A guide to shopping centre digital marketing

April 11, 2019

Welcome back to The Cunning Plan podcast…

Marketing a shopping centre requires a set of unique challenges. With a variety of tenants, events, and competing local businesses, it can be tricky to get it right. Having had experience in marketing a number of shopping centre’s, we want to share with you the essential tips and strategies on how to engage with your customers.

We’ve also combined our 10 years of experience working with shopping centre’s across the UK to produce a quick and easy to digest introduction to Digital Marketing.

Download our FREE eBook which includes:

  • Digital Demystified – all the digital elements explained
  • Is your website delivering quiz
  • Top 5 Tips to get started with Social 
  • A Marketing Buzz Words glossary – never be bamboozled by marketing waffle again
  • Our One-hour-per-day Digital Plan – how a member of your team can become a digital expert with just one hour per day



Read the full transcript here – Please note that this is a rough transcript!

James: Hello. Welcome to the Cunning Plan Podcast. I’m here with Ali.

Ali: Hello.

James: Joe.

Joe: Hello.

James: I’m James. Hello. We’re here today to talk about shopping centers and shopping centers digital marketing. If you aren’t a shopping center or have no interest in shopping centers, I’m afraid this one is probably not going to be for you. We’ve worked with a lot of shopping centers over the years, I myself come from a retail background originally. Retail and shopping centers and things like this have always been a real interest.

We thought it would be a nice idea just to chat through some of the details and the stuff we’ve learned about them the last few years. It’s definitely a type of business where you don’t have a lot of resources, you don’t have a lot of time, you’re doing a huge number of different things all of the time. Digital marketing and stuff like this often gets forced to the wayside and some of the people don’t get a chance to do. We thought, why don’t we share some of that knowledge.

I have to mention we’ve also recently produced a white paper about this. Again, if you’re interested in learning a bit more by all means download that too and have a little read. If that’s not for you we apologize and we’ll see you next week. Everybody else, stick around and hopefully you’ll find something interesting to uncover. Shopping centers, you guys both work on a couple of different shopping centers, how’d you find them?

Ali: Interesting, I think as you said, I think they are often, especially center managers they are sort of …… I think it’s very much a case of using a bit of your own initiative, a bit of time and understanding the audience as well. Every area has a slightly different– This shopping center will play a slightly different role. If it’s not in a city, if it’s in a town or something, it will be quite an intergral part of the community. If it is in a city, it’s competing against lots of other things, you’re going to have to think about your consumer and how you’re presenting it really.

Joe: Another thing, I think the big benefit of shopping centers….. is just the diversity with the different tenants and you have food courts and there’s a huge big range of ideas that you can produce, so it’s never dull anyway in that sense.

James: That’s what I found interesting because, they do come in all the shapes and sizes, you can have a small collection of boutiquey shops up to an out of town park full of major brands and cinemas and entertainment complex and all sorts of stuff like that and everything in between, independent retailers and all sorts of stuff like that. They all often shares similar goals and problems I suppose, don’t they? What are the typical goals that we come across for a shopping center?

Ali: I suppose foot flow is primarily always the one you going to hear up first. That is with the way that online shopping is going, it’s always a battle but it’s trying to keep that foot flow consistent and increased at the peak times a year. Obviously Christmas speaks for itself but summer as well where it can be a little quiet, it’s about trying to work out how you can get a few more customers through the door. Certainly, yes, foot flow for me is always it’s number one target.

Joe: I would definitely say it would be ultimately the spend within the tenants. It’s all easy getting the foot flow in the door and getting people actually in the center but if they’re not spending anything within the tenants and that’s ultimately where the goal lies. Yes, just for any of the tenants I guess, I would be just ultimately promoting them within the center and ultimately their products, whatever it is that they are looking to offer to public.

James: I guess that comes back to why it’s important to get the right foot flow, attract the right traffic because if you get the wrong people, they’re not going to spend any money, they might not enjoy themselves, they might leave a negative review or something like that because you’re attracting the wrong people. That’s what I love about the digital marketing when we’re talking about shopping centers, because you are able to be more targeted.

