(Heather Vandenberghe, CMO-US Operations for Westfield; Don Kingsborough, CEO of OneMarket;Kevin McKenzie, EVP, Chief Digital Officer for The Macerich Company; William Taubman, COO of Taubman Centers; Yaromir Steiner, Founder and CEO of Steiner + Associates.)
The ubiquity of technology and the change and challenges it’s presenting the retail industry were undisputed themes at this year’s ICSC RECon conference in Las Vegas. However, while many of the keynotes and panels focused on disruption and the need for new approaches in order to remain competitive and relevant, a panel moderated by OneMarket CEO, Don Kingsborough, offered a solution and a way to start progressing on the call for industry wide action.
Kingsborough was joined on stage by shopping venue leaders William Taubman, COO of Taubman Centers, Heather Vandenberghe, CMO-US Operations for Westfield, Kevin McKenzie, EVP, Chief Digital Officer for The Macerich Company, and Yaromir Steiner, Founder and CEO of Steiner + Associates. All of the panelists agreed that the retail industry was in the midst of a revolution, and all are ready to step-up and take a new approach that puts data and technology at the center. Taking note from other industries that have found success in collaborating on networks and platforms, (Visa, Netflix and Google for example), the panelists agreed that coming together to share data and insights was the only way forward, applauding OneMarket for taking the initiative to unite the industry – shopping venues, retailers and brands alike.
(Heather Vandenberghe, CMO-US Operations for Westfield; Yaromir Steiner, Founder and CEO of Steiner + Associates; Don Kingsborough, CEO of OneMarket; William Taubman, COO of Taubman Centers; Kevin McKenzie, EVP, Chief Digital Officer for The Macerich Company.)
Panelists acknowledged that while they are each competitive with one another, their bigger competitor is a customer’s sofa and computer or smartphone. Digital brands and retailers can gather valuable information about their customers when they shop online, and they are going to start expecting and demanding the same type of information for their physical real estate partners, which means the shopping venue industry must get better at collecting, analyzing and sharing data about who is in their centers. Yaromir Steiner noted that while retailers invest in a physical presence to help drive sales, they also do so to help build their brands and capture new customers, and shopping venues must help retailers achieve these goals to remain relevant, which they can only do if better understand who is shopping in their centers.
Heather Vandenberghe spoke to her time as CMO of retailer Louis Vuitton prior to working at Westfield, noting that she and her team identified their top customers and got to know them on a deeper level, taking them out to dinner or to fashion shows. This not only helped build their loyalty and create evangelists, but then also gave them the knowledge to better tailor in-store experiences, offerings and merchandising. Shopping center operators need to take a similar approach to getting to know their customers and stop functioning off of gut and instinct, and doing that requires data.
William Taubman noted that when it comes to data, retailers and shopping venue operators have been hesitant to share with one another due to the innately antagonistic relationships that develop due to the fact that they sit opposite during contract negotiations – neither wants to reveal something that could potentially be used against them in future negotiations. However, both realize that some sort of data sharing is necessary in today’s changing environment. Having a neutral third-party like OneMarket step in to help mediate a new type of relationship is absolutely needed and welcomed. The impact of technology and the call to action it creates is finally creating a unique moment in time when all parties are open to considering a change in relationship.
While traditional retailers will have relationships with shopping venues that evolve, Kevin Mckenzie spoke to the emerging brands that are traditionally started online and then enter physical real estate. They come to the table expecting the type of data they have visibility to online, and it’s up to venue operators to provide it in order to be good partners. Not only do they need to provide data about the customers in their centers, but they also need to provide relevant technologies – things like AR and Voice – as there’s no question that they are going to be critical pieces of the shopping conversation going forward.
Overall, it was a lively and inspiring session with some of the leaders in the industry ultimately coming together and saying, “we must collaborate if we want to maintain our shared customers and shared retailers.” Don Kingsborough and OneMarket are thrilled to provide that collaborative path forward and hope to have many others in the shopping center industry join the conversation soon as time is of the essence.