Bringing Shoppers Back To Malls: The Four Pillars Of Localized Commerce
By: Jesse Michael, Managing Director, Adeptmind, with Foreword by Chris Walton of Omni Talk
Foreword by Chris Walton, Omni Talk
In October 2020, Anne Mezzenga and I interviewed Jesse Michael, Managing Director, Adeptmind, for our popular Omni Talk Spotlight Series about the work his company was doing to make malls shoppable online. In the podcast, he said something Anne and I will never forget, namely that there are four pillars to localizing commerce within a community, both physically and digitally — product search, analytics, local support, and connected commerce system design.
And, while we loved the podcast and Jesse’s thesis (see the full episode above), it just wasn’t enough for us. It left us wanting more. So, we went back to Jesse and asked him, as part of our new Omni Talk Ask An Expert Series for 2021, to further explain what exactly his four pillars concept meant.
Here is what Jesse had to say . . .
The Four Pillars Of Localized Commerce by Jesse Michael, Adeptmind
As more and more consumers have opted to shop online from the comfort of their own homes, shopping mall owners have been left to solve a problem: how do they remain relevant and retain best-in-class tenants when, rightfully so, shoppers can get anything they want, whenever they want, from Amazon?
It is a problem that has flummoxed many, but shopping centers still have something that Amazon will never have — a localized element of convenience, both physically and digitally that, if harnessed in the right way, can provide utility in a manner different from both e-commerce of today and our malls of yesteryear.
The technology now exists to once again reestablish malls as the center focal points of their communities.
Here is what that technological foundation looks like:
Pillar #1 — Great Product Search
The basic foundation of any great digital commerce experience starts with search. Shopping mall owners need to make sure they have great product search and discovery built into their properties’ websites and apps. A mall’s customer base should be able to find products easily, filter through various options, select their appropriate sizes, and, in essence, see everything that might be available to them, just as if they were standing inside the mall itself.
This might sound easier said than done but that is because it actually is.
Technology has now advanced to the point where today’s software can use retailers’ existing APIs to access all the product and inventory information they need to bring this to life. Mall operators don’t even need the buy-in of their purveyors to make this type of experience happen. It is all there to be developed whenever and however they want.
They just have to pull the trigger.
Pillar #2 — Shopper Data and Analytics
Today’s shopping centres are also missing pivotal data on who is actually shopping within their malls. Creating a fully integrated and shoppable digital presence as described above, however, solves this problem because it gives mall owners access to new shopper data, like one-to-one demographic information, browse history, and overall shopping patterns and preferences.
All of which can serve as an important added layer to enhance one’s marketing and personalization capabilities in order to engage shoppers better, help tenants remain more relevant, and, most importantly, to increase transactions and average order values for everyone operating within the mall.
Pillar #3 — Local Business and Community Support
A solid digital front end should not just be for the shops within a physical mall either. Local shops are rarely a part of your average mall’s ecosystem, but they are just as essential to our local economies and communities.
By thinking bigger, mall owners can think beyond their four walls and extend their digital support and marketing scale to local entrepreneurs in a way that has never been done before. There is no reason why all the local shops from one given geographic area cannot sit side-by-side with each other online.
All it takes is a willingness to build the software in a manner described above, have these shops upload their product and inventory information into the system, and then allow them to build their brand by drafting off of the collective marketing activities of the greater mall’s online presence itself.
Pillar #4 — Connected Commerce
The final foundation pillar is the most difficult because it is also the most important. It is about creating a seamless shopping experience whereby consumers can shop at home, in the mall, by way of delivery or curbside pickup, or even by way of a customized concierge service that blends the best of both worlds.
If done right, products should be able to be ordered from any purveyor within the “mall” online or in the real world, through one coordinated order management and point-of-sale setup, and then either picked up curbside or delivered to people’s homes faster than Amazon because the malls themselves and the local mom-and-pop businesses around them are already closer than Amazon from a last-mile delivery perspective.
Technology is now at a place where all four of these elements can come to life.
Malls, shopping centers, tourist destinations, etc. all mean something in a different way to people than the ease of shopping online ever will. They are all community centerpoints, not just physically but mentally, too.
They just have never been commercially connected end-to-end and holistically to the entire community surrounding them.
Now they can be.
Jesse Michael is the Managing Director of Adeptmind, a leading AI based, e-commerce product discovery company, which uses innovative active and deep learning techniques to enhance the customer purchasing journey, helping retailers and property owners optimize their online presence and merge in-store and online shopping.