If you just stick a banner up on the side of the M6 and say come to our shopping center, with the best one in the world, you’re just blunderbussing it at a million different people more way than that. Whereas with this, we could be really targeted about the types of people, the catchment area, exactly who you want to try and get in. There’s much better chance we’re going to make those people actually spend and ultimately do something. These are the goals, these are things that shopping center managers and shopping centers in general want to achieve, what are the problems? What are the challenges they face predominantly?

Ali: I think it’s the clear one that you hear about in the news all the time which is online shopping, Amazon, all these retailers, you don’t have to leave your sofa to get what you could get from the tenants in the shopping centers, why would someone get in the tube, get on the bus whatever it is to go to your shopping center when they could easily get online, get it to their door, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a challenge that I’m sure every center faces. It’s certainly something the High Street’s facing generally. That for me is certainly one of the big ones.

James: Yes. With all those challenges Joe, why are more people not doing digital marketing, why aren’t they spending time doing this, make sure we’ve got a great site, make sure we’ve got great social foot flow, what’s the reason for people not doing it?

Joe: I think it is mainly, I think it is purely just they don’t have the time or the actual staff members to do that. Typically, you do have a center manager and in slightly bigger teams you do have an administration assistant as well helping with it but because they are pulled in a million different directions because they have so many tenants and they have so many things to cater to, they just purely don’t have the time, a lot of the time to do the likes of social media, digital marketing, the website, anything like that.

James: Yes. Clearly, there’s a perception that a lot of this stuff takes a lot of time. Yes, to do it really well, it does take quite a lot of time, you do need to donate a big proportion of your time to really, really nailing it. There are certainly things you can do with a limited bit of time and that’s kind of what we’re going to talk about more today. It’s one of the things I …. and again, it’s not just about the centers themselves, it’s the staff in shopping centers and the center managers. It’s a pretty thankless job, isn’t it?

It’s a pretty tough job where it’s every hour God sends, it’s weekends, you’re dealing with the general public who are by and large delightful but they do present occasional challenges, as we know from many of the events we’ve attended across the country. They are just all sorts to do, one minute they’re trying to summon up a marketing strategy and the next minute they’re dealing with slippers on fire or trying to sort out some toilets stuff, flooding or something like that.

It’s just constantly jumping from task to task. I think that’s why although every shopping center manager is completely different, they have these characteristics that are very similar and they make the …. best ones incredibly fun to work with because they do want to try stuff, they do know that you’ve to be a little bit cleverer, you don’t have the most budget to spend on things you usually see, you’ve got to be wily in trying to figure out cool ways to do things.

I thought that’s what makes it fun, makes them the fun accounts to work on but not every shopping center has the ability to have an agency or have other people work with them like us. Let’s have a little run through some of the things that a shopping center, any shopping center should have to think about and ultimately some kind of tips like things they could do without having to invest a huge amount of time or indeed a huge amount of money in making that stuff happen. Let’s run through the list, what are the things that people should be talking about, people should be thinking about?

Ali: I suppose you’ve got to look at the website. I think website SEO, that is when people are going to look you up, going to give you a quick Google, things to do in the local area or where they can find this particular item of clothing or a particular item or product. Hopefully your shopping center ….. come top of that list.

James: What’s SEO?

Ali: Search engine optimization, there where you type in the name of your shopping center, it will come up the top of your Google search, Bing search, whatever you’re using and you will get a-

Joe: Your Bing search [laughs]?

James: That’s with the website, what else?

Joe: Well, just adding to the website, I know with me personally and the guests and the general public will just see the overall aesthetic of the website as well. If something doesn’t look that good or if there’s not a lot of content on there then I wouldn’t be on that site for much longer than a couple of seconds.

James: Yes. If you’ve never been to that center before, it massively affects what you think that center’s going to be like when you go on the site if it’s clear, easy and everything like that. I think that’s where we’ll come on to talk in more detail, but with websites there’s clearly two different types of people. There’s your regular visitors, a lot of shopping centres just have- they have catchment, they have local people, they have that regular audience. Then you have the out of town people that don’t come here all the time, they need to give them something to see and get them information they need quickly and easily as well. You’ve got to cater both those people.

