Enticing online shoppers to visit your retail center
By Ilene Vivinetto-Suter
Retail and fashion consultant
Retail property owners and their tenants are feeling the pain as Amazon and other online shopping options “click away” at their profits. It has become too easy and you can buy almost anything from your keyboard or on your smartphone, opposed to going out to buy. How do we compete…Here are some solid suggestions to help build and maintain an environment that is enticing and will get consumers back to brick and mortar shopping.
Create an experience
With so many shopping options, consumers value experiences over things. One way to create an experience is by making a visit to your marketplace an event, even a tradition. Consumers will make a point of visiting your property if you turn it into a destination. For example, during the holidays, turn storefronts into holiday displays (remember the days of children’s faces pressed against store windows?). Create midsummer events that will draw people to your retail center for warm weather shopping. Think of fun ways to entertain visitors (who says you can’t have performers along your walkways?). Cultural festivals, food festivals, family festivals; all of these things create an experience that online shopping can’t possibly provide, and keep consumers coming back to your marketplace for more.
Mix it up
Don’t create a vague shopping experience with your consumers by showing them the same shops and restaurants that they can find anywhere. Malls were their own ecosystem and we have become bored with that type of shopping. Create a balance and give shoppers a few “comfort” shops, but then mix it up with those perfect local ideas that entice a return trip to your marketplace. Some of the most successful shopping districts will have a few brand stores mixed-in with locally owned shops and restaurants. Draw them in with brand recognition and keep them coming back with unique shops and local chefs.
Are you photo ready?
In a day when we need to snap a picture of everything we do, everything we eat, everything we buy -- for sharing in posts with friends -- it’s important to make sure your property is photo ready for this “free advertising”. Flowers, clean sidewalks, outdoor seating on a warm day, clean beautiful shop fronts, even a few clever sidewalk boards will end up on hundreds of Instagram posts. So many of our shopping and dining choices come from images that we have seen and shared on the different social media outlets, that you need to take advantage. Make your property a memorable photo spot and you will have instant advertising that will draw in new visitors and keep your regulars coming back.
Cater to your demographic
Not every good idea will work in every shopping district or neighborhood. Urban customers are very different from their suburban friends. They shop differently. Walk your neighborhood and see what people are doing, how are they dressed, do they shop as couples or in groups with friends? By gaining this understanding you will be able to create to right mix of shops and dining for your retail center. In order to keep your traffic flowing, ask additional questions, such as: Can you cater to consumers at all different times of day? Does your space have a place for a good breakfast gathering? Is afternoon shopping in abundance? Can business people grab a cocktail after work? Do you have a perfect dinner spot and a place for a night cap?
Turn your tenants into a team
Encourage your tenants to become a team by hosting tenant meetings and gatherings. By understanding what is and isn’t working for others, everyone can benefit. It will also help to save time by not pursuing ideas that haven’t worked in the past. By providing tenants with this type of forum, they will get to better understand one another’s shops, which will lead to cross-recommendations, and increase sales and return business for the team.
Help your tenants by hiring a pro
Consider hiring a retail consultant to provide an outside perspective to your tenants on ways they can improve their business. This could include details such as merchandising, décor, floor plans, and even go to the extreme of training employees. While online retail is incredibly convenient, it lacks the human touch that shoppers look forward to experiencing when they visit quality stores (that is as long as the store embodies the quality experience shoppers are seeking). Help your tenants find the ways to make their store a place people want to buy from by bringing-in someone who can help them to succeed.
Finally, an encouraging fact for retail property owners, and their tenants, to remember: Although e-commerce is on a steady increase (up 15 percent from third quarter 2016, to third quarter 2017), third quarter e-commerce only amounts to 9.1 percent of total retail sales (according to the US Census Bureau News from the Department of Commerce). Based on this data, we are still a brick and mortar society that loves to go-out and shop. It’s up to you to get creative and attract shoppers to your property!