Singapore lifestyle can’t be understood without its malls, their outsized levels, their variety of shops, services and food courts. From an European point of view, it seems almost incredible to be able to pack so many of this commercial giants in the little space given by the island.
A first series of digits makes this clear:
- The Paris greater area (known as Ile de France) has 49 Shopping Malls on its more than 12 000 sq. km.
- Singapore with 17 times less surface has 142 Shopping Malls
If this type of data were to be calculated, Singapore would beat Paris with 1 Mall Per 5 Sq. Km vs. 1 Per 250 Sq. Km, or 1 mall for 7 500 Singaporeans vs. 1 mall for 250 000 in Paris greater area
When I met with Wee Heng (AspirantSG), we talked of these cultural differences and tried to consider the many faces of this phenomenon. As media professionals, we rapidly focused on how these malls were connected to their customers, and how they were using social media.
Similar Mall website in Paris.
The conclusion was somehow disappointing : in both countries, malls are not the great digital animals they ought to be and they indeed are in real life. How come places that gathers so many people have not a digital strategy ? Have you ever only been to a mall’s website and stay for more than 1 minute?
A social data-mining exercise in Paris and Singapore allows to draw a parallel for malls: they’re probably the most isolated body of the global leisure conversation, the one that makes marketing so interesting these days.
And guess what, malls could do a lot to connect to their social audiences. One may think that CapitaMall here or Unibail in Paris are set to be B2B ventures, building malls and selling spaces to different brands. I couldn’t disagree more, as going to the mall is a global leisure experience. You go to ION Orchard or Bugis+ in Singapore, to La Défense or Les Halles in Paris, because it’s a spot where you can do many things.
Surprisingly enough, the mappings of the leisure conversation in Singapore (Top) and Paris (Bottom) show the same thing for malls. A cluster of old websites almost totally disconnected from the social sphere of bloggers and thematic influencers
Oddly enough, malls don’t seem to compete to attract new costumers and make a community out of them, although they have more than the means, financially, and tons of incentives to offer. Worse, the coming generation of social marketplace can only hurt a little bit more the physical retail points, so the experience provided by malls is bound to be more intense as people tends to buy a lot online.
Let’s try to review a few good ideas to connect a mall and its community.
Before the opening, well, a mall is a mysterious project, but also a noisy work site, however it is a key moment to start a social and digital activity :
Open Up The Mall Work Site
- The world were fences could prevent eyes from seeing work in progress is at an end. Allow pedestrians and web-users to get insights on what’s going on.
- Have a virtual visit set up and live webcams to allow people “be” in the site while it’s building.
- Organize regular blogger events to show the inside stuff to experts in architecture, shopping, entertainment, local life.
- Have a contest organized on the fence, why not giving it to graphic bloggers with a prize for the most liked street-art done on it ? Success and IRL engagement guaranteed
- Show the high-tech engines to the local kids : they’re the one who will live and shop in the mall, and who didn't dream to sit at the crane driver’s place?
Beaugrenelle, a new mall to be opened in 2013, shows before / after pictures and allows bloggers to have a glance at the inside work
Official Mall Opening Launch
For the opening, a mall has to organize the celebration in a way key influencers online will be able to build the reputation of this new spot in town.
- A construction party will be for sure a means to gather the nightlife crowd through its influencers, such as Senatus, say. The alternative scene and local music groups will make of the site an exclusive experience.
- Scavenger hunt : the opening day must be for your influencers a way to discover the mall and have them find their path. A competition to reward different profiles (serial shoppers, high-tech hunter, fashion addict, food lover, kid’s corner, etc) should be a way to get good reviews and easy-to-read mall experience.
Post Mall Opening Activities
Once it’s open, the mall and its crowd must be entertained so that content and interaction find a digital existence.
- Have a Community Manager, but a real one. Not a geek stuck behind its screen, but a connected person on a Segway that links life in the mall (help and concierge) with digital augmented reality (contests, vouchers, new services).
- Have brands help you organize promotions, as they will benefit globally from your strategic position as the body where they live and interact with their customers.
- Open a temporary shop, and have its ownership put to a game for the most creative people. Every month, a new brand can try its luck and sell into the mall if their concept is the most liked on your Facebook page, say.
To conclude this long post, I feel there’s a large space for malls to innovate in their communication and marketing, especially in Singapore, with a very connected population. I hope some of them will take action to win the heart of the social audience of the Sunny Island.
Thanks AspirantSG for his invitation to be his guest blogger too.
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