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Christmas comes to life! How to survive the toughest retail period

Christmas is well and truly in our sights. Belinda Daly has been through 20 of them in the shopping centre marketing world and she’s seen changes as dramatic as the introduction of social media. She has five tips for the centre marketer for this Christmas.

There really is no arguing Christmas does start earlier year after year. From decoration installations to shelves packed with the perfect decorative pieces, the Christmas roll out is well and truly in full force now. For retail marketeers in shopping centres however, the planning begins almost as quickly as Christmas finishes. It’s a year-long love affair; the love-hate relationship with the most lucrative retail season of the year is real.

With a spike in sales for our retailers, there remains an ever-growing challenge as marketers to gain the attention of shoppers in a crowded and competitive market. More than ever, the access to gift options is endless for shoppers and each shopping centre must work harder to get their slice of the pie. Christmas comes to life at AMP Capital Shopping Centres where, this Christmas, we celebrate the magic of the season and work to make the whole experience easier for our shoppers.

After 20 Christmases in the world of shopping centre marketing, here’s my top five marketing tips to surviving the toughest retail period of them all!

A seamless season

Share of wallet isn’t easy to come by in today’s complex retail environment; the point of purchase can make or break the experience a customer has with a brand both in the online and physical space. Myer’s recent acknowledgement at the POPAI retail marketing awards highlighted the importance of thinking about your customers and the interactions they will have with you throughout the Christmas period whether that be through your products, a brand collaboration, technology or even an event or activity. From rocket ship lifts to brand collaborations to carefully curated product offerings, Myer thought of their customers and how they could make their Christmas experience a seamless one.

A solid customer strategy combined with innovative tactics can drive not only sales but increase traffic and dwell time in the most challenging retail period of the year.

A co-speaker of mine at the POPAI conference highlighted a relevant statistic for us marketing professionals: 64% of customers are willing to pay more if you can make something simpler. The recent domination of innovative brands can be attributed to a strategy that places the customer at the heart. Truly understanding and removing the friction points that interrupt the customer journey not only makes the process a seamless experience but has proven to positively influence spend and drive overall business performance.

Take Uber for example. Three taps and your driver is minutes away; jump straight out at your location and the payment’s already been sorted – awaiting your five stars for a fab ride.

We know as shopping centre managers, we have the opportunity to reimagine convenience and what this means to our customers, and address the anxiety around Christmas shopping. November and December can see customers take a not-so-familiar path when in our centres, their gifting journey often seeing them exploring and searching for new brands and stores to find the perfect gift.

When navigating multiple floors and hundreds of stores in centres such as Macquarie Centre, our recently launched Australian-first interactive mapping solution (left) on our new mobile websites will surely come in handy.

Utilised by over 50,000 customers in one month, we know this turn-by-turn technology with visual references will be a vital tool in assisting customers with their journey this Christmas.

Many landlords provide a variety of added experiences over the Christmas shopping season, from shopping concierges, hands-free assistance and child-minding services to name a few. This year, we are addressing the time crunch with the convenient Gift Card purchasing vending machines; ‘load and go’ options and online gift card purchasing means giving the gift of choice is easier than ever before.

Content: Create. Curate. Collaborate.

I find it ironic that less than a decade ago we didn’t even have Facebook and Instagram, yet over the Christmas period these two channels continue to be the driving force for engagement and seamless interactions between retailers, brands and their customers. These channels are often used as a way a brand can develop a personality, leverage the abundance of digital influences and establish a two-way conversation with their most loyal customers. From beautiful product curations to memes and gifs to survive humpday, subtle messaging can be the difference to stand out from the competition. The beauty of social media truly lies in its ability to create an emotional connection with customers on their own personal channels.

Engaging experiences

It may be the most traditional time of the year, but it’s the experiences and activations taking place in shopping centres that can be anything but traditional.

Macquarie Centre have leveraged the traditional colours of Christmas and incorporated life-sized animals into their decorations, delighting both adults and children throughout various parts of the centre. Pacific Fair, on the other hand, have taken the traditional 12 days of Christmas and transformed it into the 12 icons of a Gold Coast Christmas.

Iconic elements such as surfboards, giant ice-creams and the famous poodle icons on the Gold Coast have been incorporated into an interactive augmented reality app where customers are encouraged to complete a journey through the decorations to be rewarded with a prize.

It’s not just the big-ticket decorations that that can create memorable experiences; it’s the small scale, authentic interactions that count just as much too. A natural bearded Santa has proven to be a hit with family photos, as has a Santa’s breakfast experience with a little take-home for the kids!

Profiling product

Let’s be real: Christmas is all about the gifts – gift giving, gift receiving, just everything gifty!

This year, AMP Capital Shopping Centres are solving the age-old problem of finding the perfect gift with our very own Gift Guru. He lives online (of course) on our shopping centre websites and interacts with you to recommend the perfect gift, no matter who the lucky person is. Nudge him for a reaction, take too long and he may just drift off to sleep! Catch our guru in his element, he’s all things Zen this chaotic Christmas period. In his unique quirky way, he will assist our customers by replacing the predictable and boring gift guide we’ve grown to love and hate. So check him out today – he’s one click away.

Fabulous food

Ellen DeGeneres once said, “Nothing says holidays like a cheese log.”It’s true, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas if it didn’t involve digging into a ridiculously amazing mountain of food with relatives you haven’t seen all year! Food comas reach new levels, followed by weeks of summer BBQ’s and get-togethers. It’s the time of year when our food retailers can put their best foot forward, extend their hours for convenience, stock their shelves and cabinets with endless options and inspire their customers to try a new favourite or a twist on a traditional recipe! Nothing sparks a good Christmas debate more than a hot vs. cold Christmas lunch – so why not use this as your next food conversation starter with your shopper audience.

I hope my top five survival tips have resonated with you, however my most valuable tip of all is don’t forget to take a minute to enjoy the festive season and all it brings to our shoppers and retailers!

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About the author

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Belinda Daly

Director – Marketing & Partnerships, Shopping Centre News (SCN)

Belinda Daly is a veteran of shopping centre marketing with over 22 years’ experience in the retail and property sectors. Belinda has worked for a number of leading property companies including Lendlease, Walker Corporation, Stockland and most recently led the marketing function for AMP Capital Shopping Centres.

Belinda has been an avid contributor of SCN for many years sharing her industry and marketing experience in the marketing section of the magazine.

After a successful marketing career in the industry she is so passionate about, Belinda was excited to join SCN in 2018 to ensure the magazine reaches as many audiences around the world as possible.

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