While many are wondering about the state of retail and where it is heading, the main question retailers should be asking is: What are the key conditions and possibilities to factor into a retail business today? Lester J Wan speaks to Richard Paine, managing director, Paya Lebar Quarter by Lendlease, to glean his thoughts from the point of view of a mall developer and to unravel timely retail-store revelations.
These appear to be ominous times for most retailers. Almost every day we read or hear in the news about retail brands downsizing or facing financial difficulty. Still, for the unbowed retailer or businessman, a relook at in-store strategy and better management of resources can bring improved business.
Retail Asia picks the brain of Richard Paine, managing director, Paya Lebar Quarter by Lendlease, on perspectives of a mall developer on turning the corner to a brighter retail horizon.
What are the retail trends and factors that you have observed in recent years, and what is your view on retail in the next five years or so?
Richard Paine: Over the next few years, technology will continue to have a wide-ranging impact on retail business. The availability of broad-based anonymised data will allow retailers to draw useful shopper insights. This, combined with other data sources from social platforms, loyalty programmes and Wi-Fi analytics, makes unlocking the value of data a possibility. Together with the existing trade tools and sensors, data analytics will enable retailers to deliver a more localised and personalised shopping experience by curating their store inventory, better designed in-store shopper paths to optimise sales opportunities and personalised communication to ensure more meaningful shopper engagement.
Robotics, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are emerging technologies that are being explored to improve shopping experiences and to drive efficiency.
Frictionless checkout is being rolled out in some markets and this seamless shopping experience
will be much desired by shoppers. With rapidly-growing contactless payment options, Singapore, one of the world’s leading markets for contactless payment, will be well positioned to lead this trend.
Retail players need to consider all these at a strategic level from the conceptualisation of design to development and right through to the operational phase.
What are the key factors or conditions that retailers need to consider in this day and age in terms of their bricks-and-mortar retail space?
Paine: The ease of online shopping has changed shoppers’ expectations of in-store shopping and the way they relate to physical space. A seamless and more personalised experience that more closely parallels shoppers’ online journey would be important.
Some retailers are also starting to rethink both the size and layout of their stores to focus on experience and key categories rather than full stock inventories, as they move towards e-commerce and delivery.
For bricks-and-mortar retailers especially, we see a focus on providing a more emotionally engaging shopping experience that online shopping is not able to provide. People are ultimately social creatures and shoppers are gravitating towards a congregation point that serves as a place not just to shop but also to dine, socialise, be entertained and relax in. The competition for retailers to outperform in delivering exceptional shopping experiences has heightened in this crowded marketplace, especially when traditionally online disruptors such as Amazon are venturing into the bricksand-mortar space.
Originality is a key differentiator especially for bricks-and-mortar retail spaces — fashion operators are offering free consultations with experts, F&B outlets are co-opting live bands to spice up the experience and pop-up stores are being set up to provide immersive brand experiences to connect with consumers. These emotional triggers are experiences that cannot be replicated online, and is the competitive edge that bricks-andmortar retailers should be taking full advantage of.
How else can retailers improve consumers’ shopping experience to become more engaging or experientially fulfilling, in order to develop a healthy retail relationship with consumers and to grow commerce?
Paine: Data analytics is not just for e-commerce or retailers with a strong online presence. Bricks-and-mortar retailers can make use of technology such as Wi-Fi sensors, customer relationship management (CRM) and locationbased technology to gather insights based on these sources of data to gain a 360-degree view of their customers in order to improve and localise the in-store shopping experience, and personalise communication to make it more relevant to their customers.
From the data, retailers can customise the offerings in each store and design their shoppers’ experience around the preferences and behaviour of target customer segments, track shelf inventory, introduce personalised promotions for customers on the go and infuse local character into the store display and store layout.
For example, creating wider aisles to accommodate wheelchairs for outlets in areas with more elderly residents, or more self-checkout counters for fastmoving commuters to facilitate their journey. These are all part of a customised shopping experience geared towards fulfilling visitor needs and preferences.
How can a mall developer such as your company aid the embattled retailer?
Paine: At Lendlease, we are always seeking to develop progressive and marketleading solutions in partnership with our retailers to drive optimal outcomes in this fast-evolving landscape. We are using technology to leverage the value of data and will take our retailers on the journey in reinventing the way we engage with shoppers. We will help our retail partners by providing a holistic ecosystem to enable a more authentic, personalised and seamless shopping journey.
Most importantly, the way we can help retailers is by doing what we do best. That is, by creating great places.
For example, in Paya Lebar Quarter, our latest urban regeneration mixeduse development, our design is driven by consideration of how people would experience the place and how they would make connections. We want our visitors to have a multi-layered experience that seamlessly combines indoor shopping with outdoor leisure experiences; a place where they can celebrate and bond over festive and cultural events, be thrilled by new pop-up concepts, relax in the midst of the 100,000sqf of lush green public spaces with a children’s playground, or take their bikes on our through-precinct mobility path that links to five park connector networks.
These are all experiences that are integral to the new city lifestyle, and this social, healthy and enriching experience is not something that can be replicated online.
What else do retailers today need to look out for when planning or managing their
Paine: The line between retail and entertainment is blurring and, apart from injecting entertainment into the shopping experience within stores, future-ready malls [and retailers] have to be able to provide even more experiential offerings throughout the development.
When retailers are planning new locations, apart from a strong trade area profile, they should also consider malls that can offer more to consumers and have broader target user segments. For example, mixed-use developments are getting more popular as they offer opportunities for a more layered experience with the provision of activated event spaces and parks and leisure spaces besides entertainment and shopping.
These multiple drivers can attract broader target segments and drive repeat visits. Mixed-use developments also offer the advantage of round-the-clock patronage — one that caters to the office crowd on the weekdays and the residents in the trade area in the evenings and on the weekends.
Finding the right partner with a proven track record, strong market insights and a progressive mindset will be important in the path to success. The partner you choose to work with should understand that experience-led malls, supported by a refreshing and robust tenant mix, are the future for their retail tenants.