Services in shopping centers

Serving the customer

E-commerce is booming, the sales area per capita (in shopping centers) is growing – centers face tougher competition. Many operators rely on providing individual services to stand out from their competitors: Offers that make shopping easier or more convenient and provide a good experience. But which services do customers really want? Which services are must-haves that enthuse customers and which trends are on the horizon?

In its study “At your Service”, ECE looked at the entire customer journey to ascertain the expectations of its customers – from the preparation of the shopping trip at home to leaving the shopping center. In addition, the company has been testing new, innovative services in selected centers, the so-called “Future Labs”. After all, both, fulfilling the wishes of the customers and to surprise them with the unexpected, is important.

Two-thirds of all center visitors demand services even before they start their shopping trip. They turn to social media channels, apps, or the center's website for information and shopping inspiration. Most customers expect shopping centers to operate a website. Moreover, ECE created its “Love to Shop” app that enables shoppers to inform about the latest offers or events at the center. More than 300,000 downloads are proof for the appeal of the app. The pilot project "Digital Mall" at Alstertal-Einkaufszentrum in Hamburg gives an insight to the future of shopping: The availability of more than 100,000 products offered at the center can be checked on the center's homepage. Displaying the availability of a product is one of the services that provides the most relevant value to the customers.

Express parking, Wi-Fi and “Digital Playgrounds”

To eight of ten customers, arrival and departure are important service touchpoints. Therefore, ECE has developed a number of services for this part of the Customer Journey. They include parking guidance systems, a Car Finder, and especially express parking with an RFID card that opens the entrance and exit gates automatically. It also eliminates queuing at the payment machine and looking for small change: The parking fee is automatically debited from the customer’s bank account. The “Same Day Delivery” service targets customers arriving by public transport: It allows items purchased in the shopping center to be delivered to their homes on the same day.

“Nowadays, shopping is no longer just about purchasing an item; it is part of how people spend their free time,” says Joanna Fisher, Managing Director Center Management at ECE. “Besides an attractive tenant mix, centers have to offer customized services, entertainment, and dining options.” The percentage of restaurant space in a shopping center has been increasing in the past years; approximately 60 percent of the center visitors make use of the food and beverage offers in the center. 40 percent even choose their favorite shopping center by the dining options available. Moreover, customers expect relax services such as quiet zones and free Wi-Fi. Some target groups get enthused by services like the Selfie Photo Box where visitors can have themselves photographed in front of diff¬erent backgrounds and share them on social networks, or by “Digital Playgrounds” for the youngest visitors.

Quality of stay and convenience always in focus

“The customers' demand in terms of services and hospitality has been increasing”, ascertains Markus Lentzler, Managing Director Architecture & Construction. Whether it is parking spaces, air conditioning, or restrooms – already in the planning stage of a center, the main focus should be on quality of stay and convenience. In line with this, ECE has installed a “multi-sense experience” at Aquis Plaza in Aachen: 20 areas of the center have been equipped with multisensory installations for sounds, scents, and changing light scenarios that create an inspiring shopping atmosphere.

According to the ECE study, customers first and foremost wish to have information services in the shopping center. Seven out of ten visitors expect good signage or a customer information desk. ECE's 3D-Wayfinder that allow visitors to view the route to their desired shop in authentic 3D or download it to their smartphones is a trendsetting feature. It is used approximately 1,000 times per day at Milaneo shopping center in Stuttgart.

Always in touch with the pulse of time

Center operators can also enhance the shopping experience itself. The gift-wrapping service and the center vouchers are in high demand. Yet if you wish to surprise your customers, you have to offer more than just standard services, for example a senior citizen service that helps elderly people with shopping. Every year, ECE gets praised for its “Heavenly Services”: During Christmas season, a number of special services are available to the visitors, such as gift advice, childcare facilities, or Christmas pages, who carry the shopping bags to the customer’s cars.

“Dining options and services in the center will become an important distinguishing factor in the competition with e-commerce retail,” says Alexander Otto, CEO of ECE, reassuringly. Besides market research, his company focuses on the power of innovation. The strategy entitled “Ideas to Innovations” combines all measures that ECE will be implementing as it moves in new directions and opens up new potential for its shopping centers. This way the company stays in touch with the pulse of time with regard to customer orientation.

  • At your Service – ECE Survey 2016

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  • ECE Market Report 2015

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  • Serving the customer - Services in shopping centers

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  • Extremely popular: the “Love to shop” app

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  • “Digital Mall”: Pilot project on product availability in the shopping center Alstertal-Einkaufszentrum Hamburg

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  • Express parking with RFID techology

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  • The Car Finder helps you find your car easily

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  • Useful service: Same Day Delivery

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  • Entertaining: Selfie Photo Box

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  • Digital Playground for the youngest visitors

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  • Multisense Experience in Aquis Plaza Aachen

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  • The 3D Wayfinder shows customers the route to the shop they are looking for

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  • Heavenly Services: gift advice

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  • Heavenly Services: Christmas page

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