ECE Retail Insights, November 2018

“We Want to Make This Vision a Reality”

Interview with Dr. Philipp Sepehr, head of ECE’s new digital unit, about ECE’s realignment with regard to digitization and the vision of the shopping center as an omnichannel platform

Why did ECE establish its own digital unit in the summer of 2018?

The multidisciplinary “Digital Innovation & Analytics” unit clearly shows that digitization is a main focus of our current corporate strategy. As a management level staff department, we report directly to CEO Alexander Otto. But ECE has obviously been concerned with digitization for much longer. We test innovative products and digital services in our centers, such as 3D wayfinding or RFID parking, and roll them out across all locations if successful. We are also increasingly digitizing our processes internally and in cooperation with our business partners.

What will specifically change as a result of this new unit?

On the one hand, we want to keep track of new technologies on the market from a centralized position. On the other hand, it’s all about speed. With the Digital Unit, we can quickly and flexibly develop digital innovations for ECE and our shopping centers. In this context, we are focusing on strategically important projects and working intensively to see them through. Currently, our focus is primarily on expanding the Digital Mall.

Why is the Digital Mall so important?

When we launched the Digital Mall almost two years ago, it was initially a pilot project for a digital display window rolled out at the Alstertal shopping center. It has proven to be successful in this format, but we are convinced that it can be much more. At ECE, we see the shopping center of the future as an omnichannel platform that connects the online and offline worlds and can be a platform for products, data, and logistics rolled into one. The Digital Mall is the key to making this vision a reality.

What additional value does the Digital Mall offer customers?

It allows them to learn more about product lines and individual products available at the center at any time and from anywhere. Customers can reserve items and then buy them from the respective retailer at their local shopping center. We now have almost 30 well-known retailers from the Alstertal shopping center connected to the Digital Mall. We are working hard to get more of the center’s shops on board – the next ones will be added by the end of the year – and to roll out the project to more of our shopping centers. In addition, our long-term goal is to connect the Digital Mall to other online channels in order to transform even more online traffic into stationary purchases at the center.

What is the Digital Unit doing in the field of analytics?

We are responsible for comprehensive analyses of data collected across ECE. This means that, in collaboration with the IT department, we merge the content of the individual datasets, analyze it with the latest tools, and ultimately use this data to make business recommendations.