Santiago Arzola: “The mall of the future will be based on experiences and digitalization”
Today we speak with Santiago Arzola, Manager of the new Open Mall Lanzarote. Santiago offers us his opinion regarding the current situation of the sector and, in particular, its situation in the Canary Islands. He understands how the shopping center sector, despite having suffered strong setbacks in recent years, has managed to reinvent itself and emerge stronger. Technology and customer experience become the focus of all strategies. Discover throughout this interview what expectations Santiago has about the mall of the future.
Enjoy the interview!
Retail Interview – Expectations for the mall of the future
First of all, value the current panorama… How are you living it?
We had not yet overcome the effects that the pandemic had on the sector when the geopolitical conflict broke out derived from the war between Russia and Ukraine resulting in the energy crisis, the escalation in the price of raw materials and transport, in addition to the exorbitant inflation that we have experienced in recent months and that has affected the spending capacity of our clients.
These circumstances as a whole made us presage a complicated season but the sector resists and, in a scenario like the Canary Islands where the tourism industry plays such an important role, we have verified that the data of affluences, commercialization of real estate assets and sales of the different operators have been positive despite the complicated general scenario.
In the particular case of the Open Mall Lanzarote Shopping Center, it is a shopping center that opened its doors in November 2022, starting the project in 2020, with the economic crisis due to COVID affecting a territory as dependent on tourism as the islands. The courage of the promoters of the project has made that today we can enjoy an open and modern shopping center, a commercial mix that exceeds 60 brands, many green spaces and large rest areas, and very easy access and parking, which makes Open Mall the meeting point for resident customers and tourists.
The circumstance of being a recently opened center and that this inertia has been taken advantage of to face the Black Friday, Christmas and Sales campaigns does not allow us to make an exact analysis of the situation of Open Mall with respect to the rest of the sector.
Also, you are in the Canary Islands, is your situation different from the rest of the sector? Any special feature that you would like to highlight about the CC sector in the Canary Islands?
The two main factors that I would highlight due to our peripheral situation would be the following:
- Tourism is very important for the trade of the islands since, with the approximate arrival of 12.6 million tourists in 2022, we can see that the recovery of the tourism sector has a domino effect on many other sectors when the economy reactivates. In the midst of the pandemic and the same thing that happened with hotels, many shopping centers located in tourist areas suffered to be able to maintain themselves, so the reactivation of tourism represents a very large economic and moral injection for these malls that had such a hard time due to their typology.
- Online commerce does not have the same strength in the Canary Islands as in the peninsula for logistical reasons. Without forgetting that the online market is experiencing exponential growth, the difficulties when making shipments from other parts of the world mean that the local customer needs to physically go to the stores to make the purchase, which benefits the center sector at a global level. insular.
What is the biggest problem or weakness that a shopping center has to face?
In general, the biggest problem that has occurred in recent years in the sector is instability. The different global crises that we have experienced have meant that the centers have had to adapt to the demands of each moment, having to constantly deal with the term “economic crisis”, which just naming it makes markets and consumers retreat. It is very important for the centers to be able to adapt to changes and social needs, where we would encompass the consumption patterns of customers, the global economic situation, the strength of online commerce, the greater valuation of the shopping experience, etc. Each center by its typology will have different weaknesses, so, as managers, we must be able to analyze well the environment of the object center and develop a specific analysis.
What role does technology play? How does it help a mall in the current situation?
Technology is present in everything related to the management of a shopping center: security, facilities, communication, sales, data, affluences, etc. The exponential growth of technology means that management must be adapted to this circumstance, with a risk of obsolescence if we intend to manage a current shopping center with tools from 10 years ago. Currently technology gives us the possibility of influx control, heat maps, data management, online communication, etc., being the data related to visitors and sales the most valued from the management of a shopping center.
How is it achieved today to retain the customer? What do you think this customer is looking for? How can we offer an optimal experience?
Customer loyalty has become a very complex task today, since the great offer and the ease of access to the information offered makes the customer more demanding.
There are many factors that influence a customer’s classification of a shopping experience as optimal: ease of access and parking, commercial mix, pleasant environments, security, cleanliness, services, comfort, etc. To achieve customer loyalty we must be able to comply with these details, it is also very important that, especially in small cities, the customer sees the shopping center as an important part of the community, through the activities that are carried out, of their contributions to society, implementing services that generate value that goes beyond the shopping experience, turning the mall into a meeting point for the inhabitants of the area.
Are you optimistic about the future of the sector? What do you think the mall of the future will look like?
I am optimistic about the future.
The mall of the future must be able to generate value to the visit and purchase. Today it is no longer enough to be a point of sale, but experiences add and generate value through loyalty. The mall of the future will be a meeting point where experiences and digitalization will play a fundamental role in management.