Advice and Opinion PropTech

How data analytics enhance marketing of shopping centres

Shopping centre owners have been investing in technology during recent years, from cutting-edge footfall counters to the introduction of free Wi-Fi to stay relevant and profitable.

With all these technologies that interface consumers, shopping centres sit with a vast amount of data they are not fully taking advantage of. Think about all the social media analytics, website analytics, customer databases sitting on Excel, footfall data, Wi-Fi data, parking data, tenant turnovers etc. – all this data is a source of understanding consumer behaviour. However, this information is scattered and yields no real benefit in silos.

This is where real digitisation takes place,” says Lebogang Mokubela, CEO of Shopping Centre Marketing Agency, Lemok Agency. “There is no shortage of information that landlords and their marketing teams have access to, but it’s bringing that data together and understanding the insights and what can be done with them that will see shopping centres thrive in this digital age.”

Trendsetting shopping centre owners are collating multiple data sets, including shopper behaviour, social media stats, retailer sales and the performance of retail categories into advanced analytics tools that provide highly visual insights. These insights are then funneled to the marketing departments and campaigns are then structured accordingly.

Data analytics takes the guesswork out of marketing for shopping centres. Running a spin-and-win just because it has worked (on paper) previously will no longer cut it – data analytics gives real insights as to what drives footfall, spend and consumer interest”, says Mokubela.

Research firm McKinsey states that “between March and August 2020, one in 5 consumers switched brands, and 7 in 10 tried new digital shopping channels. The retail sector experienced 10 years of growth in digital penetration in a matter of months.” Relying on the same-old, same-old is just not going to work. Shopping centre owners and their marketing teams need to have a data-driven marketing approach. Spending thousands of Rands on marketing research every year becomes wasteful expenditure when you are already sitting on valuable data that can provide real actionable insights in your market.

Buyer behavior has changed significantly since the pandemic began, rendering the old ways of marketing invalid. Externalities that once seemed incidental, such as customer mobility, now have outsize importance. Is visitation down because customers can’t get to the store or because they no longer wish to shop there? Many marketing teams simply don’t know, and such data loopholes cause friction.

Our data-driven methodology involves integrating customer data with business-level metrics (footfall versus mall turnover) to understand trends. These trends are analyzed to inform marketing strategy direction as well as optimal media platforms to use. This data-driven perspective allows us to optimise data until each specific shopping centre has clearly (1) defined it’s market and value proposition (that truly matters to the customer), and (2) found and optimized the most optimal marketing platforms (to ensure efficient use of budgets)”, he says.

It is unfortunate that many mall owners as well as their marketing teams lag their tenants when it comes to using data analytics. One oft-cited explanation is that malls haven’t traditionally interacted directly with consumers, so they don’t have much consumer data to analyze. But we have found that malls already have access to significant amounts of data, including data on shopper behavior, tenant sales, and category performance. What they don’t typically have are the analytical skills and tools to generate insights from the data. Most mall owners and their marketing teams still make decisions based on tradition, experience, or intuition—thereby leaving value on the table”.

In this very volatile environment, this cannot continue. To succeed in the digital age, mall owners will need to instill a culture of fact-based decision making throughout the organization. In addition to implementing advanced-analytics tools, they should invest in collecting more of the valuable data that will inform their business decisions. For instance, they can deploy new technologies (such as beacons, granular Wi-Fi, and facial-recognition cameras) to capture behavioral data. They can launch mall wide loyalty programs to gather individual transaction data and generate insights into the customer journey across the entire mall ecosystem. They can also pursue partnerships with tenants—for instance, by negotiating preferred rents in exchange for data sharing. Armed with robust data and advanced analytics tools, malls have the potential to revitalize and revolutionize not just their own business performance but that of the rest of the retail industry as well.