CEO of the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC), Amanda Stops, says that from year to year, the evolution of our industry is one of staggering promise and opportunity – as well as uncertainty.

The future may be unknown, yet two things are certain: customers will continue to change, and digital advancement will carry on reshaping our world in ways that encourage people to form new habits, find new ways to work together and become better human beings. And, in most cases, these changes translate into a range of opportunities and disruptions across every part of our industry.

On of SACSC’s key aspect to address is design that accommodates the needs of consumers in the future and the environmental concerns of our day. It might be a reach to imagine what the shopping centre might look like in the near future, but it is necessary to think about it now. Reimagining shopping centre design will require us to delve into various disciplines including engineering, art, science and architecture.

The other key aspect to consider is the impact technology and digital advancement is having on consumer purchasing habits. A recent PwC report shows that technology has given the consumer the tools to put them in a position to demand a tailored, seamless and multichannel shopping and social-media powered experience. Retailers need to have a blend of physical, technology and digital approaches.

Today, the customer experience is all about ‘inspiration’ no matter what category a retailer plays in. Digital helps to engage the retailer’s community on an ongoing basis, connecting with them in relevant and creative ways. Consumers want to be able to use technology to help them engage with the store, whether physical or digital, at every step of the shopping journey. It is a powerful tool in influencing and changing consumer behaviour. As new technologies emerge to disrupt industries, companies of all sizes can’t afford to sit on the side lines. In a world where new technologies pop up all the time, the companies that put consumer needs first are in a position to win.

The integration of the shopping centre with technology and digital to create a great customer experience is verified by research. Consumers say that the physical store remains an important element of both researching and purchasing. Shoppers increasingly prefer to research online, but many still want to go to a store to make their purchase. With the convergence of offline and online shopping, digital has become the avenue for growth. Stores don’t need to make the sale – they need to deliver an experience that supports the brand.

At this year’s SACSC Congress, we will delve into: how we as an industry we need to evolve to keep ahead and how we need to do things differently as well as how to optimise the blend of the shopping centre experience and use of technology to create a greater return on experience with the customer and thereby gain a competitive advantage.

The 2020 SACSC Congress will take place from 7 – 9 October 2020 at the Sandton Convention Centre.

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