Originally published August 25, 2016 by Hightower
Omnichannel has become an integral strategy for pretty much all retailers today. But the multi-channel approach is starting to make its way into other, adjacent industries. Like commercial real estate.
Some smart retail owners and operators have been watching how their tenants use omnichannel strategies — and are trying to incorporate the same things into their properties. One of those companies is Pine Tree, LLC.
“We’re not in the business of selling goods, so we’re not focused on omnichannel in the traditional sense.” said Graham Grochocinski, Senior Vice President of Omnichannel Marketing at Pine Tree. “But there is a lot we can learn from the approach and incorporate those experiences into our shopping centers.”
A new interpretation of omnichannel
Since Pine Tree isn’t a retailer, they’ve tailored omnichannel marketing concepts to their own needs: “We’re taking the best of what omnichannel marketing has done to redefine retailers today and repurposing it to create an enhanced community experience at all of our shopping centers. Just like some retailers – who are attempting to build seamless shopping experiences – we’re also attempting to build a unique experience at our centers that is ultimately seamless or channel agnostic,” said Graham.
“One of the biggest benefits of omnichannel strategies, retailers today are able to develop a completely 360-degree view of any given customer,” he continued. “We’re trying to do something similar at our centers= .”
To better understand what the community is interested in, Pine Tree is focused on a few main initiatives at their shopping centers: hosting events, leveraging social media, and offering free WiFi. These practices embody much of the omnichannel thinking: attract people to a location and enable them to interact with it both physically or digitally.
“One of the first things we did at one particular center was implement WiFi. While, it’s often par for the course at bigger enclosed malls, it’s practically unheard of for traditional strip centers — so naturally there were quite a few skeptics,” said Graham. “But it’s now not only proving to be an amenity that our shoppers and tenants enjoy, but it’s allowing us to create a database of relevant shoppers in the community as we ask for users’ email addresses as part of the login process.”
Pine Tree isn’t providing any of this data to tenants, but they are beginning to use those email addresses to grow attendance at their hosted events. “We are very excited about hosting community events, and the WiFi is proving to be a critical part of the strategy.” The feedback loop continues: get more people at events, get more emails, repeat.
Attracting the best tenants
Creating an experience at Pine Tree’s shopping centers has the double benefit of attracting new customers and engaging tenants. “A lot of tenants are excited about what we’re doing,” said Graham.
He continued, “It demonstrates that we’re committed to building an ideal environment for both customers and tenants – creating a great experience for both.”
To do so, Pine Tree’s marketing team tries to really understand what each tenant is thinking. “After we first begin managing a particular center, or if a tenant is first moving in, we go around and interview each tenant to get an idea of what has been successful for them in the past, what they would like to be doing now, and so on. We can then learn some of their best practices to apply to our centers, and then offer them advice on more tailored marketing programs or how to best interact with the shopping centers’ general marketing campaigns.” This is an ongoing conversation between Graham, his team, and their tenants.
Although the omnichannel mindset has been successful to-date, Graham admitted they are only just beginning. “The commercial real estate industry needs a good shake-up if it wants to thrive in a retail landscape where convenience and experience are king,” said Graham. “Though the e-commerce continues to often be an upward trend, we’re trying to change the conversation in brick-and-mortar retail by building great brands and creating real experiences that communities will want to keep on visiting.”