EYE REPORTER WITH KEN VOLK
EYE Reporter asked Macerich Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ken Volk to provide an inside look at what Macerich malls have in store for consumers this holiday season, and how mall offerings are constantly evolving to create a relevant and unique shopping experience.
Volk overseas all facets of Macerich marketing and business development initiatives including oversight of corporate communications, digital marketing and advertising, property-level marketing, business development and the alternative revenue strategy to foster new partnerships in marketing, media, technology, telecommunications, procurement and specialty leasing.
To kick off the holiday season, EYE is happy to bring back the popular EYE Reporter column where noteworthy CEO’s, CMO’s and industry thought leaders share insight and news on everything from mall health to marketing trends and more. Holiday mall shopping is on every millennial wish list this season, with abundant tech-forward retail opportunities, premium e-tailer pop ups and interactive promotion initiatives.
Volk says the company’s top malls are poised for an optimistic holiday season. High end retailers have already been preparing for a successful season by building distinctive digital marketing campaigns into media buys to grab the attention of motivated shoppers on the path to purchase.
What is Macerich's outlook for mall shopping heading into the 2016 holiday shopping period?
It’s early to say how the holiday season will unfold, but increasingly it’s important not to generalize too much when you consider how malls will fare – all malls and all markets are not created equal. Broadly the economy looks reasonably solid in the run-up to the election. Earlier this month, a report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed the most sizable leap in terms of rising household incomes in many years. Macerich’s portfolio of top malls in top markets, set in densely populated areas with exceptional demographics, is well positioned for a positive holiday season.
There seems to be a lot of investment happening in many malls around the country.
What is Macerich investing in to help keep the mall relevant and shoppers continuing
to select the mall for their overall and holiday shopping needs?
Macerich is always investing in our properties to drive shopper preference and engagement, while ensuring these shopping centers are top-performing platforms for retailers and brands. With over $800 million invested in our redevelopment pipeline, properties like Broadway Plaza in San Francisco’s East Bay, Kings Plaza and Green Acres in the New York area, and even famed Scottsdale Fashion Square are always evolving to ensure that our properties are an even better canvas for retailers to showcase their best concepts. What our industry is finding is that shoppers seek the best malls in their markets – those properties with the best retail offerings and also the most exciting experiences. Macerich malls deliver on all that and more, and this is particularly important when it comes to holiday shopping.
We seem to have gotten past the concept that online shopping would be the death
of the mall but what do you think are the top 2-3 reasons the mall remains so popular
as a shopping destination?
A few things come to mind. If you are familiar with A.T Kearney’s report “On Solid Ground,” it tells us that 90% of all retail sales are transacted in stores, and 95% of all sales are captured by retailers with a brick and mortar location. So what is the allure of the bricks?
First, people today are always plugged in. We program our own TV and movies on Netflix, our own music on Spotify, our own news channels that fit our politics – practically anything and everything can be customized to our own liking. But there is something tremendously appealing about the surprise factor at a great mall. What stores are new? What new fall merchandise is in at my favorite stores? What brand activations, sampling, entertainment is happening in the common areas? People want to find out what’s new and next and malls are fantastic places to do that.
"TEENS ARE VISITING MALLS MORE IN 2016 THAN THEY DID IN 2015...THE MOST POPULAR PLACE FOR THEM TO MEET FRIENDS, BEATING OUT MOVIE THEATERS, RESTAURANTS, SPORTS CLUBS AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES"
There is so much opportunity in “online.” Macerich is executing on a strategy to identify promising startup and e-commerce retailers and making it easier for them to open physical stores in our centers. For premier e-tailers looking to reach their customers through a high-quality store, or for established brands and retailers taking advantage of maximum foot traffic to roll out a new product line, we recently rolled out a concept with WithMe, micro stores in Macerich common areas that offer a captivating, engaging experience to shoppers.
And – finally – the next big reason top malls remain popular destinations – it’s that great malls are places to share experiences with other people. Shop with a friend, meet for a fun lunch, see a movie, but more importantly touch the merchandise. I saw some new research this week showing that teens are visiting malls more in 2016 than they did in 2015. This William Blair survey had teens saying that the mall (24%) was the most popular place for them to meet friends, beating out movie theaters, restaurants, sports clubs and extracurricular activities. That was a great nugget of information to uncover, because it goes along with what we already know, which is that people come to our properties for rewarding shared experiences.
