You’ve got a lot of competition, online and offline. Create new reasons for your customers to visit your center.
In a world that becomes more digitally oriented every day, operating a brick-and-mortar retail location can seem daunting. There’s no denying that online shopping has increased in recent years, but according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 64 percent of Americans still prefer to buy from a physical store, and RetailNext pegs 94 percent of all retail sales stemming from a store.
Still, with the majority of Americans believing they can find a better deal online, it’s important as a property manager to get creative in finding ways to get new feet onto your property. You can do that by creating engaging experiences that shoppers can’t get on the web.
So if that guy you paid to dance on the side of the road spinning a sign scared away as many people as he brought in, here are a few other ideas to try.
Add community spaces
Does your shopping center have some type of entertainment or leisure space? Research group McKinsey & Co. has found the mix of tenant/public spaces has ticked up in the past decade from 70/30 to 60/40, or even 50/50.
One of the more popular community spaces is adding a play area for kids, either entire playgrounds or less pricey small climbing structures. Consider also outdoor community theater spaces for music or magic acts, splash pads in the summer, and ice-skating rinks. If you’re already catering to the kids, consider more lounge areas, benches and swings for the adults. Amenities like phone chargers, photo booths or free Wi-Fi may also keep them around longer.
Community spaces give people a reason to come to your property even when they aren’t looking to shop - though they are more likely to do so if they’re there.
Of course, if tenants are leaving, there may be deeper problems at play that require more expensive fixes to the shopping center’s appearance.
Build a strong social media presence
Maintaining your physical property is no longer enough – you need to manage your virtual asset, too.
Building a presence through Facebook is a good way to build credibility and engage with customers who may not be thinking of your shopping center at the time. Offering deals, promoting events like fall festivals or farmer’s markets, and boosting your tenants will keep your content constant and fresh.
Savvier shopping centers may utilize Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat and incorporate #hashtag campaigns into their social media strategies, building an even deeper (and more youthful) following. Research can point you to your region’s most popular bloggers, Tweeters and Instagrammers – many of them are respected authorities on topics like shopping and dining. Be sure to invite these “influencers” to exclusive events (and make sure they write and take pictures).
Investing in Facebook Ads is a low-risk advertising strategy that caters to almost any budget. You can also target by neighborhoods, demographics, age, and net worth. Make sure you understand the platform before investing dollars.
Keep in mind, however, using social media requires not only someone with savvy, but sense – they need to be able to communicate and engage effectively, understand your business and that of your tenants, and feed the always-hungry content beast with items consumers will care about.
Hold community events
Events are an excellent way to increase visitors, even when they aren’t shopping. Having them on the property will expose them to the center’s tenants and amenities. Seasonal events are a great place to start. In warm weather months, consider car shows, art sales and concerts. In the fall, harvest-themed and Halloween events are great for attracting families. Of course every shopping center in town will be completing for customers around Christmas time. Create a unique display of lights and decorations to stand out from the crowd. Events can also be an ancillary revenue opportunity, so be sure to download our eBook on ancillary revenue to learn more.
Hold events that bring in young kids, and therefore their consumer parents: Mommy Mondays or Toddler Tuesdays, for example (Fatherly Fridays aren’t a huge thing, but you can make them one!). Tenants can participate in these special days by adding coupons or freebies to giveaway goodie bags.
Exercise and educational classes are also a popular strategy. Partner with a local yoga instructor or studio and hold weekly classes – particularly in the morning or evening hours, so long as stores nearby are open or will be opening at the time the class ends. (Rooftop yoga is quite popular, though you’ll need easy and safe access to offer it). You can also invite local experts to teach classes – cooking, technology, mobile phone tips, even history.
Event attendees are likely to mingle before or after an event, and may be enticed to visit a tenant.
And remember: Not all your activity should be done with the bottom line in mind. Charity drives – cans, clothes, cash – help position your property as a good community citizen.
Keep your signage fresh
Your shopping center’s sign, typically a pylon or monument sign, is the first thing a potential customers sees and can be a major influencer when deciding whether or not they visit your center. Signage is usually refreshed every seven to ten years. If it’s time to consider a refresh, make sure the center’s brand and the sign’s design will attract the target audience, especially if the neighborhood’s demographics have changed since the sign was last worked on.
It’s also important to note that your locality’s codes may have been updated since your sign was constructed allowing for more signage, taller structures, lighting enhancements and more. Be sure to maximize your signage since newer centers are already taking advantage of these code changes.
Hold a remote radio broadcast (or bring in a local celebrity)
The sight is unquestionably a head-turner: the bright-colored radio van in the parking lot, giant speakers, balloons, and a popular local radio personality running the show. Seeing a live, in-person radio broadcast can stop traffic and divert it into your parking lot.
But getting this to happen isn’t free. It’s called a remote radio broadcast, and pricing can vary drastically depending on your location. The radio station typically brings a station vehicle and tent, the radio personality, and bags of prizes to your location. They promote your location and encourage people to come down, visit, and win prizes. Many tenants like to offer deals.
Keep in mind that radio advertising is a riskier investment than something like a social media ad. Radio ads are generally priced by CPM, or cost per thousand listeners, calculated by the station’s estimated audience size. Social media ads are often pay-per-click, meaning you only pay for the actual number of people that take action and click on your ad. Radio broadcasts are not guaranteed to result in sales, and you’re competing against a bevy of other listening options (you’re also catering to a very specific demography). But if done right, a “remote” can drum up new excitement.
A less-expensive option may be hiring a local celebrity to do a meet and greet – think weather person, sports star, or local person featured on a popular reality TV show.
By creating more engaging experiences for your customers, your shopping center will become more than just a place to shop. It can become a community destination. Amazon and other eCommerce companies may continue to present significant challenges to shopping centers and retailers but creating a popular community gathering place will never go out of style.
About the author – David Goodwin is the president of Ad Vice Studios, a Richmond, Va-based marketing services company. David has built his career and his business collaborating with property managers, developers and architects to transform commercial properties into attractive destinations with unique brands and customer experiences.
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Ad Vice Studios
David Goodwin is the president of Ad Vice Studios, a Richmond, Va-based marketing services company. David has built his career and his business collaborating with property managers, developers and architects to transform commercial properties into attractive destinations with unique brands and customer experiences.