For the last decade, mall marketers have directed their fundamental strategies into building consumer awareness about the shopping centers’ retailers and brands via collaborative promotional campaigns, and traditional marketing plans. This approach was designed to put a greater emphasis on engaging the community by offering lifestyle amenities such as soft seating areas, children’s play spaces, providing stroller rentals, and producing publicity stunts such as flash mobs, fashion shows and live music. Most recently, with the savviness of social media and the ever-changing needs and desires of the consumer, mall marketers have had to reconfigure traditional strategies and formulate new ones that are much more polished and attentive, focusing on unique events, strategic sponsorships, and common area activations, all with the common goal of giving shoppers an experience they will never forget. This brand promoting blueprint, rooted in experiential marketing tactics, has shopping centers adapting to these trends and working on setting new trends, ones which engage consumers on a more intimate level and primarily focus on the experience from the moment the customer walks through the shopping center’s doors.
More than just showing up: Experiential marketing is a two-way relationship between consumer and brand. Shopping malls know first-hand that engaging customers takes more than just showing up. In today’s competitive retail environment, it is vital that marketers give customers an invaluable experience that surpasses their initial purchase. Building “brand love” is more than creating foot traffic in your center. It necessitates a true commitment to crafting memories that are not only treasured, but ones that will capture the consumers’ attention so they come back for more. For example, lululemon doesn’t want shoppers walking out the door because their size or color choice is not in store. Consistent in any lululemon store, lululemon has stationed iPads throughout the shop so a lululemon sales associate can search for sizes and colors to order directly from the website and have it shipped to the customer’s home or office.
Consumer Choice: Retailers are forcing the consumer to make choices between the convenience of online shopping and truly experiencing the brand in a brick and mortar setting. The main challenges facing shopping centers includes; the potential for information overload, streamlining their messaging and learning how to add another layer of experience. Consumers are becoming more selective in the brands they buy and the shopping environments in which they make those purchases. What marketers are beginning to realize is that malls have an “in” on what will become a sought-after trend – new fall fashions, window displays, hot cuisine trends. More and more, mall marketing teams are “hacking” their own social pages and using them to capture shopper interest via Instagram or Pinterest. Another area for enticing and keeping the customer’s attention is by creating an environment that makes the shopping experience unique and fun. Trendsetting Urban Outfitters recently acquired The Vetri Family’s Italian restaurants. The retailer offers its customers pizza for snacking on, which has been successful in satiating both the customer’s hunger for food and fashion.
Customer Interface: Customer interaction is key to creating that personalized encounter. More and more, retailers are bringing back “customer service” through vehicles that make consumers feel good about their retail shopping choices. For example, personal stylists curating fashions for customers, such as Trunk Club, which was recently bought by Nordstrom, have generated a luxury-inspired service that feels exclusive, but caters to all consumer budgets. Restoration Hardware offers a membership program, where customers pay a $100 fee to receive “member” discounts, and have access to personal design consultants who can help them decorate an entire home. Shopping Centers have also capitalized on this model as they continue to make shopping a more convenient and pleasurable experience with VIP perks such as parking, charging stations for electronics, free Wi-Fi, shopping bag storage and same-day delivery.
Pay It Forward: Shopping Center marketing teams often struggle with not being in complete control over the customer’s experience. Today, communication has become transparent with social media re-posting, re-gramming and re-tweeting, and marketers know that showing customers that they place a high value on their choice to shop at their center is key to creating brand loyalty. By “paying it forward,” malls can express their appreciation so shoppers feel pampered and rewarded. It pays to be kind, and with that in mind, Shopping Centers can take that meaning literal by thanking their customers through humble gestures, which leave a lasting impression. This can be demonstrated by something as simple as offering to carry shopping bags to their car or an Uber-type car service to drive them to their hotel, office or next destination. Retailers are paying it forward to, for example, if it’s raining, the Dry Bar, known in the beauty industry as the premier blow dry specialists, gives complimentary umbrellas with the retailer’s logo.
When used to its fullest capacity, experiential marketing can produce endless possibilities and successes for shopping malls. By creating meaningful experiences, the marketing strategy goes beyond the shopping center entrance and can influence and inspire customers. Honing in on targeted experiential marketing tactics will ultimately translate to increased foot traffic, “brand love,” and retailer leasing opportunities.