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E-commerce

Shopping centre owner sees role for online retail

Scentre Group chief executive Peter Allen said physical stores need to work in connection with online stores in order to capture today’s consumers.

Speaking at Speaking at Scentre’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday, Allen noted the impact that online shopping has had on consumer behaviour, expectations and options and said retailers need to create more compelling reasons for customers to stay and engage offline.

“The role of the physical store has to work in connection with a retailer’s online presence, enabling customers to seamlessly review, connect and purchase goods and services,” he said.

“We are seeing that those retailers with a compelling offer across all formats are growing their business at a faster rate than others.”

Allen talked up the company’s focus on technology, noting that the words ‘innovation’ and ‘agility’ now form part of everyday conversation.

“The impact of digital technology and digital disruption remains a keen focus for us, and digital innovation continues to be embedded across all our business operations,” he said.

Many viewed these words as a wake-up call to traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers that have been slow to catch up to consumers’ changing needs, as Allen revealed Scentre Group is “proactively” curating the retail mix at each of its centres.

“There’s no doubt the industry’s evolution will continue, as those brands that no longer perform or are relevant or desirable to customers will fall away,” he said.

The thinking cuts both ways, however, as more and more native online retailers see value in establishing a physical presence.

The trend began with the likes of online eyeglasses company Warby Parker and menswear brand Bonobos in the US, which now have a combined total of more than 100 bricks-and-mortar outlets.

A number of Australian online retailers, such as Temple & Webster, Koala, Institchu and, most recently, Brosa have similarly opened offline stores in recent years in a bid to enhance the customer experience.

Shopping centres go digital

Rival shopping centre owner Mirvac is likewise looking to tap into digital opportunities, recently announcing the expansion of its partnership with Mall Ops, an online search platform that lets customers search for specific products across retailers in a given shopping centre.

Customers can now search a shopping centre’s website to see which stores have a certain type of Nike shoe in stock – Rebel, Hype DC or Nike itself.

Depending on the retailer, they are then redirected to the company’s e-commerce site to purchase, or they can contact the store directly.

“It’s a way for us to use technology to support our retailers online,” said Timothy Weale, national manager of retail solutions at Mirvac.

Doron Ostrin, co-founder and CEO of Mall Ops’ parent company, Productify, said the platform improves the customer experience, something shopping centres have become increasingly focused on.

“In the past, shopping centres were facilities managers. They made sure the bathrooms were clean and the lights were turned on. But that has changed over the past few years,” he said.

“The first step [to improve the customer experience] for many shopping centres was rolling out of wi-fi, but there’s so much more to a good customer experience than wi-fi and parking.

“Now they’re thinking about how they can help customers find what they’re looking for from the first touchpoint…the research phase.”

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