How can Shopping Centres support retailers during and post COVID-19?

March 19, 2020 | Gerry Mezzina

The Coronavirus Pandemic may be one of the biggest challenges our industry has faced. With recommendations for social distancing and to minimise leaving our homes, marketing and driving foot traffic at this time is a difficult balance. Events and gatherings have been cancelled, cinema releases on hold, and images of violent exchanges for toilet paper suggests it’s fair to say that non-essential retail spending is not at the customers core thinking right now.

During this time, it seems inevitable that to support retailers rent relief and reduction/suspension of marketing levies will be required. Right now, the goal is to support retailers in keeping their doors open with a focus on minimising the financial impact, and responsibly marketing to drive traffic in centre. However once we’re through the thick of it, we need to think beyond rent relief. 

While rent relief will be needed in the immediate term, it will do little to drive foot traffic and sales when we get through this and begin the journey of stabilisation. 

Once we emerge from social distancing measures and it’s safe for customers to return to daily life, centres should consider shifting rent relief to a retailer stimulus package.

Shifting support from a reduction in costs to reimbursement for sales driving campaigns will better support foot traffic and sales. For example rather than offer a $500 per week rent reduction, retailers should be encouraged to provide discounts, buy one get one offers and other value adds and the $500 used to rebate them the value of the discount offered in doing this.

This works in a number of ways. It provides revenue generating support to the retailer, drives foot traffic to the centre and store, and importantly creates a sale through the retailers till. 

Re-engaging customers post-coronavirus will be key to thriving after this retail apocalypse. Shopping habits will have been broken, online purchasing reinforced (and perhaps, discovered by those yet to embrace it), and customers will need continual reminders and incentives to return to their local centre multiple times each week. 

My honest belief is that traditional events and brand advertising can support this, but alone will not be enough. Centres will need to further invest in digital channels, customer insights and relevant, personal marketing to drive stabilisation. Driving foot traffic can no longer be the goal of centre marketing, we’ll need to convert traffic to sales. 

We’ve learnt a lot about Shopping Centre customer engagement having worked with over 80 centres locally, as well as malls in Asia, Europe, and Africa and know how to implement effective digital strategies and customer engagement. 

I was fortunate to join the Ipswich Riverlink team and 15 of their tenants this week to discuss working together using the Riverlink Rewards program, powered by Norbit, as the key tool to support retailers through this tough time. I was reassured by the open conversations and desire to work collectively to drive the centre. The positive outlook despite the expected difficulties confirmed that our program works in supporting the centre and the retailers. Each business is committed to provide offers and rewards for the Riverlink App, and eager to work with our team to track and improve each campaign. As a result, we worked together on some immediate tactics that could be implemented using our software and promote stores in a socially conscious way, a list can be found here. Together, we are ready to reach customers quickly and effectively now and into the future.

As the industry faces a harsh unknown, events are cancelled and marketing pulled back, it’s a good opportunity to start forward planning and reinvesting marketing dollars into a robust, ongoing engagement platform and sales driving campaigns. Building your foundation for loyalty and driving your digital footprint and digital databases can start now, and put you in the best position to support your retailers and claim back your customers when things return to normal. 

If you’d like to talk to us while we’re in lock down mode please get in touch, our video conference windows are open.

Photo credit: Anna Shvets from Pexels

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