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The road to loyalty

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The fact that the main retail operators increasingly consider the physical point of sale as a showroom, where the customer can enjoy a unique experience rather than as a simple store, is easily verifiable by visiting any establishment either in Spain or in other countries. Even high-street shops and older shopping centres are now refurbishing their facilities and significantly increasing the space oriented towards product display.It is striking that shops are increasingly stocking somewhat less, whilst undoubtedly receiving greater investment in design and paying more attention to hiring and training obligingly meticulous staff, obliterating the famous myth of the anonymity of shopping centres, where until recently customers were served and sent packing.

The new shopping centre store is a boutique aimed at generating customer loyalty without losing sight of the fact that this showroom does not necessarily have to be the final point of sale, because an ever greater number of consumers look and test the product in the shop in order to ultimately buy it online. The context is that of a retail sector in which assorted factors are coming together, such as the upsurge in the domestic market, the growing presence of tourists in certain areas of the country and the unrelenting interest of foreign investors. These three factors, together with changes in spending habits, are generating a new and exciting scenario in which diversification and attracting customers in a manner which is, again, unique, represent the main endeavours.

If we analyse the constituents of the recent development of the European shopping centre market, we must not neglect the influence of Millennials on their approach and reassessment of uses. Young people have a very different focus to previous generations, who went to the shopping centre to shop. The convergence of omnichannel components here represents a non-negotiable key to interpretation. We are not talking solely about traditional brands, because this goes much further. An ever growing number of online retailers are opening physical stores in order to complement their multi-channel strategies and, with this approach, shopping centres represent key sites. A frequently cited example is that of hypermarkets which create collection points in shopping centres, including parking designated for shoppers who have made their purchases online.The latter ties up with another aspect - that of more frenzied lifestyles which entail less time for users and which impact on the new layout of shopping centres at both a domestic and European level. These developments have seen priority given to strategic sites where area does not represent the bottom line, whereas good accessibility, easy parking and extended opening hours do.

We are not only talking about traditional sectors such as fashion, where it was more logical to think about a trend towards this sales area in a boutique format, but also other less obvious sectors, such as sporting goods, household or toy shops.For their part, restaurant chains are certainly not lagging behind. Brands are also responding to heavy investment on the part of operators oriented towards developing the concept of fast food to provide a greater offering and enhanced competitiveness.

The final result is the sum of the growing leisure component in shopping centres, ever more extensive and diversified, and a shopping experience in a pleasant space, making formats such as shopping resorts that mix leisure and retail truly stand out.This is undeniably an immensely attractive panorama, where heavy investment together with large doses of creativity contribute to reactivating the business in the interest of a consumer who is ever more hungry for unique shopping and leisure experiences.

Cristina Pérez de Zabalza

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