Digital and mobile media devices have forever changed the landscape of brick and mortar shopping. 84% of shoppers claim to start their shopping trip online before they visit a store and these digital behavior influences 64% of all in-store sales. It is as if a new “virtual doorway” on a web browser or a mobile device is replacing the physical entrance to your property. And along with this come new opportunities to engage, upsell or cross promote to shoppers using your digital assets.
The opportunity we’re really talking about here is personalization. Think old time shopkeeper who knew what his customers wanted and he wasn’t shy about presenting it, only it’s powered by modern algorithms and technologies.
Personalization is a trend that is spreading quickly across the retail world and is fast becoming the expectation not the exception for consumers as they navigate the Internet. Amazon has paved a clear path and set an expectation in the shopper’s mind. Facebook has conditioned us to a personalized newsfeed. Omni channel retailers are following suit and shopping centers are right behind them.
How does this affect your shopping center and how can you harness the power of personalization to deliver an elevated shopping experience for your digitally armed shoppers?
Many of the visitors to your shopping center website (mobile and desktop) are looking for two primary things – the directory and the hours (42%). And while there may be lots of interesting content they might like, consumers today afford little time to all but the most relevant messages. With decisions made as quickly as a click or a tap, communications need to be obvious. The marketing message needs to not only cut through the clutter of competing messages, but it needs to be worthy of the consumer’s attention.
Personalization delivers a relevant experience to website visitors based who they are, what they are doing and what interests they might have. The goal is to engage the visitor more deeply by presenting content that has greater relevance.
Consider a content heavy site like ESPN.com. As an anonymous visitor we see general daily and seasonal sports news. By determining my location they make it easy to “follow” hometown teams. They are doing basic content personalization based on location. Its when we create an account and share our preferences that ESPN.com becomes truly interesting and shows me just what I want to see about my sports and teams plus a sampling of “related news.” This is a good example of personalization using volunteered customer information.
Publishers have done this for years. So has Amazon. Increasingly these approaches, enhanced with social media integrations, are finding their way into the marketing operations of retail and e-commerce companies. Retailers are looking for personalization across all points of contact with their customers. Shoppers expect this.
For shopping centers, online personalization starts with content. Without a good cross section of content to serve, the shopping center site is little more than an online directory. Beyond directory and hours, shoppers want information on their favorite stores and events. With sometimes up to 200 tenants at a large property, there is more information than can be reasonably consumed. It needs to be filtered somehow.
For example, if we know a site visitor is a mother with an infant, we can put information about strollers to borrow, reserved parking spaces, 40% off the Children’s Place and an article about that first trip to see Santa on the homepage. We can sort retailers and offers with her interests considered first. For a known repeat visitor we can feature information from or relating to the stores and brands they follow on our site.
When content is personalized, we get greater engagement in the form of clicks, shares, downloads and conversions. We have the opportunity to present alternatives or upgrades to the shopper trip including dinning, events or visits to additional stores. By bringing in 3rd party information like prior purchase data, we can make informed choices about what content to present in literally less than a second.
Customer volunteered information can be collected and attached to user profiles. Stores can be “followed,” emails customized, content dynamically sorted to put the most relevant information at the forefront. Personalization can happen at many levels that include user driven self-personalization, anonymous and volunteered info. Since the bulk of your shoppers will always be anonymous, its important to apply even basic personalization for anonymous users to increase the odds of driving deeper engagement.
Shopping Centers need to take an active voice in promoting their presence online and in their local communities. They should be an active part of the online dialogue in the local market to maintain and grow their market share. They should take an active role in countering the narrative that the mall is a hassle and you can shop in your pajamas online. As the on-premise experience evolves, it should be presented and promoted online where so many shopping trips begin. Personalization can help this.
Shoppers value personalization. It makes their shopping easier. More interesting. Today more than ever, we are able to connect with consumes and achieve personalization at scale. For shopping centers, 2017 will see even more personalization.
 – Deloitte. The New Digital Divide, 2014.
 – Deloitte. Navigating the Digital Divide, 2015. Digital will influence $2,200,000,000 of retail sales. Yes, that’s 2.2 trillion.