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Time to tear up the rulebook on shopping as we know it [Birmingham Post (England)]
[February 14, 2013]

Time to tear up the rulebook on shopping as we know it [Birmingham Post (England)]

(Birmingham Post (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Shopping as we know it is dead - it's time to tear up the old rulebook and get to grips with new guidelines, new relationships, new talents and new tools, according to a Birmingham retail expert.

Christopher Taylor from Jones Lang La-Salle's shopping centre management team said a tough economic climate, cash strapped consumers and an ever advancing technological environment has radically changed the face of retail.

Technology is now the biggest game changer affecting every aspect of retailing from pricing to payment and it's set to keep changing our shopping habits.

Research from Jones Lang LaSalle estimates that by 2020, in certain more mature markets, more than half of all non-food retail transactions will be digitally influenced.

Online sales put in their best performance over Christmas, with year-on-year growth of 17.8 per cent.

Consumers want what they want, when they want and all according to their mood and place.

It could be sourced online and then bought in-store or sourced instore and bought online.

It's whatever is convenient to them at the time and will be a mix of both.

The traditional mindset that the internet was an external competitor no longer stands. E-commerce will in time cease to exist and consumers will see the online and instore offer as seamless and one and the same.

In the future not having a fully operational online presence in the marketplace will be inconceivable.

Omni-channel retailing is now the buzzword and the way forward.

It provides an almost holistic approach to retailing, looking at the whole person and their needs and desires and addressing every one of them so they can experience products, through all available shopping channels be it mobile internet devices, computers, bricks- and-mortar, television, catalogue and so the list goes on.

The bricks and mortar store is where the products may be collected but in the future they will have been experienced through a range of channels beforehand.

Click and Collect, which seamlessly combines clicks and bricks is in its infancy but is set to explode over the next decade, with rumours around that Amazon could open it's first physical outlet in the UK some time soon.

The ease and convenience of on-line shopping boosted by the growth of tablets and smartphones is also contributing and consumers are now much more comfortable about putting their credit card numbers into mobile phones, so they could be on the move anywhere and finding out about where they can access their favourite brands.

In the UK, figures suggest that just behind Sweden (69 per cent) and Germany (66 per cent) that the UK (58 per cent) leads the way in individuals shopping online.

Getting the consumer and keeping them - the most basic of retail principles - will still be the key to retailer's success and for shopping centres they will have to be keener than ever in their marketing and ensuring they know their customers.

Shopping centres like retailers need to market their winning differentials and let consumers know why they should shop at them.

It may be old hat, knowing the catchment area, the target segments and how to appeal to their needs and wants, but it should be at the root of every decision.

Shopping centres have to work harder to 'own' their customers' loyalty - hearts and minds (and data).

Technology again will be at the heart of this with updates at a touch of a button. Many shopping centres are already becoming wireless enabling customers to log on with their smartphones as they enter, gain loyalty rewards, news of centre-wide and instore promotions as they pass by retailers shop windows and enter communal areas.

To see the future you could look to examples like Westfield. They are already embracing the technology revolution and creating its own online shopping mall which allows consumers to transact with both its physical stores and pure online stores.

And it's not just a gimmick or even a sign of being ahead of the game: it's about being aligned with today's consumer needs.

There is no use pretending digital isn't happening, it's here and you either embrace it or falter.

To succeed there is a need for a win win mentality where landlords and tenants work together to attract people to the centre and into the stores.

Marketing will have to be hard wired to the target audience's need for personal identity. They want and are used to dialogue.

So think Facebook, MSN, twitter and SMS text rather than email or newsprint and it won't even stop there. Interactive poster sites and streaming video to mobiles will be commonplace over the mid-term.

The shopping centre manager will need to master their technology portfolio and adapt and constantly update.

The shopping centre has to be a place that people want to socialise in and not just shop, because that in itself is no longer a good enough reason to visit.

It's important to focus on a reason to draw people in and do it really well.

For example, being the biggest and best fashion destination doesn't just mean having a dominant list of fashion tenants.

It means catwalk shows, designer guest appearances, links on your website to online fashion portals, promotional trips to fashion shows in Paris or Milan.

Shopping centre operators are realising that they can't just sit back and be landlords, they have to be marketers too and their teams need to be complemented with young, tech-savvy, specialist consumer marketing talent.

Access to the internet also means consumer's levels of expectation is so much higher and middle-of-the-road, average and mediocre will no longer cut it for their shopping experience.

Clearly this doesn't bode well for the failing high streets but if high streets and town centres are to succeed, they too need a coordinated approach, pooling their resources to market their strongest offers.

In both retail and retail property, we will see the good survive and slowly get stronger and the bad will fail and need to re-think their strategies.

The consumer no longer has the spending power to spread their money around - they look for quality of product, price and place and as we move into 2013 where food inflation is likely to hit five per cent again and real wages look set to fall, everyone is going to have the learn the new rules of retailing and fast, otherwise they will surely be left behind.

(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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