Macerich continues to offer a variety of major redevelopment such as tech forward
photo studio concepts, expanded shopping space and interactive experiences to create
a unique consumer destination. Is there anything new being presented this holiday season
that will further help draw shoppers to the mall?
We’re very excited that Santa HQ presented by HGTV – our unique, immersive holiday tech experience – is coming to 50% more Macerich centers this holiday season. This year a total of 15 properties will offer this breakthrough holiday experience that takes the classic visit with Santa to a whole new level. We’re also about to launch an exciting new partnership portfolio-wide with a major online content provider that succeeds enormously with Millennial women, who of course are an important segment of our shoppers. Also, many of our properties will offer tech-forward new retail experiences thanks to WithMe, a high-tech retail “envelope” for pop-ups of all kinds, coming to our common areas. There’s always something new and exciting at our properties and at no time of year is this truer than the holiday season.
Our studies continue to show local malls attract 85% or more of the local community.
The challenge for retailers seems to be more about getting the mall goer into their store.
How important are the in-mall advertising and promotional opportunities to driving specific
More and more, retailers are taking advantage of in-mall advertising and promotional opportunities as they can reach the ready-to-shop, ready-to-spend consumers just steps away from a transaction. These opportunities are precisely targeted to shoppers who are already at the mall, already open to retailer messaging. Increasingly digital and traditional platforms inside and outside our properties are preferred places for retailers to reach people who are their shoppers. We think it’s very powerful, and retailers like Chanel, NYX, Nordstrom, Sephora and MAC agree. They are building these opportunities into grand opening media buys, when launching new campaigns and more. I think we’ll see a lot of exciting brand expressions around the holidays at our properties around the country.
Are there other inventive marketing methods like mobile and social that you see the mall
or retailers using more regularly to drive traffic to their store?
We are providing more opportunities where digital media can engage with consumers. From food court advertising boards to digital directories, interactive experiences are appealing to shoppers already immersed in a full-digital world. Again, these are ideal locations that retailers are taking advantage of to reach consumers that are ready to shop, ready to spend. And digital Shopper Rewards programs, like the one we are partnering with Spring Network, give retailers a platform to deliver instant access to special promotions, so it’s a highly targeted tool that is as easy for retailers as it is for shoppers.
Mobile devices are becoming more a part of the shopping experience.
How are retailers embracing mobile to improve the shopping experience?
Retailers and malls are embracing mobile in many exciting ways. From mobile apps that help shoppers search, find great deals and make restaurant reservations, to beacon messaging that delivers real-time opportunities for shoppers inside our malls, mobile is a meaningful and welcome way to communicate with shoppers now.
What differentiates the Macerich Mall experience from other malls?
Macerich malls are different in so many ways. First of all, they are one-of-a-kind, dominant properties located in many of the country’s best markets. We custom-curate the retail mix that’s just right for each market, bringing in new and fresh retail concepts, and we add terrific consumer experiences that make shopping at our malls fun and rewarding. Macerich is known for always improving and refining our iconic properties – from Santa Monica Place that defines relaxed, West Coast shopping by the beach to The Shops at North Bridge on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue that is a perfect urban setting for great shopping and great restaurants. Our differentiated shopping destinations, each with its own real sense of place, make them favorites for locals and visitors. Importantly, Macerich also is an industry leader in sustainability, in bringing e-tail concepts to brick-and-mortar shopping environments, and our malls succeed as effective advertising venues for retailers and brands.
Will mall shoppers utilize any distinctive shopping strategies this holiday season
prior to making purchase decisions?
We think shoppers will continue to shop with smartphones in hand, taking advantage of special offers and doing research to find exactly what they’re looking for at the mall. Also – and this is more and more important – they will take pictures of their favorite new stuff, delicious restaurant meals, fun times with family and friends, all to share on their social platforms. Our beautiful malls during the holidays are the perfect setting for all of this.
What challenges and opportunities do you see taking place in malls this holiday season
in terms of capturing the attention of millennials? Heading into 2017?
Millennials are all about the experience. They certainly do their research before making big purchases and they love great deals, but they also really love the social dimension that our great malls deliver. They love restaurants and sharing what they’re doing and buying as an expression of who they are. Even, for example, the milkshake and burger they choose at Shake Shack can be shared as a reflection of their individual preferences and style. This focus on experiences is the challenge and it’s also the opportunity: We understand we have to deliver fresh and exciting experiences that keep millennials engaged, during the holidays and all year long. Macerich is well positioned to do this at our great malls in great markets.