Jan 31, 2022

The digitization of the shopping mall

Originally featured on Glossy

As larger department stores innovate with content and change how the function of their retail space, traditional shopping malls are beginning to catch up with technology-led solutions.

For too long, department stores have focused on their in-store offering, spending large amounts on marketing to bring customers inside. But since the start of the pandemic, the online offering has become ever more important as retailers have realized they need to integrate technology into their strategies to meet their customers where they were.

Placewise provides tech solutions including facilitating e-commerce for shopping centers like The Corners of Brookfield in Wisconsin and the Kuben Hønefoss mall in Norway. Last week, the company entered into a partnership with Bambuser, to offer livestreaming, to pair with Placewise’s recently launched marketplace that functions as a centralized e-commerce platform for all the brands in an individual shopping center. Bambuser has worked with a number of brands including Samsung, Clarins, LVMH, Shiseido, Ted Baker and Clinique.

“It is a complete end-to-end integrated e-commerce offering for shopping centers, where we actually integrate with retail tenants to get access to their product data and inventory feeds,” said Peter Tonstad, CEO of Placewise. The product data is mapped to the individual stores, allowing department stores to give a true representation of what’s in stock during a livestream.

“This is all offered in a combined unified storefront,” said Tonstad. “Consumers can choose to shop across multiple retailers with one consolidated checkout payment.” The marketplace is currently being trialed in Norway, but is expected to be rolled out across 20 shopping centers in Europe over the next few months and next year in the U.S. As consumers are embracing more engaging shopping formats, traditional shopping malls are having to rethink their strategy.

With the livestreaming solution, customers can watch a livestream hosted by their local shopping center, buy an item and select from a variety of fulfillment options, including pick-up in-store or home delivery. According to Maryam Ghahremani, CEO of Bambuser, the main feature that livestreaming offers is a bridge between offline and online. “We create a very natural and direct monologue between the customer and the brand.”

With this implementation of livestreaming in Norway, consumers have primarily tuned in to their local stores, which hints at opportunities for hyper-local engagement and the strengthening of ties between shoppers and malls. “A lot of the malls we’re working with have been shocked by the numbers of viewers who have tuned in,” said Ghahremani. “Typically, we get around a 27% average chat engagement and a 15% add to cart rate, and viewers normally stay on the site for 9 minutes.”

Bambuser and Placewise receive a fixed fee per month from each mall partner — global property owners can buy into their joint offering. Shopping centers have always been curated collections of retail stores, and replications of them in the e-commerce space offer the same benefits. “Shopping centers also have a wide assortment of product inventory across retailers,” said Tonstad. “There’s always going to be good video content to expose a part of the marketplace offering.”

Department stores are figuring out different ways to use their retail space, as bringing in foot traffic becomes a lesser priority: They’ve used their spaces as storage for online stock, and now, they’re using them as livestreaming studios, getting managers in front of the camera to showcase store offerings. “A lot of our clients are rebuilding their shopping malls so that the main entrance is a studio where they can do live shows and host live events,” said Ghahremani.

“Our best-performing clients have a digital reach beyond 70% of their physical footfall,” said Tonstad. “If you run a shopping center and you have a direct consumer relationship with more than 70% of the shoppers, or even anything from 10 % upwards, you have a very unique marketing channel to drive digital shopping to the benefit of your tenants.” Livestreaming also offers a wealth of data on viewers, unlike in-person events at shopping malls.