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Future of Retail — Customer Engagement


issue 05


“It’s about testing and learning and seeing


how people behave. We thought it would just have a gaming audience but we were completely wrong. Older people were using it. It was across the spectrum,” says Harris. This had led to the setting up of a second


VR test that will involve customers paying a small amount to “engage with a VR experience linked to well known film properties”. She adds: “We’ve unique content including the characters having new lines.” Such experimentation stems from the


ongoing use of Intu shopping centres by customers as places of engagement with retailers and brands rather than purely locations to but goods. Harris cites the emergence of car brands in shopping centres that are now taking 10-year leases whereas before they would only utilise pop-ups to entice people to sign up for test-drives. “They can augment their stores with


technology. They don’t need lots of cars there. It’s all about the brand experience in the shopping centre,” says Harris, adding: “Our centres are much more about leisure and about the brand experience today.” You can stay all day long in an Apple store


without any hovering shopping assistants, she says, adding: “Progressive retailers want to give an experience that differentiates from their online offer. But they need each other – online and in-store.” Intu has been exploring this complementary


relationship between stores and online since it embraced e-commerce and set up its own website in 2013. “Digital is core to our strategy. We’ve taken a very customer-centric approach to how our customers want to shop and so we embraced online shopping,” says Harris. This started out as a marketplace where


shoppers could buy from various retailers and checkout from a single basket but this was changed to an affiliate model where customers jump off from the Intu site and onto the merchants’ own website when they discover content/items of interest: “The customers wanted the same experience as we give them in our centres, whereby we provide the best environment and they then buy direct from the retailers.”


Progressive retailers want to give an experience that differentiates from their online offer. But they need each other – online and in- store.


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