Joe: I would also say social media is the big one and staying active on social media. I know, again, being member of the public, if I’m going in to say, look at– If I was visiting a shopping centre and I realize they hadn’t posted in a week, two weeks, then you wouldn’t stay on that page long at all. Especially if I had any queries like parking or opening hours. You’d realize that they aren’t positing a lot, then again, it would just deter you from doing that or interacting with that profile at all. I definitely say social media’s a big one for shopping centres.

James: I think that again helps with that repeat. Is it because you’re thinking about “What can I do this week?”, seeing that constant communication, those ideas, reasons to visit, that kind of stuff, makes you think, “Oh, I’ll go and have a look at that” or if there’s an event on they promoted that as a special offer. Those are the things that do ultimately help drive from those repeat visitors. Those are the ones that are going to be, probably following your local shopping centre. It’s not going to be an out-of-town tourist that’s going to follow your local shopping centre, because there’s not really much point. It’s going to be the locals, it’s going to be those people there.

Then again, those people are much more locally engaged and we’ve definitely seen that, haven’t we? That the audiences for shopping centres that do like pages on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, they generally get involved. They get involved in the conversation, sometimes positively, sometimes less so. They do get involved and you can get riled up about stuff and debate things and that, which is great. It’s what you want from conversation.

We got website, need to think about that, the SEO of that site, social media, any other forms of digital communication?

Joe: Well, I think, last but not least I think, email.

James: Email is dead, surely email is dead by now, Joe.

Joe: You’d be surprised, the amount of people who– The social media bracket is often talked about being very popular with the ’40s and under. You’ve got people that are old school, they’re using desktop computers who all rely on email communication to get a lot of their information. That is where email will serve a purpose if you are running an event, if you are running a promotion, if there’s anything to do. Seasonal stuff, Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter, whatever. Email will get that out to a huge audience and it’s still very effective.

I definitely say shopping centre emails, I think it’s a– Yes, GDPR might have scared some people away, but actually as long as everything’s clear and honest, email will serve a really strong purpose for a lot of those customers who aren’t on Twitter, aren’t on Facebook.

Ali: I was going to say, with email, it’s a vital way to actually grow your audience. For social media and website, website less so, but for social media it is more about maintaining your audience and connecting with the audience, but I definitely think with the email, that’s about reaching out. If there is anyone that comes to the centre briefly and then get on your mailing list or something like that and get the information out.

James: Okay. Website, SEO, social media, email, all important. None of this is sounding any easier with the 30 seconds of free time I have in a week. Let’s try and run down some quick and easy, quick wins that you can do on each of those platforms to try and get your house in order and ultimately have some real impact with minimal amount of effort and work. First up, the website. What should we be thinking about?

Joe: Just get that basic information on there. What tenants do you have, where are you located, what are your opening times, get the really simple stuff really easy to access. If it has to be on the home page, so be it, but make it really simple to navigate. Don’t worry about having loads of flash looking pages and worrying too much about little fun features website. Just try and get the information that people are going to be looking for when they’re Google searching, etcetera. Try and get that stuff as front and centre as you can.

Ali: I would definitely say that mobile would be a big contributing factor as well to our website, because we would find up to 80% of people would be using their mobile and viewing the website through their mobile. Having that running smoothly and having all the options, like you were saying like contact information, opening times. Having that really well laid out on a mobile, I would say is just as crucial, if not more crucial than on desktop, because especially nowadays we do have younger audiences that are wanting to see opening times of shops and restaurants. If you can’t find that easily on your phone, then it’ll just deter them even further from coming to the shopping centre.

James: Yes, totally. That’s why when we’re designing a site, we always think about mobile first. You’ve got to think about your thumbs and your fingers and whereabouts are you going to get and how you’re going to get to the information quickly and easily. It’s great to have a wonderful, beautiful looking website with a huge, great big banner of a lady carrying a load of shopping bags on the frontline of the homepage, but really and truly when that get squashed down onto a mobile, you’ve got three pages of scrolling to get through before you can find the information you need. It just is invaluable. You need opening times, you need directions. That’s what most people are looking for. It’s how to get to the place, to see what the shops are going to be there, maybe look for a map or something like that. It’s basic stuff.

