There is a strong argument for embracing innovations to improve the retail experience; equally, it is vital to step back and consider the true value.
Are you installing a new tech initiative for the sake of joining the pack, or can it deliver genuine value for your consumers and your business?
Beacon technology is an initiative that we have led with at Hammerson. We were first to complete a comprehensive roll-out of beacons – using Bluetooth low-energy geo-technology – across our entire shopping centre portfolio, to work in conjunction with our mobile app, Plus.
This technology can be a driver of great value for shoppers and retailers. Using information based on customer preferences, combined with geo-technology to determine a shopper’s location, Plus sends personalised content in real time.
Shopping centre landlords, retailers and customers all stand to benefit. Landlords gain insight which enables them to adapt to their occupiers’ needs; retailers gather intelligence on customer behaviour while increasing awareness and sales; and consumers receive tailored offers.
The Plus app was initially trialled at Les Terrasses du Port in Marseille last year and we were encouraged by the response, with Plus ranking in the top 10 lifestyle apps for France.
Nonetheless, it was an important step to analyse and measure feedback from customers and retailers to ensure optimum functionality for the wider roll-out.
Encouragingly, we found that no significant changes were needed in terms of functionality.
However, we did spend time refining the customer proposition and blue dot navigation to enhance the shopping centre experience. We also engaged in a strategy to deliver fashion-led content through the use of local vloggers and bloggers.
Based on national trends, information is cascaded at a local level to give customers fashion and styling advice from destinations including the Bullring in Birmingham or Union Square in Aberdeen.
These enhancements were invaluable in helping us to fine-tune our proposition and provide a more rounded offering. Now 70,000 customers have downloaded the Plus app and well over half of those go on to register.
As technology evolves, so many great innovations of their time have been rendered obsolete, so, is this one here to stay?
Undoubtedly the future of retail is becoming more focused on the personalised customer experience, and ultimately this can only be achieved when retailers and landlords get closer to their customers and have a clearer understanding of the way they shop.
My prediction is that beacon technology will light the way.