The retail industry is in a revolution. Store closures hit a record high of 7,600 and surprising bankruptcies ravaged the retail battlefield in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Once iconic brands died embarrassing deaths at the hands of hungry upstarts – upstarts that understood it’s no longer about unwavering brand legacy, pressure sales tactics and one-size-fits-all service.
The losers in the revolution shared a common characteristic – they sold commodifiable items, offered an uninspiring in-store experience and delivered unremarkable client service. Macy’s, Sears, Payless and Forever 21 are examples. They stuck with traditional battle tactics – copy the competition, dismiss the upstarts and fight on margin. This thinking made them blend into the sea of unrecognizable brands, in turn exposing them to a hungry shark – e-commerce. The very same shark will also kill the mall unless landlords transform their role from rent collectors to remarkable experience creators.
Jose Ribau, Cadillac Fairview’s EVP of digital and innovation is taking the right steps to outswim the shark. He recognizes that the new consumer wants personalized recommendations, rewards and the best deals. In fact, according to Accenture, 64 per cent of us are “willing to share personal data in exchange for benefits like loyalty points and automatic credits for coupons”.
E-commerce has implicitly transformed consumer expectations of landlords. The new customer expects convenience, speed, transparency and personalisation from any service provider – whether it’s ordering a ride, walking into a mall or buying a car. To be clear, this shift in customer expectations is important for landlords to recognize; the new consumer will not be satisfied by a mall environment that is simply a safe environment and welcoming.
The fact that Cadillac Fairview is taking real action to deliver the benefits offered by the digital realm and merging these benefits with the in-store realm is a game changer. This is because the frontline warriors in the retail revolution have typically been tenants.
Take, for example, tenants such as Nike and Sephora. They both repositioned their stores from places you go to buy clothes to places you go to for a sense of community and to get personalized products that make you feel heard (examples include designing your own running shoe with Nike or getting a makeup lesson at Sephora along with suggestions that work for your skin tone and lifestyle). Ribau is taking such tenant efforts one step further by bringing technology and community into the corridors of Cadillac Fairview shopping centres.
A prime example of Cadillac Fairview transforming the mall into a place of gathering, community and experience is Streaming at CF. Cadillac Fairview converted traditional “retail space” to a dedicated studio for content creators from various backgrounds – music icons, sports celebrities and YouTubers have all shared their stories on Streaming at CF. This move is genius. In our content and social media obsessed world, Streaming at CF delivers a win for everyone involved. Content creators save on studio costs, consumers are excited to go to the mall and share copious amounts of pictures on social media and Cadillac Fairview gets exceptional exposure at a relatively low cost.
Ribau recognizes, however, that Streaming at CF won’t be enough. He also knows that “consumers want a more seamless shopping experience”. To do this, Ribau first identified the pain points that prevent people from wanting to enter into a mall – the labyrinth of stores, forgetting an important purchase (or where you parked), not knowing what to buy for that special someone or how to incorporate that lime green sweater into your wardrobe. All these problems are being solved by Ribau’s newest creation: CF Browse.
CF Browse is an app that offers more than just email notifications about deals. It brings the benefits of e-commerce to how you shop in real life. For example, using the app, the mission shopper won’t waste her waste time trying to find a store because the app has a map and intuitive search function. The hunter shopper will be inspired by notifications from the app that will help her find complementary products in other stores. The bargain shopper will no longer miss a deal because she can select which products and brands she wants to be notified about if they go on sale.
I suspect CF Browse will continue to transform along with the consumer. For example, this app may evolve to remind you to hydrate and ping you when the lineup at your favourite cafe is the shortest.
Ribau further predicts that the shopping experience may evolve to a point where you don’t pull out a credit card as you simply tap your phone and you don’t carry around a shopping bag as your goods are delivered to your car, home or office. You may not even need to bring your entourage of “truth telling” friends to help you decide if you should buy that jacket. Instead, you’ll simply take a picture with CF Browse and get your friends to vote.
While this evolution of hyper personalization, community and convenience is exciting, I hope that Cadillac Fairview will continue to follow another tech trend – creating features in the app that encourage good behaviour such as eating better, putting down the phone and saving a bit more for retirement. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Cadillac Fairview has outswam the shark and is employing all the right weapons to end up on the right side of the revolution.