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The digital demographic

Published:  29 February, 2012

Well-executed digital campaigns can help shopping centres target the consumers other media cannot reach.

With digital technology growing exponentially in all its forms – 50 per cent of UK adults now own a smartphone – digital marketing is a logical step towards the future. But the technology is still expensive and with a whole host of avenues to explore, making sure you get a return on investment comes down to choosing the right option based on a number of factors – demographic being key.

Chris Hull, marketing director of creative technology agency Connect IB – which counts Land Securities, British Land, Grosvenor and PRUPIM among its clients – sees the digital marketing challenges for shopping centres as more complex than ever before: “As a centre marketing manager you need to understand how the public’s adoption of technology needs to change the way you market,” he says.

“Your audience are consuming content and being influenced in new ways that are rapidly becoming mainstream. How you deliver your mobile content or social media strategy but in a way that is integrated with your overall marketing objectives is the key to success.”

According to Hull, one way to integrate digital marketing channels is to link wayfinding touchscreens, mobile and social media, something that has been done successfully at Festival Place in Basingstoke.

“We developed Festival Rewards as our digital customer loyalty scheme, helping retailers and the centre to connect personally with customers at Festival Place,” says the centre’s marketing manager Jane Stewart. “The scheme uses website, touchscreens, email and social media. In the first nine months since launch we had over 37 different retailers on board, had published 100 different, exclusive voucher based offers, and had grown the list to over 10,000 Rewards members.

“Members downloaded thousands of vouchers and published hundreds of their own reviews on the films they had seen, latest fashions they has spied and centre restaurants they had visited. The numbers are growing considerably as we refine the offers and build a greater understanding of what our customers want.”

Vouchers, and new and innovative ways of distributing them, are seen as a key, and growing, trend for the future. Canadian-based retailcommon has designed what it calls a ‘mobile coupon platform’.

The company was set up five years ago by ex-independent retailer Tom Cassidy who wanted to provide a platform for small retailers to compete with larger chains through digital media. The company has now expanded with a similar product tailored for national retailers and shopping centres and, after spending time visiting UK shopping centres during 2011 – he is currently pursuing Hammerson, Grosvenor, Westfield and BID districts – Cassidy hopes to launch the product in the UK in the summer.

“The big challenge for me as an independent was that I didn’t have access to analytics or digital platforms to promote my stores,” he explains. “I’d put out capital by placing ads in the press or on the web but I didn’t understand whether people were coming in because they’d seen the ad or simply because it was a sunny day.”

His solution provides retailers with an easy-to-use and cost-effective way of creating and distributing mobile coupons, as does the enterprise version, designed for bigger business.

The user simply logs into the system, inputs data – offer name and details, start date, end date, at which locations the voucher can be redeemed and a photo – a QR code is generated and the voucher can then be distributed to the users database and shared via Facebook, Twitter, email or text.

 “We provide analytics including how many people redeemed the voucher, in which locations and on which date and time, what postal codes the users came from and how many of each promotion were shared on Facebook, Twitter, by email or text,” says John Staines, retailcommon’s director of sales.  

The enterprise version includes added tools for malls like navigation and event promotion options for a “multi-layered effect”.

“There aren’t many managers who will admit to blind spots on the mall, but it can be used by mall owners to help tenants, or certain areas of the mall, that need more traffic by running location-based promotions and turning browsers into shoppers,” he explains. “And it’s a nice thing to tell potential tenants.”

Cost is fairly flexible. Independents pay a monthly access fee and can create as many promotions as they like whereas the enterprise version costs £50 per promotion on average with bigger clients paying more if they require additional functions.  “Mobile promotions and smartphone penetration will continue to grow,” says Cassidy. “People think the boat’s been missed but that’s not true – it’s exploding and people are allocating funds towards these types of platforms.”  

CBRE’s director of retail consultancy, Jonathan De Mello, is a fan of the retailcommon product: “It’s something that can be shared easily, spreading organically from friend to friend,” he says. “It’s fairly low-tech when it comes to new media and there’s no need to print – the offer can be redeemed simply by presenting your phone at the checkout.
“The main benefit is data capture leading to personalised rather than blanket marketing. And it’s a way for shopping centres to measure success and show tenants how money is being spent, justifying the service charge.”