First, a proper introduction.
With two decades of experience designing, developing, and creating websites for shopping destinations, our Global Head of UX, Scott Harrison is something of a Yoda. No one in the world has created more retail real estate websites than he has. So, we thought we'd have a quick sit down and find out what he thinks makes the difference between a good shopping centre website experience and the best shopping centre website experience.
Q: What attributes, in both form and function make a website good?
A: A good website has a clear purpose, is well designed, and easy to use but that doesn’t mean it needs to be overly complex. Having a website is better than not having one, even a simple one page website is better than nothing, every business can afford a website. Beyond that, I still see websites that aren’t optimized for mobile and make it hard to find contact information and location. I’d say at the very least a good website covers these basics.
Any successful website project starts with solid branding, a thoughtfully crafted sitemap, and well-designed navigation. Good website design is a delicate balance of form and function. The form of a website is essential for engaging the audience and ensuring users linger, while a good functional design allows them to navigate with ease. It's easy for designers and clients alike to fall into the trap of focusing on form at the cost of function. A website can be beautifully designed, with sharp imagery or videos and the latest scrolling effects; but without a well-thought-out sitemap and intuitive user interface, most users will quickly abandon their journey out of frustration and likely never return.
Q: With basics covered, what additional elements do you consider the mark of a good shopping centre website?
A: Shopping places are complex environments. They have shops, restaurants, and entertainment uses all in one location. These tenants sell different products and services and may have different operating hours. A good shopping centre website should have all the information a consumer needs about the centre like store pages that include descriptions of the retailer and brands they carry, store hours etc. It should support the centre’s tenants by making their store, products, and employment opportunities more “visible” to people online.
It’s also really important to give people online a sense of how a centre will “look and feel” in real life, and inspire them to want to go there. Video and social media integrations are both great tools to help create a sense of a place online. If restaurants are the backbone of your offering make sure they’re prominently featured on your centre’s website by adding a digital restaurant guide with mouthwatering photographs and downloadable menus.
Finally a good shopping centre website is compliant with both privacy and web accessibility standards so everyone that visits the centre’s website feels safe and valued.
Consumers are always searching for products and services in their area. A complete directory of brands supported by dynamic content, such as sales, events, and even online marketplaces, will only help improve your search ranking and drive traffic to your centre.
Q: For those centre’s looking to provide the gold standard in online experience to their customers, what additional features make a centre website the best?
A: We are pioneers in web experience personalization so I’d have to say personalization tools that let people tailor their own web experience. Not just personalizing their homepage with “Hello Jan” but giving consumers the ability to choose, allowing them to create a profile and "follow” or “heart” their favorite stores and restaurants, and select areas of interests. People value companies that make an effort to know them and treat them as individuals.
Personalization increases shopper engagement - and when connected to a solution that consolidates your website and all digital interactions between your centre and your shoppers into a single platform like the Marketplace Performance Cloud, it’s exponentially more powerful.
Loyalty programs that provide exclusive offers and access to events. Dynamic movie pages that provide a calendar of showtimes, movie trailers, and online ticket sales. Interactive directory maps with turn-by-turn navigation and search. Online marketplaces that allow shoppers to purchase products from multiple tenants through the shopping centre's website.
Q: Any current favorites you can share?
A: The SCALA portfolio of properties are an excellent example of how good design can be achieved through the right balance of form and function: strong branding, thoughtful application of color and type, and an intuitive user interface.
The Centennial portfolio of property websites are thoughtfully designed and well-managed include customer loyalty programs and E-commerce marketplaces that allow local shoppers to purchase products from multiple tenants in one transaction on the center's website.
Q: What other things are you keeping an eye on for the future?
A: We’re keeping an eye on AI and its potential to automate the process of content curation and campaign management. We're currently looking into how we can leverage technologies such as ChatGPT to streamline the process of newsletter management.
We’re fundamentally changing the way consumers interact with shopping centres providing management and ownership teams with end-to-end solutions to realize the benefits of digital technology and data without being overwhelmed by them.
Ready to see how it works? LET’S TALK!