Name of the Game? It's Collaboration - Value Retail News, May 2016

When retailers and developers work together on marketing, great things happen in both sales and branding.


The ink is dry on the lease and a retail brand is now part of a community of stores, located in a community of potential customers.  Depending on the outlet center, its target demographic may be anywhere from the surrounding 30-mile perimeter to the globe! 

The very nature of retail demands that brands set themselves apart in a crowded marketplace by offering a unique product to shoppers.  Assimilation into a larger product - the shopping center - and its efforts to drive footfall, doesn’t come naturally.  In fact, quite the opposite, brands are typically focused on driving traffic solely into their store.  Nevertheless, retailers in outlet centers can benefit greatly by participating in the developer’s marketing efforts to drive overall traffic and sales.  And, vice versa, savvy developers that work with brands to ensure each one’s success will ultimately do the same for the shopping center as a whole. Easier said than done.  How do retailers and developers collaborate to collectively drive center traffic and harness the spending power of shoppers, while highlighting the distinction of each brand?

Plan Thoughtfully

Developers are responsible for delivering on the promise of a unique and rewarding shopping experience. From advertising and social media to experiential events and community relations, each developer creates an annual and seasonal marketing plan to drive visitation to its properties.  This is usually done through thoughtful planning by corporate, regional and local teams who are charged with understanding who their overall customer is and how to cultivate new target markets. Retailers have the opportunity to play a part in crafting this plan through collaboration and sharing of information – information such as customer segmentation, seasonality, shifts in market trends, product preferences and more. Center management teams have access to top-line numbers, including traffic and sales, but specific data from stores can help them to target the right audiences and maximize their efforts.

Retailers can also benefit greatly from collaborating with center management teams to understand not only the overall marketing plan and how they can get involved, but also what they are hearing and seeing in the marketplace.  Center teams are embedded in the local, regional and tourism communities and have their fingers on the pulse of economic shifts, new business development opportunities, potential partnerships and promotions, media interest and more.

Tap Brand Enthusiasm

While developers can create interest in a collective experience, even driving first-time shopper visits, the brands, their unique product and the personal services they offer ultimately determine a consumer’s decision whether or not to make the center their shopping destination of choice. It is imperative for developers to understand how each brand is communicating with its own customers. For example, if a brand is offering special promotions, events or loyalty programs, developers can support these efforts through social media, email marketing, public relations and more.  Utilizing insight into a brand’s business and its culture can also assist in creating a syndicate of brand advocates. If a brand is training its staff properly, their representatives take pride in the brand and it’s distinction in the marketplace.  Their knowledge and “brand enthusiasm” translates into best-in-class service, which in turn reflects well not only on the brand, but also on the center as a whole.

Outlet centers are in a unique position to herald to shoppers the diversity of product and experiences they offer.  If retailers and developers collaborate to do so, they can extend their reach to drive new and repeat shopper visits. Given that outlet centers are often the shopping destinations of choice for international visitors, retailers also have the opportunity to build brand awareness beyond domestic borders.

Every brand within a center should expect that there are efforts being made to support them.  That’s why, in fact, a center might have sidewalk sales to support moderate brands while simultaneously offering “exclusive savings” to credit card holders from international markets.  Developers have also successfully created opportunities such as on-site advertising for brands that are not able to pre-promote their stores due to retail sensitivities.  This allows brands to showcase their product and be top-of-mind to shoppers within common areas.  From large format banners and window graphics to event sponsorships and product samplings, the opportunities have grown far beyond standard posters and brochures on display.

Connect the Dots

We live in a connected world; consumers are more empowered than ever with so many choices and so much information at their fingertips.  Retailers and developers face the same challenge - to not only reach these consumers through all the noise, but also to understand their preferences, personalize their offerings and create compelling reasons and new experiences to drive visitation.  The key for retailers is finding a balance between opportunities that help collectively build center traffic and ones that allow them to speak in their own brand voice to drive engagement, customer loyalty and ultimately sales. The challenge for developers is finding a balance between ensuring that all stores have opportunities to grow their sales while offering the best programs and promotions to the appropriate brand partners.  Together, developers and retailers can achieve mutual success, building incredible business insights along the way.