Shopping centre owners for years have been investing in technology – from cutting-edge facial recognition, to understanding how people shop with WiFi – to stay relevant and profitable.
Now, there are signs emerging that the tech is making a difference due to a dramatic improvement in the software that turns data into insights.
“That’s the game changer,” says Tony Doherty, Head of Retail for JLL Australia. “There is no shortage of information that owners and retailers have access to, but it’s understanding the insights and what can be done with them that will see shopping centres thrive in this digital age.”
Forward-thinking shopping centre owners are collating myriad data sets, including shopper behaviour, retailer sales and the performance of retail categories into advanced analytics tools that provide highly visual insights.
One tool analyses sales data to reveal patterns of movement within a centre and the frequency of cross-shopping between different retail categories; another can assess all the possible combinations of stores in an area of a centre to optimise sales; a third, known as ‘right tenant, right location’ can estimate each store’s ominchannel sales as well as model the market rent that should apply in every potential retail mix scenario.
Interactions into information
The predictions and analysis these tools provide can only be as good as the data they are fed, and so alongside advanced analytics landlords continue to invest in methods of capturing critical information.
At Sydney’s World Square an interactive Lunar New Year campaign in 2018 applied Augmented Reality (AR) on a scale never seen before in Australian retail.
Via immersive technology, AR brought to life the precinct’s landmark dragon sculpture as well as activated an interactive red packet treasure hunt.
The treasure hunt prompted shoppers to scan QR code markers throughout the precinct to collect the digital packets which contained offers that could be redeemed at participating retailers in a gamification-style promotion.
The concept was expanded upon in 2019 when visitors were encouraged to dance with AR Three Little Pigs on the venue’s big screen and share the experience on social media.
Once customers had ‘opted in’ to data collection from the scanning of QR codes, their subsequent interactions created additional data which, when analysed alongside existing metrics such as heat mapping, dwell times and sales data, provided the catalyst for new opportunities aligned with business and customer experience objectives.
Facial recognition is providing owners and retailers with even deeper insights, says Doherty.
“Developments in facial recognition technology can determine sentiment, which tells us what people respond to and what they find most engaging,” he says.
While many shopping centre owners are still getting to grips with the need to be data-driven, Australia has a brace of trailblazers reaping the benefits of their data-centric thinking, says John Rankin, Chief Operating Officer of Skyfii, which provides data and analytics-driven products to real estate groups.
“Most shopping centre owners subscribe to multiple data sources, but the successful ones are those giving critical thought to how those sets of data come together to make effective and sustainable change throughout their assets and organisations.”
As retail moves online advanced analytics is also introducing more rigour around setting rental targets.
A shopping centre owner in Asia was able to achieve a 20 per cent revenue increase over five years by using a tool which set a price range for every current or prospective retailer after drilling down variables such as the type and location of the centre, size and configuration of shops, brands’ price positioning, and multiple other factors, according to a report from McKinsey & Company.
In its Envision 2020 report, the International Council of Shopping Centres outlines other emerging methods for determining rent in this age of online retail.
One is a geo-code model where, as part of an overall rent package, an owner would take a higher cut of sales made in-store compared to those made online. The online percentage rate would be determined by an advanced analytics algorithm that reflects the influence a physical store has on a sale.
Collaboration between shopping centre owners and their retailers in adopting such approaches is key to high performing retail, says Doherty.
“These new ideas would not only allow owners to monitor their own health, but also enable them to provide vital information to retailers so they can ensure their strategies are profitable and sustainable for all parties.”