The transformation of consumer's behaviour and rapid development of technology are both heavily affecting the retail trade and real estate businesses.

We interviewed Petteri Anttila from Citycon to learn how Citycon, the largest real estate and shopping centre player in the Nordic and Baltic countries, reacted to these changes. A year ago Citycon launched a development project which aims at raising the level in shopping centre marketing, and simultaneously, changing the entire industry within the next a few years.

Mass-customisation and modularity in marketing

Petteri Anttila, Citycon’s Marketing Director, applies car industry innovations, namely modular design and standardisation, to real estate and retail sectors. “Shopping centers are already largely modular and mass-customised. Why wouldn’t we apply this approach also to shopping centre marketing? Many industries are rapidly heading in this direction, even if the change may sometimes feel unpleasant. Customers like our shopping centers which are put together from good, proven modules, such as high-quality restaurant and café services and familiar chain stores. Our new plans take this modular thinking even further.”

Citycon’s plans for “Shopping Centre 2015” are very exciting. The new marketing strategy is not only taking advantage of mass-customisation but also of an entirely new set of tools for well-designed customer service and improved community involvement.

According to Anttila, this change is huge and fundamental. What was it like earlier then? Anttila quotes a CityMarket director who once said: “Shopping centre marketing is simple. At the beginning of January, we sit on top of a pile of money and then start thinking about how to spend it.” Anttila continues: “This is a path that will neither lead to better customer satisfaction nor to any long-term success for the shopping centre operators. We must become more proactive and actively experiment with new ways of doing things and try out new technologies, such as mobile consumer services.”

In addition to utilising mass-customisation and modularity, Anttila will harness his team this year with new ways of utilising content marketing and digital means, the focal point being the customers and their enjoyment.

##Citycon’s Recipe for Success: Community, Loyalty, and Experience

One could think that shopping centre operators are satisfied when they have managed to fully lease their shopping centre properties. Citycon’s Petteri Anttila says that this is actually when the real work for success begins. Together with the tenants and other stakeholders, the shopping centre operator must create something more meaningful than “just a shopping centre”. As a team, it is possible to create a well-functioning community that has a positive effect on its entire neighbourhood.

According to Anttila, to achieve this the best ideas must be adopted and applied in a creative manner and strict rational approach balanced with emotions. “The Finns are encouraged to influence and participate in matters that concern their own immediate environment. This should also apply to shopping centers, as they often are in the heart of the region. As “the nation of engineers”, we tend to make decisions for reasons that are merely rational. We need to take into account emotional factors more. The local shopping centre should attract consumers for many reasons, not only because of the rational ones.” Anttila calls for customer involvement, and quotes Benjamin Franklin’s famous statement: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

In Anttila’s opinion, the traditional heavy advertising has come to an end. One must provide customers with interesting content and activities they can and want to participate in. When the customers participate and enjoy themselves, we leave an important memory trace.

In line with that, Citycon’s marketing strategy consists of three core areas: customer experience, loyalty and community building. The successful implementation of these three intersecting areas requires not only the enabling new technology, but also very good cooperation between retailers and customers.

The new kind of community involvement will be one of Citycon’s ways to support more transparent and customised communication as well as well-designed online activities on shopping centre web sites, social media, and most recently, on mobile devices. Citycon will launch a game-changing new mobile consumer service with HyperIn throughout the company during 2013. Smartphone penetration in the Nordics is finally high enough for this to be feasible.

Copyright 2015 Citycon

What are the benefits of the Citycon’s new approach?

“Firstly and most importantly, better customer value and customer experience.Secondly, there’s an unforeseen competitive advantage and meaningful community involvement which are both valuable for Citycon and its partners and tenants,” says Petteri Anttila. “Active involvement with various stakeholders in the society around us is something that hasn’t yet been found by companies in our industry. We wish to be the trendsetters in this development”, states Anttila.

High-quality Content Instead of Random Promotion

Closely related to Citycon’s transformation plans, the so-called SoLoMo concept(Social, Local and Mobile) has raised a lot discussion recently. The concept refers to the combination of these three areas, meaning how social media and mobile services can be used for better locally targeted services.

The SoLoMo model rewards both consumers and the shopping centre operator. Retailers and marketers receive accurate information about consumers and their wishes, often directly from the customers themselves as they are sharing more and more information about their needs and interests. This gives marketing people a great tool: they can offer genuinely useful and targeted services for consumers – high-quality content instead of pointless random promotion.

The best way to fulfil the new consumer needs is to invest in powerful local presence – both online and offline – and to share valuable content with consumers exactly when they need it. “The time is ripe for change right now. It is possible to combine the new consumer needs and online services even in our industry which is often considered to be very traditional,” says Petteri Anttila.

Citycon’s CEO Marcel Kokkeel says boldly: ”All shopping will be influenced by online experience.” Anttila says: “With this idea in mind, I’ll guide Citycon’s marketing team towards a culture where we listen carefully to our partners and consumers, while at the same time we will invest in community communication — a new approach based on curiosity, openness, responsibility, passion and the supporting technology.”

If we now have “shopping centers with an engineering touch”, we will in the future have shopping centers that are many-faceted meeting spaces with a balanced combination of sense and sensibility. “Shopping centers will indeed get new brains, using both left and right hemispheres.”, says Petteri Anttila and smiles.

It is a privilege to be involved in this change – a warm thanks to Petteri for the interview!

Riitta Raesmaa, HyperIn

Shopping Centre Marketing 2.0 = utilisation of efficient mobile and social media services, smooth combination of sense and sensibility, and Interesting infographic about SoLoMo: Infographic SoLoMo stats opportunities for retailers.