full customer experience expected in a digital age and “make experiences matter” through “collective IP”.
“Digital retail is growing much faster than physical retail,” said Lowy. “In order not just to survive but to thrive we must make physical experience and physical retail much more exciting, much more relevant.”
Fear of sharing
But Lowy pointed out that many businesses have a “fear to share” even though a happy consumer is likely to benefit everyone.
He suggested retailers should “free data from its silos, leverage the power of collective knowledge”.
He added: “We’re driven by data, and data is driven by scale. We all share one thing – the customer. When customers show up to shop, they’re not thinking about their relationship with one store or brand.
“We need to build a much richer and deeper relationship based on the sharing of our collective data.”
Lowy suggested using technologies such as number plate scanning to direct customers to a parking space, using browser history to create a curated shopping experience, and using consumer information and geolocation to guide customers through stores towards products directed at them.
“Ways to connect to consumers are constantly evolving,” Lowy said. “All this is possible when we leverage the power of our shared data.”
Read more about bricks and mortar retail
Lowy said that retailers need to “seamlessly blend the digital and physical shopping experiences to make sure that the in-store experience is better than what can be delivered online, because people still want to interact with others and enjoy the physical experience. Interaction is still at the heart of what everyone loves to do.
“The real value of the data is not the data itself – it’s what you use it for that counts.”