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Is Westfield afraid of Amazon?

Following his presentation at the NRF Big Show in New York today Steven Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield Corporation, was asked: Are you scared of Amazon?

“It’s not a matter of being scared or not scared, Amazon is an unbelievable company that has an unbelievable product, but they do a different thing to what we do. They can’t create the experiences that we create,” Lowy responded.

He said Westfield wasn’t in the commodity business, but the “experience business.”

Lowy was bullish about the future of shopping centres as retail destinations but noted that the retailer-developer relationship must evolve to succeed.

“Today the relationship between real estate developers and retailers is designed to open stores, and essentially that relationship ends when the store is open. I believe this needs to be turned on its head,” Lowy said

“We are in a new retail landscape, we need to build a much richer and deeper ongoing relationship that is fundamentally based on the sharing of our collective data. Customers expect this and we must provide it,” he said.

Lowy asked the crowd to imagine arriving at a Westfield centre and where your car is immediately recognised by license plate, the boom gate rises, and you are directed to the closest, most convenient parking spot. Inside, the centre can curate a personalised shopping experience based on your browser history.

“Similar to mapping blue dot technology, we’ll guide you not just to the store you like, but to the very product you are looking for. With one simple click we can serve you whatever your interests are,” Lowy said.

He argued that is scenario is possible by leveraging the power of shared data.

“We are driven by data, and data is driven by scale. We all share one thing: the customer, and when those customers show up to shop, they aren’t thinking about their relationship with any one brand or company or store… all they want is a great experience,” he said.

Physical retail needs to be as good on data as the online retail, because physical will win when it comes to experience, he said.

Powering this is the rise of mobile.

“I see the mobile phone as our friend, not our foe, because it gives the ability for us to connect retailers and consumers in real time, create more business for retailers and create a better experience for consumers by using technology.”

Internet Retailing’s coverage of the NRF Big Show is sponsored by Zendesk.

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