“Many of the key trends that were driving our business before Covid-19, such as the digitalization of retail, sustainability, urbanization, community engagement, and social trends are here to stay.”
By Gerard Groener
Covid-19 has had a profound impact on everyone’s current reality. From socially distanced conversations to wearing facemasks to working from home – we have all made changes to our daily lives. Even though the lockdowns, restrictions, and tragic loss of life caused by Covid-19 will pass in time, so many aspects of our lives have been touched that a lasting shift of some kind is almost inevitable. What we don’t know is how big this shift will be, how long it will take to become clear, or what this “new normal” could mean when it comes to retail-led real estate.
Firstly, we believe many of the key trends that were driving our business before Covid-19, such as the digitalization of retail, sustainability, urbanization, community engagement, and social trends, are here to stay. The digitalization of retail has almost certainly been accelerated by Covid-19, for example. Shopping online is a habit that is hard to break: Once you have tried it, you tend to continue. The equipment and knowledge barriers that previously held shoppers back have been demolished by the impositions of lockdown. Demand for “low-touch” or “touch-free” shopping due to perceived health risks is also likely to rise.
Yet this “new normal” is no newer than the phrase itself, which first arose during the 2008 recession. Then, too, consumers were triggered to rein in spending and seek deals online. The retail and leisure sectors responded with sophistication and creativity to embrace omnichannel. As a result, “chain stores” and “chain restaurants” are now more distinctive, more focused on the experiential, and more fun to visit. Cinemas, likewise, have adapted to competition from Netflix by offering more comfortable seating, dining options, and “event” moments. More of us, particularly younger generations, are, indeed, making digital transactions more often, but we continue to value physical experiences that are entertaining, surprising, and convenient. That is why our focus is on delivering a seamless customer experience across both digital and physical channels. As an operator of retail-led space, our goal is to be a digital enabler as the line between physical and digital retail becomes increasingly blurred.
We have launched new online communities and marketplaces, such as Mega Online and Livat Online, which bring customers and tenants together for shopping, lifestyle discussions, and live-streamed educational classes, concerts, and promotional events. Their function is to help our tenants and us draw closer to our customers, by delivering personalized experiences that build stronger connections and drive traffic to both online and offline stores, while leveraging data to offer a better shopping experience. Long before the pandemic, we also introduced services such as click & collect and handsfree shopping, which naturally lend themselves to low-touch shopping. Livat Online was launched in June, but we have already seen over 75,000 unique visitors per week.