Innovation is the ‘must’ for shopping centers

Or more accurately, it should be for all of them. At least that’s the main conclusion after The New Age of Retail Real Estate Forum 2013 organized by GOVNET Conferences and that gathered major retailers as well as representatives from complementary sectors discussing the most critical issues in the field.

Some of the shopping malls in Romania and especially in Bucharest have already understood that in order to succeed, retain their customers and attract new visitors they should stand out of the crowd and come with something fresh, different, innovative.  However, the majority still follows the same standard recipe – shopping area, food-court, cinema -, despite the ongoing changes in customers’ needs.

‘Every time we build a project we see bricks, we see windows, we see steel, we see an asset.’ says Georgios Argentopoulos, CEO at Baneasa Developments.  Nevertheless, he emphasizes that this common approach doesn’t apply in their case, as unlike the majority, they firstly see people, the end-users, the prospect customers.

‘There are two different business models: the first one is the operational efficiency (…) here’s the other model – that’s the innovation, that’s why you need to focus on innovation, differentiation, different things. (…) Innovation has to go through all our propositions, from our values to our processes, to our mindsets, the people we employ, everything around it.’ explains Argentopoulos.

One of the factors demanding an innovative approach in the field is the technology evolution whose impact on consumers cannot be neglected. Thus, according to Catalin Pozdarie, General Manager at Hervis Sports, the Cross Channel Retail is a concept responding to the new needs the consumers have, meaning that the client has the possibility of getting in contact with a brand not only through one channel, but can jump from one channel to another; on the other hand, retailers see a single client but they manage him separately. If implemented, it would ensure a better consumer-experience and a way for traditional retailers to keep their business profitable and successful.

When speaking about innovation there’s an essential aspect that should be considered, moreover since the market is more and more fragmented. That’s differentiation, as Ali Ergun Ergen, General Manager at TBE Solutions, stresses out. And in order to implement a different strategy, an efficient one, it should be focused on the client who is the end-user:  ‘One of the critical things is for all of us to understand when we build a shopping center, who do we build it for? Retailers, apparently, but who are the final end-users of the shopping centers?’

While the conclusion is that innovation is the key-concept retailers, shopping centers should implement, the focus was definitely the client, as Razvan Gaita, General Manager of Anchor Grup, also stated: ‘Everything should be concentrated around the client’. So, a better understanding of the consumer is the future of shopping centers, Gaita added, confirming that eventually the new age of retail and shopping malls will be based on a more human approach in comparison with the old one that was based on square meters.

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