Are you being served?

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As competition for centres increases, operators are adding more individual services to stand out from the crowd, including offers that make the shopping trip more convenient and provide a good experience.

 

While e-commerce is booming, the per capita sales areas in shopping centres are also growing, creating tougher competition for centres across the board. Operators increasingly rely on providing individual services to stand out from the crowd, including offers that make the shopping trip more convenient and provide a good customer experience. But which services do customers really want, and which trends are on the horizon?

One example is ECE’s ‘At your service’ initiative that was launched in 2017. This holistic approach aims to take centre services to a new level and provide a positive shopping experience from beginning to end. The idea is simple: to treat visitors not merely as customers, but welcome them as guests. During the first phase, approximately €190 mln is being invested into around 60 shopping centres up until 2021.

In a study, ECE looked at the entire customer journey to ascertain the expectations of its customers for each individual centre, from the preparation of the shopping trip at home to leaving the shopping centre.

Based on the study’s findings, ECE is now identifying relevant improvements for the existing services in each centre. The new services include redesigned lobby
areas, large number of new seating areas and lounges with comfortable seating, atmospheric lighting and charging points for smartphones and tablets, modern and bright corridors, modernized customer toilets with attractive lobby areas and a completely redesigned children’s play area.

The survey showed that two-thirds of all centre visitors demand services even before they start their shopping trip. They turn to social media channels, apps, or the centre’s website for information and shopping inspiration. ECE created its ‘Love to Shop’ app to help shoppers find out about the latest offers or events at the centre. More than 300,000 downloads underline the app’s appeal.

Future insight

Beyond that, the ‘Digital Mall’ at Alstertal-Einkaufszentrum (AEZ) in Hamburg gives an insight to the future of shopping. Here, customers can use the centre’s homepage to find out whether a certain product is available at the centre in their favourite colour and the right size. Currently, 200,000 products can be checked online for availability.

A new customer survey shows that the pilot project ‘At your service’ at AEZ was successful, as it resulted in significantly higher levels of consumer satisfaction as planned. According to the survey, the percentage of customers rating the service offer at AEZ as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ has increased from 70% before implementation of the ‘At your service’ measures to 84%. A total of two out of three customers (65%) believe that the AEZ shopping experience has improved through ‘At your service’. More than three-quarters of customers describe the improvements as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Overall satisfaction with the centre is almost at 90%.

Intuitive touchpoints

The customer survey also shows that four customers out of ten particularly appreciated new services, which ECE has put a great deal of emphasis on optimising, such as parking, orientation and information. Intuitive colour schemes in the multi-storey car park offer a comfortable arrival, with signals with coloured lights above each parking slot to alert the customer from a distance that the space is available.

The 300 parking spaces are colour-coded to highlight if they are large family parking spaces or extra-wide spaces for easier entry and exit. Once inside the centre, new signage offers an overview of all the shops and services at AEZ and a 3D Wayfinder has been installed.

‘It’s a great achievement that with our pilot project we’ve achieved the primary goal of our service offensive so quickly and visibly to further improve customer satisfaction and the shopping experience by highlighting the centre’s services even more clearly and individually for each one,’ said Joanna Fisher, ECE CEO for centre management.

Following its successful implementation at AEZ, the At your Service model will now become a template to be followed in the other centres to improve the quality of the experience for customers from the moment they arrive to when they leave. The next centres to be improved include City-Galerie Siegen, Billstedt-Center Hamburg and Allee-Center Magdeburg.

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