Shopping Centres vs Department Stores

The battle between Shopping Centres and Department Stores- who do experience better?

We have seen over the years how shopping centres have evolved from a collection of shops under one roof into a shopping experience. You can have a day out with the kids, go shopping, skiing, have a work-out or go to the cinema- all at a shopping centre. This has pushed the boundaries of department stores, it’s not just clothing and home floors anymore; department stores now have cafes, restaurants, rooftop dining experiences, cinemas, pop-up galleries, beauty services and fortune tellers!

With a keen interest in retailing and being entertained- I am a big fan of Selfridges. Their recent partnership with the cool cinema chain ‘Everyman’ is genius and the store is so much more than buying a product, you have an experience. You can pop to Harry Gordon’s bar and sample wine and charcuterie, go watch a film or get your hair and nails done. It’s got everything that a shopping centre has- but how can they differentiate and create unique reasons to visit?

Technology- ibeacons, social media, location-based mobile ads and face recognition are all ways of building brand presence and creating communication channels between a destination and customer. A tweet about a new brand or store on a Saturday morning could prove timely for consumers not knowing how to spend their day. Or discount codes could reward loyal ‘followers’ for example would have a measurable result.
Loyalty programs- making the shopping experience memorable is key for a higher spend per customer and more regular visits. Shopping centres and department stores need to know who their customers are, how they spend their time and money, therefore, targeted and personalized communication creates a stronger and more open relationship. Customers could be invited to product or clothing line launches if the destination knows they are fond of a certain brand for example.

Mobile Strategy, this includes apps and mobile sites. Does today’s consumer want to buy what you sell in a physical world, in a digital? How have shopping centres and department stores researched their customers and create solutions to make their buying decisions easier will be key to surviving the next 2 years of retail. Westfield has started selling products you can find in their shopping centres, on their website. This competes for head-on with department stores and as a consumer- this is an exciting time, how will they fight back?!

Differentiating through design and location. As a design consultancy, we understand that a customer needs a draw card to go to your store or centre. How do they find the entrance from the car park, is it easy or hard? Once entering the site, have you thought about the mood and tempo of the space? Are there fresh flowers, nice flooring, somewhere to put a wet umbrella perhaps? We think about all the details of the customer journey so our clients can focus elsewhere on the business.

What do you think Department Stores of Shopping Centres are missing? Know any shopping centres or department stores which need help?