Shopping Centre
Marketing moves malls
Published:  26 February, 2014

With the rise in online shopping and an ever-more competitive retail environment, landlords and management teams have to be able to market their venues effectively to drive footfall, loyalty and ultimately sales. 

So, what are the best ways to advertise shopping centres, dependent on size, budget and target demographic, and how can you raise awareness of the USPs? 

“The retail and retail property landscape has changed dramatically over the last 10-20 years, as has media,” says Melanie Lillie, managing director, AL Marketing. “We’re in a constant period of change, and we need to embrace it and evolve to stay ahead of the game.” 

“Shopping centres have felt the impact of multichannel,” she continues. “But how do they respond? It’s only going to increase in intensity so shopping centre managers have to adapt and go with it - they can’t look back, they’ve got to be fleet of foot. It can be a challenge for the corporate property owners, but no matter what the centre, there needs to be a strategy, and it should take account of the importance of the online world.” 

She advises management teams to think about the centre’s USPs, the competition and the demographic. What is the centre’s role? Where does it fit in? Who are you trying to reach? What interests them? What’s relevant? What’s the best channel to reach them on? And how often should you be talking to them? 

“TV is the most exciting, dramatic and the most cost effective platform but only if the transmission area corresponds to the location of the centre, otherwise there’s wastage,” she says. “It’s a fantastic branding medium. We work with the Trafford Centre, its architecture is a key part of the message and that comes across best on TV.” 

Su Brookes, account marketing director at Michon Creative, agrees: “Unique traits about the mall itself can form a useful hook. An architectural feature, large food hall or even something quirky like a huge fish tank can all be employed to create a destination identity. Meadowhall’s central dome and the Trafford Centre’s ship-themed food hall are both strong examples of this, with the latter being particularly useful in attracting families.”

Liverpool One runs a hugely successful TV campaign featuring Liv and Liz, CGI representations of the city’s famous Liver Birds. First launched in May 2012, they feature regularly in the centre’s campaigns and they are so popular in the city that centre staff are considering turning them into toy mascots for customers to buy.  

When it comes to outdoor, Lillie says there’s been a huge amount of change with the creation of “wonderful” new prime sites, but while it’s specific and effective, it’s also expensive and out of the realm of most budgets. 

“However we have found that buses are incredibly effective for centres large and small,” she says. “They are seen by pedestrians or by people in their cars and they’re great for getting across a centre’s USPs.” 

She says radio is competitive but has a different call to action, allowing for the communication of more detailed messages and more frequency. And she says door drops are effective too, allowing centres to advertise the breadth of their offer – retailers, offers and promotions, events and opening hours – in some detail. “But they only make an impact if they are good quality and targeted,” she warns. 

Stepping away from the traditional above the line platforms, digital marketing and social media is being used more and more as part of wider marketing campaigns allowing centre management teams to have conversations with their customers, promote offers, and drive engagement and loyalty cheaply and in real time. 

“When developing a marketing and advertising strategy, social media and PR should be thought about from the idea development stage,” says Lillie. “Teams should be thinking: ‘What’s the potential for social media and PR in this?’ It shouldn’t be a bolt on or afterthought.”

“You have to build an engaged batch of followers,” she adds. “If they’re not engaged, there’s not much point having them, and content is key. Remember that it’s somebody’s social space, don’t give them a stream of discounts, give them something they can respond to.” 

According to Land Securities’ head of marketing, Suzi Arkley, the landlord is open minded, choosing ad channels for each centre dependant on location, the objectives they are trying to achieve and the make-up of the target audience. But she says it’s very rare that they don’t use social media as part of a campaign. 

“Digital and social media is far more targeted and there’s less wastage,” she says. “With a paid for advert on Facebook, you can choose desired age, gender and interests and Facebook will make sure it’s only seen by the people who match that criteria. It allows you to set the variables. And it’s easier to measure because you get click through rates. It is targeted and the ROI is clear - those are the two main benefits.”

Michelle Moffitt, associate director at marketing and communications agency, Innesco, estimates that digital and social media represents 30-40 per cent of shopping centres’ campaigns, and it’s being used more and more. To keep abreast of this upwards trend, Innesco is introducing an exclusive digital platform, MyDeck, which pulls in footfall data, social media (Facebook and Twitter), the centre website and an information board onto one dashboard, and it can be used to upload a single message to all touch points. 

Demand for this type of management tool is high. Destination CMS, a venture between Bray Leino Destination and Crisp Marketing Services, launched mobile digital product Mall-to-Mobile in 2012. Destination CMS employs staff to visit and gather information on each retailer in a shopping centre every week, uploading offers and other content onto Mall-to-Mobile where it is shared with customers through a mobile website and via social media. 

Mall-to-Mobile deals with several types of content - news relevant to the shopping centre or catchment, events, things that are trending and creating a buzz. And commercial offers only represent 20 per cent of its content. 

“We do advertise above the line and we will continue to do so, I’m not saying it doesn’t work for everybody,” says Simon Baldwin, a consultant for Destination CMS. “But we recently won a client on a three year contract who’d been spending money on traditional platforms like radio. We showed them what they already knew from their own research - that the recall for that type of advertising was woeful, and they won’t be using it again.”

Velocity Worldwide – a company set up by Spirit Marketing Group owner Enda McShane – has recently launched version two of its multichannel customer engagement platform, Darius, which has been deployed to all of its existing shopping centre clients.

Darius is a platform that pools together a shopping centre’s communication activity, allowing centre staff to create, publish and measure messages across all of its online and offline channels and can include anything from the centre’s website, e-shot database, SMS, blog, app and the centre’s preferred social media channels be it Faceook, Twitter, Instragram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others. 

