The internet poses huge challenges to the traditional retail market, with online stores diverting customers away from physical shops and driving down prices and margins. But the Internet creates huge opportunities, too. When it comes to influencing and engaging with consumers, traditional retailers can easily compete with e-tailers – provided they leverage digital technology to fully utilise the impact the social media and networks can have on their online marketing efforts. This was the brief we had received from Ellandi, a specialist investment manager of value and convenience shopping centres in the UK.
We created the Social Media Wall on Ellandi’s website to bring all of the social media buzz across the company’s assets together onto one web page. It features real time feeds from Ellandi’s Facebook and Twitter corporate account and the feeds from all of their shopping centres so there’s no need to visit each individual social media platform.
The technology behind the Social Media Wall utilises the latest client side scripting techniques to provide rich user experience. To collect content from multiple sources onto one page, we created a custom code utilising the APIs (application programming interfaces) provided by the different social networks. Then we organised and designed the content so it’s readable and easy to use. For example, a feature like Scroll allows you to download a lot of data gradually (yet still efficiently) and without performance issues such as your browser crashing or content taking ages to load.
The visitors to the company’s website get visibility, convenience and a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in each shopping centre via posts and comments, photos and invitations to events, competitions and targeted offers from retailers (such as: Don’t miss 10% off all Gift Sets Instore & Online @Fragrance_Shop @graysshopping). All this activity builds customer loyalty and a sense of place and, most importantly, it drives footfall. Retailers are finding social media really powerful in this way, they can see a marked difference in visitor numbers on the days they advertise these events in the centre. And this means increased profits for investors and retailers alike.
Increased footfall and unit lettings
Using cinematic terminology, the Social Media Wall is like a showreel of Ellandi’s online marketing activity for viewing by potential investors and retailers. It shows how proactive they are as asset manager in marketing their shopping centres to the local consumers. Many of their competitors won’t have anything like this on their websites – traditionally, local convenience shopping centres haven’t had the marketing budgets of the out-of-town centres so they have no social media presence and they haven’t been marketed effectively online. The Social Media Wall makes Ellandi stand out from the crowd in the eyes of those looking for a partner to develop a retail scheme with – it shows potential investors how the company’s online marketing activity, combined with that of retailers, drives more footfall and leads to more units being occupied.After all, investors want a fully let shopping centre.
As for retailers, the Social Media Wall shows them that if they are in one of the centres managed by Ellandi, it will get marketed effectively. Many retailers complain centres don’t do any marketing and, as soon as the footfall drops and a few empty shops appear, the whole centre can empty in no time. But this showreel instils confidence so it could help secure a big letting from a retailer like New Look or another large chain.
Some retail marketing directors may worry potential customers will spend too much time online and won’t come to the store. I’d say they need to move away from that fear by making sure that none of the social media offers they’re advertising are part of their online delivery. Look at the Social Media Wall and you’ll see all the advertising is for what’s available only in stores – shoppers have to come in to redeem their offers or use their loyalty card, they cannot do this online.
But it’s not just about advertising, it’s also about getting feedback on what can be improved in terms of service delivery, accessibility and convenience. Social media on the whole allows easy dialogue with the consumer so management companies and retailers can learn what they should improve in the centre – for example, is more parking required? They can then react with a statement along the lines of “We’re working on it”. The result? Happy customers, increased or at least maintained footfall, and increased profits.
The Social Media Wall isn’t just for commercial property management companies or other portfolio businesses, either. The concept could benefit any business actively engaged in the social media which wants to pull together all their activity across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest on a single page on their website – to inform, reassure and engage with their various stakeholders.
They don’t even have to pull in their own content. The Wall’s technology can be applied, for example, to monitor discussion on a certain topic, to filter and collate social media activity from a company you’re following or to display specific information from different sources to your website’s visitors. For example,if it’s a charity and they’ve got an event coming up, they could have a hash tag on their website showing all the discussion on this event.
Dan Drogman is MD at D2 Interactive (http://d2i.co/), an online software company that leverages technology to improve their clients’ businesses. The company has a portfolio of more than 100 completed projects in real estate, finance and e-commerce. Its current clients include Aberdeen Asset Management, CBREi, UBS Triton Fund and, most recently,Samaritans for whom the company has created a volunteer management system allowing the charity’s volunteers access to the telephone system at local branches.