No matter where the project is being built, developers in the rapidly changing retail industry need to always be thinking about what they can bring to the surrounding community to keep them engaged, notes Phil Mays, principal of RocaPoint Partners.
The retail landscape has shifted dramatically over the past decade and is sure to do so even more in coming years. Not long ago, many predicted brick-and-mortar retail would completely disappear due to e-commerce’s dominance in the industry. But that hasn’t happened, and isn’t likely to do so.
Consumers are demanding more from retailers, and massive department stores and dreary malls no longer cut it. Shoppers can purchase pretty much anything online, but what they really want are omni-channel options. Consumers want a high-quality experience when shopping at brick-and-mortar locations, and retail has had to be more creative by asking, ‘How can we make traditional shopping experiences more personalized and appealing?’
Entertainment and connection are two words that come to mind when describing today’s retail trends. Shoppers don’t want to just walk in, pick up their merchandise and leave. They want to be able to create memories, while having a seamless shopping experience and seek interesting, authentic, hands-on brand encounters. From free samples to community workshops to excellent customer service, retailers have to carefully craft their store experience to be more interactive for customers.
RocaPoint Partners is currently developing HALCYON, a $350 million mixed-use village, in the suburbs of Atlanta. Through our substantial research of the surrounding community, we’ve seen evidence that consumers everywhere want the same things: vibrant, local, unique, exciting shopping and dining experiences. We’re finding that whether you’re in town or 30 miles north of Atlanta, consumers are demanding the same quality, amenities and service that are offered from retailers and restaurants in the city.
The high-quality experiences consumers are demanding aren’t possible without careful planning and placemaking, with thoughtful consideration about the right mix of tenants by retail brokers and developers. We are searching for tenants that will have a connection with the surrounding community and offer outstanding customer service. We are offering tenants flexible floor plates to best serve both the tenant and their customers. Through our search for interactive retail, we decided a food hall, as part of our restaurant village, would best suit our customer base. We’re looking for tenants who offer a new type of experience that other tenants aren’t offering, therefore creating variety. We’re also asking the question: what flexible space is available for programming like pop-ups or community gatherings? Developments don’t become a “destination” without this kind of meticulous planning and thoughtful consideration.
Along with tenant mix, store size and layout, lighting, sidewalk width, landscaping and much more should be considered. Will you host community events and weekly programming to engage with your consumers? Will you play music throughout the development? If so, what kind? Mixed-use developments with strong centers are in demand across the country, but without interesting elements injected into these developments, consumers aren’t likely to visit more than once. No matter where mixed-use projects are being developed, we, as developers, have to keep considering what we can bring to our communities to keep them engaged.
Studies have confirmed that appealing to the five senses enhances shoppers’ experience. It’s obvious that sight and touch have significant impact on purchasing decisions, but smell, sound and taste should not be ignored. Sensory engagement can drive purchasing decisions and create a more memorable experience. Developers should strive to surprise and delight consumers during each visit to ensure they continue to return.
Retail destinations should focus on creating a gathering place that presents opportunities to engage with friends, family and the community as a whole. Retailers and developers must broaden and rethink their approaches to connecting with customers, drawing them in and getting them to return. Don’t aim to meet expectations; aim to exceed them, thereby creating a strong customer loyalty and a stronger development community.