The challenge for any mall developer or retailer is to build footfall and convert footfall into sales. Sales promotions, advertising, etc, are some of the many tools they can use to recruit and retain customers. But before using these tools, they need to understand their concept, build their value proposition, define their target audience and understand how and where to communicate with customers,” observes Alex Andarakis, founder and managing director of Andarakis Advisory Services.
According to him, the four key performance indicators for mall managers and retailers are:
• number of people visiting the mall or store,
• time spent within the mall or store,
• percentage conversion from visit to transaction, and
• depth of visitation or customer loyalty.
Attracting people to a mall requires a certain set of marketing activities, but keeping them engaged during their visits, translating the visits into transactions, and getting them to come back regularly requires another set of marketing skills.
The two major marketing challenges for mall operators and retailers are recruitment and retention of footfall, that is, how do you recruit people to your mall or your brand, and subsequently, how do you retain them. It’s crucial for marketers to know their customers and how to reach them before they start advertising.
“When recruiting people, the tactics should be tailor-made for the various target audiences including tourists, primary catchment area and secondary catchment area. Once you have recruited your footfall and your selected target customers and audiences, the marketing team should focus on driving regular and motivating activities throughout the mall and through its network of retailers to further develop customers through number of visits, depth of visits in terms of visit-to-spend conversion, and lastly, through recommendation to others. This is where the ‘mall or store experience’ needs to find a consistent manner of delivering against the expectations of the customer,” explains Andarakis.
He provides a step-by-step approach for marketing professionals in the retail industry to engage their customers:
Marketing does not begin with advertising but by creating a concept
Marketing a mall or store is creating a concept that gives people a reason to understand and interact with the brand or product. In order to break the ‘sales cycle’, a developer or retailer must create a mall or retail concept in a manner that converts ‘awareness and interest’ in the initial phase of a marketing programme to ‘active engagement’, thereby becoming more than just a shopping venue. The concept can be created by following these guidelines:
• Create a destination that can attract people for a number of tangible and intangible reasons.
• Create multi-dimensional experiences and ‘talk-of-the-town’ concepts that cannot be bought.
• Substitute ‘outdoor lifestyles’ with indoor leisure and entertainment activities.
• Become a hub for social and family activities.
• Get the basics right in terms of shopping functionality and availability.
Building a value proposition
Once the concept has been developed, the marketing team needs to identify the value proposition of its mall or retail store, that is, the key drivers that can define and differentiate the mall or retail store from the competition. Marketers have a lot of elements to play with before considering advertising, sales and promotions.
Here’s a checklist of elements that can help a mall marketing team to build a value proposition for the mall: location, role of the mall, parking, accessibility, design and layout, services, amenities, anchor stores, retail mix, retail precincts, mall themes, adjacencies, family entertainment, tourist attractions, food courts, major hypermarket, cinema, casual and fine dining, outdoor dining, festivals, events and exhibitions, transportation, hotels, casual business venues, cultural venues and loyalty programmes.
For retailers, the checklist includes mall positioning, locations in the mall, store design and fit-out, adjacencies, access points, merchandising, in-store entertainment, events and live animation, media placement, advertising, promotions and sales and loyalty programmes.
Developing a marketing strategy
The next step is to develop a retail marketing strategy. This can be achieved by:
• identifying and leveraging global retail trends,
• profiling the customer and understanding the major customer requirements,
• building the brand foundation, positioning, personality and identity,
• establishing communication channels, and
• managing the customer journey.
Some global trends marketers can study while developing their strategies include concept stores, niche branding, online shopping, edutainment, premium outdoor dining and unique leisure and entertainment attractions.
Identifying the target audience
Given the fact that time, people and money are scarce, the marketing and advertising teams need to identify the mall’s or retailer’s prime audience. Ask the following nine questions to understand your target customer thoroughly:
• What are your customer’s lifestyle and preferences?
• How does your customer make a purchase decision within your industry or product category?
• How does your customer receive messages across different media?
• What is your market in the broadest sense: are you in the retail business, leisure business or tourism business?
• What are the substitutes for your products or services in the market?
• What are the key drivers and barriers within your industry that cause your customers to accept or reject your offerings?
• How does your brand image compare within your market among your peers?
• How does your brand deliver against the promise you make in the public arena?
• How well does your brand communication work in delivering your value proposition to your target audience?
Once you’ve identified your target customer, identify the segment that has the highest growth potential by asking the following questions:
• Do you have the right to win with this segment, or why do you have a stronger chance of winning with this segment than your nearest competitor?
• Does this segment understand the benefit of your company and is it ready to pay for your service?
• Is this particular segment sufficient to meet your business goals?
• Can your company reach this segment in an efficient manner across local, regional and international platforms?
Establishing communication channels
A brand communication channel plan has three objectives in the following order – awareness, interest and engagement – and the media for these objectives are different. Brand awareness is the primary goal and first step of any advertising campaign when a product or service is introduced or re-introduced. This can be achieved by using media such as television, outdoor, magazines, in-store advertising and sponsorships.
The next objective is to convert the awareness to interest, which should result in the customer wanting to explore or find out more about your product or service through an initial visit or trial. This can be achieved through sales promotions, social media, blogs and direct marketing.
Brand awareness and interest should lead to brand engagement and transactions, which is the key objective of brand marketing. The brand should connect with the customer via a range of touch-points such as retail environments, advertising, word-of-mouth, online and the product or service itself. At this stage, customer service becomes a marketing tool, alongside media such as in-store animation, electronic direct mailers, catalogues, events and exhibitions and loyalty programmes.
Mapping the customer journey
Customers go through a number of stages before deciding to purchase a product or service. The individual cycles in the customer journey can be termed as ‘start of journey’, ‘middle of journey’, ‘conversion of journey’, then can be lost during ‘distraction of journey’ and won back through ‘rejuvenation of journey’.
“When you recruit a customer, you want to keep the customer for life. So marketers need to map their customers’ journey, which doesn’t end with the ‘conversion of journey’. A poor experience can cause a diversion of the customer journey, which may require the retailer to invest time and money to restart the journey with the customer.
Alternatively, retailers could rejuvenate the customer journey to regain lost customers. Malls and retailers use different tools to rejuvenate the customer journey, such as mall expansion, store redesign, new store openings, creative physical and social media campaigns, seasonal events, loyalty programmes, concept innovation and expanding service offerings,” says Andarakis.