One of the biggest challenges facing retailers in these uncertain times is meeting the changing demands of consumers.
Customer service has been revolutionised by the rise of seamless, on-demand services delivered by disruptors such as Apple, Netflix, Deliveroo and Amazon – which have raised the bar in terms of customer expectations and the way they interact with brands. Shoppers are increasingly value-driven and ethically minded, and seeking immediacy.
Some of the best retailers are those that offer a seamless experience across channels and devices. There are plenty that are adapting to these changes, such as Argos with its same-day click & collect offer; Zara, which now ships online orders from stores in 2,000 locations globally; and Apple, which has overhauled the design of its stores into social hubs, integrating online and physical sales.
So if our occupiers are responding to these trends, it only seems right that landlords evaluate the way they serve their tenants. They can learn a lot from the businesses they provide space to in terms of their customer focus. In this regard, the property industry is miles behind the retail, hospitality and tech sectors, but there are some fantastic opportunities to bridge this gap.
In such a tough market, owners and retailers need to work together to reach their shared goal of delivering the best shopping experience for consumers. Our future requires a more collaborative and transparent approach because the success of retailers and of landlords is intrinsically linked.
Physical retail still has a bright future but for stores to be successful they need to support online, be convenient, offer a variety of reasons to visit and provide consistently great experiences to customers. These all require brands and owners to work in partnership.
Part of this approach is about sharing insight with each other. For example, at Meadowhall we launched an app that shares information in real time to assist teams in managing their stores, from daily footfall reports and anonymous sales data to bespoke performance reports showing how stores are benchmarked against others in their segment.
Trust is essential
Of course, these things only work if we share all insights, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. Having a genuine trust and partnership with retailers is crucial for the longevity of our relationship.
We appreciate that landlords need to look beyond simply providing space if they want to attract and retain business. One service we see steadily growing in importance is the ability to connect brands with the local community, whether through assisting with recruitment, running community programmes or hosting events. We know that our places thrive when the local community does and this in turn helps retailers prosper.
Ultimately, the future success of retailers will depend on how well they adapt to changing consumer expectations and the future of our industry will be determined by the level of service we give our own customers.
Matt Reed is head of retail asset management at British Land