20 Feb 2013
It seems that wherever you go these days, a newer, bigger and better shopping centre has literally risen from dust in a matter of months.
The sheer number of centres in any given area provides consumers with more retail choices than ever before, says Heidi Franck, Group chief operating officer for One Property Holdings (OPH).
She says considering the nature of today’s savvy shopper, centres need to be sure they have sound marketing strategies in place to remain competitive and to attract patronage.
According to Franck, like any other marketing strategy, shopping centre marketing begins with the centre’s target market.
“Research conducted needs to take into account the structure of the customer base in terms of its socio-economic profile, age structure and ethnic composition,” she explains.
Also of vital importance is an investigation into shopper behaviour, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of surrounding centres.
Naturally, a centre’s marketing plan needs to link in with the category of shopping centre that it falls under.
But of course, the design, location and tenant mix should already have been developed to suit the market in question and in order to remain competitive, centres need to establish a strong brand.
This is accomplished by highlighting its more impressive traits such as size, tenant choice, architectural treatment or special attractions which make it unique.
“What is essential is that the marketing of the brand remains clear and consistent.
“As such, regular promotions with a targeted brand message are a useful way of assisting the centre to remain foremost in the minds of potential customers,” says Franck.
The overall customer experience is, of course, essential to the way in which a centre’s brand is perceived and this will involve aspects such as customer service level, centre security and ambiance.
In terms of traditional marketing channels, print mediums such as newspapers, magazines and pamphlets are an effective way of generating exposure.
Franck points out that in order for a centre to thrive it needs to keep up with changes in technology, and should be moving into the electronic space such as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which will allow them to engage with their loyal client base.
Yet when entering the online space one needs to bear in mind that a strong strategy is needed and this should not just be done for the sake of it.
Most shopping centres tend to leave it up to their tenants to manage their own promotions.
“This can be problematic, apart from the nationals, many stores lack the experience to handle their own campaigns.”
Centres need to be willing to promote themselves as a unified shopping complex, and they need to be aware that the establishment of a centre’s brand is a long-term initiative that can prove to be costly, explains Franck.
However, in light of the current retail environment and the burgeoning competition for customer spend - a sound promotional plan is not really an optional extra centre owners can afford to forego anymore.
“Effective marketing of shopping centres or shopping malls is becoming increasingly critical to their future performance,” adds Franck.
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