More investment in digital, data acquisition and CRM is needed for centres to increase their value to both retailers and consumers as physical and digital worlds continue to blur in omnichannel shopping environments. That’s what Daniel Graham, MD of marketing agency OnBrand Group, told shopping centre and asset managers at their annual conference in Brighton this week.

Graham said that centres need to ensure customers have easy-to-access and up-to-date information on hand at their digital ‘front doors’ if they’re to be truly considered “consumer friendly.”

OnBrand – the parent company of Centre Radio – is further expanding its marketing operations into shopping centres with customer journey mapping, data acquisition and digital marketing as integral services.

“Connectivity and consistency in messaging is now critical to the success of a destination in driving both footfall and sales,” said Graham. “This is particularly the case as centre management teams find themselves operating under tight budgets and trying to capture consumer interest. We want to see shopping centres owning the clicks, not just the bricks.”

He added:

“As the gateway between shoppers and retailers, shopping centres need to invest more in the largely untapped opportunities that can come from treating their digital platforms as assets to get closer to their shoppers, both inside and outside of the mall. They can do this by placing both retailer engagement and customer acquisition at the heart of their strategy. With greater accountability and ROI, we forsee digital spend gaining more share at the expenses of traditional marketing as budgets get squeezed and retailers and service charge consultants scrutinise spend. At the same time, as centres better service the needs of their shoppers, they will learn their behaviours and buying patterns and can turn these insights into driving dwell times and spend. To do this they need to be listening more, facilitating sign-ups and serving the right message at the right time to the right audiences. Shoppers are increasingly demanding more of a personalised, bespoke and fluid experience and centres can still do more in this area – even with small marketing budgets.”

OnBrand, which provides services to over 800 shopping centres and retailers and 53 UK train stations, has conducted website research that reveals that whilst 58% of centre website visitors want to see opening hours and 50% want store info, a significant 39% see the centre as their gateway to know what offers are available.

Furthermore, 63% would be disappointed if centre’s website wasn’t up-to-date, while 24% said they would be “angry.” And, perhaps in a damning indictment, 13% said they wouldn’t expect a shopping centre website to be accurate!

“My advice is to commit funding to creating and updating digital communications – especially as the landscape of these channels continues to grow. That way your communications will have currency with consumers and efficiently maximise visits, spend and dwell time,” Graham said. “Seamless messaging and properly coordinated retailer-led events will make a real difference to centre managers and marketing teams seeking to achieve maximum impact on a restricted budget.”

OnBrand exhibited at the Shopping Centre Management Conference, which took place in Brighton on 22nd and 23rd March.