What direction are the changes currently taking place in shopping centers heading? What characterizes today’s customer? What technologies are used in the retail sector? Is the Polish customer demanding? Monika Janczewska-Leja, director of the consulting and leasing of commercial space at the consulting company Savills, talks about these and other topics important for trade in Poland.
Marcin Haber: What is the current situation on the retail market in Poland? It seems to be undergoing very dynamic changes.
Monika Janczewska-Leja: The changes taking place on the retail market are a response to social changes and new customer needs. The more demanding the customer, the more willing to use new technologies and the younger he is, the more chains, and therefore also shopping centers, should meet his needs. They must change in terms of their offer, technological solutions and image.
What is this change in the offer?
First of all, the way the customer approaches the offer is changing. The moment when a customer becomes acquainted with it is much less tangible today than it ever was. This forces retail chains to constantly be up to date with technologies, but also to introduce facilities that enable monitoring the customer’s decision-making process.
A good example is the LPP chain, which introduced RFID technology (radio label tracking system – editor’s note). It involves tagging clothes in the store, thanks to which the company can track their fate. We know how customers choose individual pieces of clothing, what sizes and in what locations they are sold. Tracking the fate of the product and the decisions made by the customer is currently a key trend in the industry. The development of this process allows for profitability in times of e-commerce development. Currently, the industry’s biggest challenge is to limit the number of product returns.
The best response to changes taking place on the market is omnichannel, i.e. multi-channel sales, which is carried out both on the Internet and in traditional retail outlets. It is a solution to many problems not only of brands that have not been present on the Internet before, but also of stores that originate from the Internet and are beginning to see the added value of having a physical retail premises.
Shopping malls have been changing dramatically in recent years. This is visible, for example, in the modernizations currently taking place in Warsaw. Where does this need come from?
Shopping malls have been changing their shape for several years. The proportion between the traditional commercial offer, i.e. what was once the most profitable, and services, is changing dramatically. Clothing, accessories and electronics stores are giving way to additional functions, such as restaurants. However, we must remember that today customers travel a lot and discover new flavors. Therefore, they also expect from shopping centers that they will be able to try cuisines from various corners of the world and also find offers with healthy food. Food courts are no longer just chain fast food restaurants, and the gastronomic offer in shopping malls is no longer limited to them. In Poland, the concept of “dining experience” is the hallmark of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. This experience is the key word. Nowadays, shopping malls are developing around this concept.
The second direction of development are all services that require the customer to physically appear in the gallery. Shopping centers realized that they had to start directing their offers to social groups and generations that they had not previously treated as potential customers. The new generation spends more and more money on consumption and is strongly integrated with omnichannel. It is characterized by very high self-confidence and high consumer requirements. Generation Z also occupies an increasingly stronger position on the market on a global scale, even constituting the recipient of luxury goods.
A generation has appeared on the market that uses technologies that shopping center managers may often not understand.
Currently, the big challenge is to understand the recipient. Generational changes are happening faster and faster. In the past, the transitions between subsequent generations were smoother. Today, the pace of change means that some people decide not to use new technologies at all. However, if such a person is also a decision-maker in the trade segment, he or she must be aware that new technologies play a very important role in the purchasing process of the young generation.
Decision-makers in retail today have to think in terms of hashtags, Instagram and Snapchat?
Yes. They need to understand that their customer is there. They need to follow and learn about his lifestyle and preferences. This is a huge field for development of new technologies. Technologies are the cause of all the confusion that is currently visible on the retail market.
What experience does a shopping mall customer expect today?
One of my British colleagues recently said, very accurately in my opinion, that he had the impression that a few years ago we all locked ourselves in our homes in front of computer screens, and today we are starting to leave our homes again and enter the real world. – I think we can trust that humanity has a need for connection that results from thousands of years of evolution. Plus, there are some things you just can’t do online. This is, for example, the opportunity to eat something in the city.