Marketing Expert Maja Stefanović from CC Real reveals how to market shopping centers as brands in order to create „place-to-be“destinations.
What is the main marketing goal of a shopping center?
Simply put, it needs to get visitors to come to the mall. Goals often sound this simple, but their realization is more complex. It requires strategic thinking, long-term planning, following and setting trends, keeping attention to detail, adapting to unexpected situations, and, often the most difficult, maintaining patience in order for all of the above efforts to bear fruit.
An interesting introduction to an interesting topic was given to us by Maja Stefanović, Director of Marketing and Communications at CC Real, a company with international experience specializing in commercial real estate management and investments.
In Croatia, their management portfolio consists of four shopping centers. This includes City Center one shopping centers in Zagreb(2) and in Split (1), as well as Max City Pula the largest shopping center in the Istria region that joined their portfolio in 2021.
Given that more than 20 million visitors annually pass through these four shopping centers, we can safely say that Maja and her team know very well how to achieve their marketing goals. This is why we have asked Maja to share with us their 3 marketing and management tips that have been crucial in their shopping center success stories.
1. Innovation, creativity, and quality in every single step
The basis of all marketing is the budget. Although it is easy to conclude that with a bigger budget more can be done, my experience shows me that no matter what the budget is, it is more important to create a smart marketing strategy that will maximize the return on investment (ROI).
This is where innovation, creativity, and quality come into play and should be applied to every single marketing and PR process. This includes from a seemingly simple post on social media, all to creative solutions for ads, PR activities, grand-scale events, and campaigns. Only if these three nouns are incorporated into daily business activities, we can say that a brand is seriously dedicated to its image and success.
There are no quick solutions, no skipping steps, and no shortcuts. Indeed this requires a lot more effort and time but is the only right and long-term sustainable way.
2. The visitor is king, and may he always feel that way
Marketing is all about the people. This is true for every business branch, but especially for ours. We do not look at the people who come to our malls as shoppers, but rather as guests.
For us, it is not important whether or not a visitor will spend money in the mall, because our primary goal is to create a pleasant destination where visitors will always feel welcomed, and appreciated. We want to create a place where visitors will want to come back and always find something new, something special, something more. It all starts from there and this is what we repeat and highlight within our inner management team.
I agree that the final sales results are important, but if we show gratitude and provide a personal approach to the visitors the sales numbers will follow. In a very saturated competitive market, it is important not to forget to be a good host to every single guest.
3. It is all about timing
…and good timing is all. Knowing how to recognize market trends at a certain time in order to provide customers with what they want is much more complex than it may sound. This is where experience plays an important role.
For example, we had cases in the past when we were a bit too ahead of our time for certain marketing projects and as result, they were not accepted as we hoped. If we only launched those same projects a year or two later they probably would have been a total success!
Also if a marketing activity had good results in the past it doesn’t necessarily mean it will achieve the same level of success in the future. It is true that the easiest way to create a marketing plan is to copy-paste activities that had the most success in the past, but it is also crucial to read the market and know when it is time to introduce something completely new.
Another key element that is extremely important for successful brands, is to know when to push the boundaries, offer something unexpected and set up new trends rather than just follow them. There is no crystal ball that will give us the correct answers, but it is important to constantly listen to the market, know the trends and challenge yourself again and again.
4. Bonus Tip: A Great Team Works Wonders!
It is nothing you didn’t already know, but it is worth repeating. The above advice is useless if there are no people who will know how to translate it from theory into practice. A great team is not created overnight, it is created over time. It is not a good idea to set up an army of yes men who will share the same opinions and agree with every idea. The best solution is to create a team that strives for the same ultimate goals but has different creative ideas and ways to get there. From such versatile teams, the best ideas and the best projects are always born.