Velocity partners with wifi providers so that a visitor who signs up to a centre’s wifi service automatically connects to Darius, which begins to capture details, building a picture about what each individual likes. It can gauge how often people visit and how long they stay for, which retailers they like based on which vouchers they redeem in-store, and their engagement on social media; what they ‘like’ and comment on on Facebook for example. 

All this helps the centre management teams to send targeted deals and messages based on what each individual customer wants. There’s an ‘Audience’ section on the Darius dashboard, so that whoever is managing communication in-centre or at the landlord’s head office can pick out a specific portion of their database – based on gender, age, size, favourite shops etc – and send them a targeted offer, via each individual’s preferred channel, for optimum relevance. 

“Darius helps marketing teams to get to know their shoppers, know what they like, to form one to one relationships and to engage them in relevant conversations,” says McShane.  

“The retail environment is tough, and if you don’t connect, you won’t sell,” he continues. “Shopping centres need to bridge the gap between online and bricks & mortar, neither are going to go away, so shopping centres need to embrace the best of online - data, what you can learn from your customers and targeted messaging - and get the balance right.”

When a voucher sent out by Darius is redeemed, retail staff scan the code to determine where it came from and at what time it was received. And in McShane’s experience, e-shots are by far the most effective. 

“Darius creates codes for each channel so you can determine what works best for who - was it TV, radio or a poster on the back of the toilet door? The biggest draw is to understand what content people want to receive, via what channel, and when, so you can provide something that’s useful.”

“And you can track and react,” he says. For example, when someone arrives at a shopping centre to pick up a click & collect purchase, Darius can be used to ping them an offer to encourage them to continue shopping. It can also be linked up to digital screens in centre, so that a personalised message pops up on screen to tell you you’ve got an offer waiting to be redeemed on your phone.

Velocity surveyed 15,000 people and found that people are least interested in personalised messages from the shopping centre and most interested in retail offers from the retailers. “Shopping centres have to harness the power of those brands to be a success,” says McShane. 

Velocity built a promotion for the launch of a new H&M store in two hours - the result was 3,000 views and 2,000 engagements. And it has come up with a metric for measuring ROI, so that for every penny spent, they can show the client what they’re getting back.  

As well as in retail and retail property, sports stadiums and schools are using Darius, in the case of the latter to improve communication between the school, children and the parents: “If a pillar of society is using it, retail better wake up, because children are growing up using tools like Darius, and they’ll continue to use them throughout their lives,” says McShane.  

“Retail can do what online does but online can never do what bricks & mortar does. You can’t meet family and friends for coffee online; you will never get that social side. If you don’t have intelligence, go out and get it.” 

Integrated campaigns

According to AL Marketing’s Lillie, integrated campaigns are the best way to leverage investment. And the teams behind the Land Securities portfolio and Bluewater are well aware of that, often using multiple channels for any one campaign.

“Full integration is best and we’re always surprised by how many centres don’t so that,” says Michelle Moffitt, associate director at marketing and communications agency, Innesco. “Where appropriate keep the message the same across all channels.” 

Bluewater uses a wide range of channels, both above the line and across the digital spectrum, ambient media, PR and social media

“There is a whole collection of touch points,” says Bluewater’s head of marketing, David Wilkinson. “We want people to get up in the morning and hear about Bluewater on the radio, see a poster site from their car or at the train station on their way to work and see an advert on video on demand when they get home in the evening. We want to achieve regular messaging throughout the day, reminding people that Bluewater is there.”

At White Rose in Leeds, Land Securities devised an autumn/winter campaign in September last year with the aim of broadening appeal to the family market. It was an integrated campaign with new creative that involved radio, outdoor - including Metro wraps - and social media. 

Within five weeks of the campaign going live footfall, sales and new visitor numbers were up significantly, so it proved successful in reaching new groups, and Arkley is planning a similar campaign for the spring, this time introducing TV. 

“A cohesive campaign needs to use a range of media to be successful, to avoid attracting only a niche,” says Su Brookes, account marketing director at Michon Creative. “This also applies online, where it is possible to play on people’s desire to physically shop. This is where shopping centres have an advantage over individual retailers. Positioning the brand as an ‘Amazon of the high street’, but with the added benefits of immediacy, free returns and tactility, is something that internet retailers cannot match.”  

Innesco is working with its clients to re-evaluate and develop marketing strategies. “We like to take a step back and do a brand audit before sitting down with the client to plan the right strategy,” says Moffitt, “drilling down, thinking about the brand and the centre’s niche and creating a list of really great USPs to use in marketing and advertising that will encourage people to come back.

“Figure out the brand message and go at it from a customer centric viewpoint - a lot of malls are missing that.”

Each and every advertising channel, whether it be above the line or digital and social media, has its own set of pros and cons. But two things are clear: communications should be targeted and relevant - and personalised, if possible - and integrated campaigns, especially those that utilise social media, are often the most effective. 

“The consumer is at the heart of our thinking,” says Arkley. “What do they want and need? The message has to be appealing but also relevant and personalised if possible. If you don’t do that, you fall down. Consumers are bombarded with information and choice so you need to achieve standout, something exciting, not wallpaper.” 

Wilkinson warns centre managers to use their budgets wisely: “There are many avenues you can invest in but pick the right ones and do a good job or you risk spending money on many different avenues and not getting much back in return; make sure you get tangible benefits back.”  

And Su Brookes has one last nugget of advice: “Many shopping centres market what they want to be rather than playing to their real strengths and USPs. Advertising and marketing must draw on truths in order for it to feel honest and to create brand loyalty.”