When people think of change and innovation, they often think of high-tech ideas and new inventions, but change is important to retail because, without change you are likely to lose your competitive edge and possibly your loyal base of customers.

Innovation is simply change

Changes don’t have to be linked to radical ideas and costly expenditure, but can just be simple changes to how your current operations are run. Changes that result from the adoption of new technology are the most common and while innovative technology may seem radical, changing your working processes here can ultimately lead to increased business. The onward march of multi-channel activity and social networking has affected how we all communicate. Your customers are increasingly buying online and listening to recommendations from friends or other online users via social networks. This is a growing concern for retailers as they need to do all they can to get customers into the stores. This is the perfect time to use technology to enhance the shopping experience and encourage people to visit the shopping centre.

In the past, changes to business had to be carefully planned, but today one of the biggest challenges is the pace at which changes happen that affect the attitude of consumers toward shopping. The time has come for managers and business owners to be open and receptive to new ideas and innovations, and to identify areas of their business that need improvement.

When to change

The culture of change is about continuous improvement and efficiency. However, it would be foolish to jump into the latest technological breakthrough without a well-planned strategic plan. Equally if you’re too late to the party then the opportunity for commercial advantage has gone. Areas for improvement need to be assessed, changes implemented then successful results repeated. Many businesses have been frightened of changing though … For example, many shopping centres use social media and this has led to a change in the consumer experience. Customers can now access the latest sales offers, deals and events from any place at any time and then tell all their friends what they think through their social channels.

Our research has found that many centres signed up for social media accounts some time ago, but didn’t see the benefit of spending time and resources in this digital space and abandoned these channels to expand their marketing reach. Obviously there is great scope for improvement here as control of the shopping experience now lies in the hands of the customer, but many shopping centres are reluctant to continue and are blinded by previous efforts. This means there are huge gaps where the shopper can resort to sitting back on their sofa and buying everything online. For many customers, retail purchases are no longer a simple case of deciding to buy online or offline and involves the process of online research and sometimes several visits to their shopping centre.

Buying online isn’t perfect

More than half of us buy books, music and games online now and many of us also choose to purchase fashion items. There are problems though … Over 60% of online fashion buyers are annoyed by deliveries that don’t arrive on time, or simply when whilst they weren’t at home. Equally as frustrating, are stories of online shoppers having to guess what size clothes they are ordering and then having to spend time re-packaging and sending the items back. Of course we are aware that online buying is convenient and we often find a greater product range than instore, but the reality is that people still like to try clothes on and feel products before they purchase. This is, and always will be the major benefit of the shopping centre experience.

Why to change

Customers were quite satisfied coming to your shopping centre years ago and spending the day visiting all your shops, but unfortunately we live in a society that has become ever more impatient. We simply can’t wait anymore and as the digital world evolves and so do your customers. They are demanding new types of experiences and services to suit their needs. The consumer is becoming more social with their shopping habits unlike previous years where the purchasing decision was a private affair with hands-on direct retailer driven visits.

People are also influenced by what friends within their social networks are saying about particular products. Consumers now arrive in your shopping centre armed with the facts and many retailers don’t even realise that this as happened. The sales process has started before the actual store visit and the visit is just to complete the purchase. Simply put, customers are finding new ways to use technology and they expect retailers to evolve as a result, so it really is time to get up to speed.

Decisions to be made

Some major high-street retailers have vanished from our high streets in recent years due to increased online competition and many more are struggling in today’s economic climate. They are finding themselves needing to make difficult decisions that can affect their business. The ability to change is critical for these retailers wanting to maintain a strong relationship with their customer base.

On a more basic level, changes may simply come down to managing time and resources more effectively with marketing efforts. So if you can’t run your social media accounts, then let one of your management staff do it, but if they can’t do it, let the centre administrator do it. If it still can’t be done … Then, it’s a resource or people issue that needs solving.

Opportunities & Growth

The ability to embrace change is important to explore business opportunities, through new creative ideas. Innovation by using social media effectively can help a shopping centre increase its awareness to a wider audiences and fills the gap in the ever increasing digital marketing space where one great idea can make a big difference in the success of a shopping centre.

Simply asking “Why?” can lead to changes that directly impact the bottom line. Centres that change the way of looking at their customers needs, new ways of delivering service and better ways of increasing the customer experience may well attract new customers. This change in efficiency can make for more satisfied customers with higher levels of quality and service.

Change is inevitable

Change is an inevitable part of doing business, but is not always embraced with open arms because of the fear of adapting to change. Customers are embracing this technology rapidly and their expectations of retailers are changing, but shopping centres aren’t keeping up! Customers have instant opportunities to comment on what they demand and what they don’t like about the products they want to purchase. There’s nothing the shopping centre can do about it if they aren’t listening and responding by having a social presence.

If shopping centres can get this right and improve their communication services by engaging with consumers through digital channels this can have a beneficial impact on success in the long-term. Staying current with digital trends by participating on social media is one of the most cost effective marketing channels and has the ability to attract potential customers as well as help maintain current customers.