There was a time when shoppers were never sure of exactly what they wanted until they walked into the high street, or shopping mall, and made their decisions based on what was presented to them.
Those days have practically gone.
Such has been the rise in online shopping that people now seek the products they desire – along with scores of reviews – before they even consider stepping out the front door.
As the trend of online shopping grew, many predicted that the days of books-and-mortar stores were numbered, but over time shopping patterns seem to have evened out, suggesting there is room for both physical and digital shopping to co-exist.
For all the benefits technology offers, it seems that human interaction is still an important part of customer satisfaction. Some shoppers may catch up with friends over a coffee, or enjoy lunch together in the mall. Even shopper who do research their products online may still prefer to have it now as opposed to wait for delivery.
These are all elements that support the physical shopper experience, and many shopping centre managers are now understanding that the strength of their digital channels can be used to entice customers in store; that physical and digital shopping aren’t exclusive from one another as first believed, but rather deeply connected.
Customer habits show us that strong digital content can lead them into a mall, and once they’re in, there is much that can be done to improve their mood, increasing dwell times, spend and also improving the chances of impulse buys. In fact, when running an academic study on customer behaviour, we found that playing the right music at the right time could achieve all of this.
There is also evidence that proves staff are more productive when they enjoy the music that’s played in their store – unsurprising given that they’re often stood in the same room for up to 8 hours a day.
Given that all this information is readily available, the question is, what should people in the retail sector do with it?
The first big step for any shopping centre manager is to accept that shoppers value being connected, and a connection should start long before they set foot in the mall.
Ultimately, there are 5 key elements to creating a strong customer journey, which happen in the following order:
1. Engage shoppers socially
To pull in new shoppers, and keep existing shoppers coming back, it’s important to have a presence on social media. Why? Because this is what people use now. It’s how they communicate. The more (good) content a shopping centre has on their Facebook and Twitter feeds, the more people will like, share, “check-in” and generally engage with that mall.
2. Reward their loyalty
Everybody likes to be rewarded. The beauty with a shopping centre is that, at any given time, there are countless offers running within their stores. So the question here is, are the offers clearly visible – online, in store and digitally? Does the centre have a stream of exciting new offers filling their web site and social media channels? If they do, people will flock to them, and are likely to share the offers with family and friends.
3. Be clear and concise
Within our research we found that if people visit a shopping centre website, they’re looking for one of three things: to find information on deals or offers, to find opening and closing times, or to find contact information. Therefore, these details should be clearly presented and easy to find.
4. Set the right mood
Almost everybody plays music within their mall, but do they play the right music? There’s a science to music and the effect it has can be incredibly powerful, so a mall shouldn’t just play any old tunes. Instead, they should work with a provider who insists on understanding their brand as well as the demographic of their customers. Only then can the music become a true benefit.
5. Point them in the right direction
Is it coming up to Father’s Day? Has another of our beloved musicians recently passed away? Is the mall holding a 1 minute silence for VE Day? Are they celebrating something unique to their store? Whatever’s happening, the message should be abundantly clear through some professional radio messaging. This way, the shopping centre can drive sales and increase moral among their staff and their shoppers.
A mall’s relationship with its customers can be all encompassing, and if shopping centres choose to engage with customers in each of the areas above, the reward is that they’ll become a go-to outlet whether shoppers are visiting in person, or simply browsing on their phone.