You’re usually not going to get people reading a lot of blogs, doing that kind of stuff on a mobile device. You can tuck those bits of information away to one side and get the essentials out in front. People will go looking for those things if they want them. Structuring it, it’s ultimately straightforward. You said it beforehand, you just be a consumer, think like a customer. Be a person that goes on websites. We all use them all the time, yet for some reason when we’re thinking about designing one, you think “I need it to do this, I want this feature on it”, this kitchen sink approach to it, whereas you start with the basics. Start with something we need to know and then build up on that. Add additional features and additional functionality beyond that.

We’ve got this site– It’s nicely laid out and stuff like that. That’s probably a bit difficult and maybe if you’re a shopping centre, you can’t necessarily redesign your own website. I’m stuck with the site I’ve got. What am I going to do to try and get some traffic onto that site?

Joe: We did touch on it. Simply blog writing is a small feature. Blogs don’t have to be thousands of words long, that’s a bit of a fallacy really. I think, couple of hundred words that could promote your centre, whether it’s an event, whether it’s promoting one of your tenants, new store opening, etcetera. Those are little bits of medium to long-form content that could drive traffic to the website, because a blog page is fairly straightforward. You don’t have to worry really about the structure of that, but yet you could put a lot of information on that, that a customer could be searching for.

James: Again, dead easy to add a blog onto a site. That’s one of those things that, usually you’ve got a site, you could still add a WordPress blog or something like that onto the back end of it, pretty cheaply or free if you know how to do it. Then you could start generating some content, I know that would definitely help. Another thing to think about is Google Analytics. I think that’s a really important and straightforward thing to get done. You make sure you’ve got that on your side.

Most people when they build a site have that installed anyway, but go and have a look at it. Have a look and see what pages people are visiting, what people are looking at, what pages are causing people to bounce straight away and not look at anything else. Then you start to build up a bit of a picture of what’s working well on the site and what’s not really working at all.

We’ll come onto things like the content marketing and more ideas about more engaging content, I’ll stop at that. I think with the website, that’s the key really. Make sure it works, make sure it’s well functional, make sure it works great on a mobile and then, maybe start thinking a little bit about some of the technical optimization stuff as well. Get your Google Analyst right, make sure there’s some page titles on each of the page, make sure your images are tagged, stuff like that.

These are all things that maybe are a little bit more advanced. There’s a little section about that in the white paper that we’ve done that goes into a bit more detail of how to do some of that stuff. Some little tiny things like that will make a big difference to generating some decent traffic to the site. That is a really important thing, because I think we’re all focused on social media and getting a good social media audience and all that sort of stuff.

I think the thing that’s going to bring you in new people from outside the area, things going to get tourists along, especially if you’re in a place that’s got a lot of competition, is how well you rank when someone’s searching for “Shopping in X location” or “A cinema in X location”. That’s what you need to be ranking well for, because otherwise they’re just going to be finding somebody else and they won’t be coming to your centre.

Okay, so you nailed your website. That’s looking pretty tasty now. What’s next?

Joe: The next biggest thing would be social media. Just keeping your social media

acted like I was saying before, like again, being a member of the public, you want to see that shopping center is very active, whether that’s the promotions, they have, various tenants that people wanted to look at, whether it’s even just as simple as them asking or tweeting a question or Facebook and a question and making sure you get that response within a good of entertainment just so the audience can see that they’re engaged in.

James: Let’s go back to the beginning. Social media we’re talking here about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. That’s a lot of stuff to do. Again, I haven’t got any time when I’m going to do all this stuff. Do I just go and have a crack of all of these or am I going to try and pick and choose which ones I use. What do you recommend?

Joe: Yes, you would need to, you definitely to gauge it from your audience and from exactly what ones would suit them more, because I’ve definitely moved from some of the shopping centres and it’s like they do have a favorable account more than anyone else, more than another one.

James: Like, Twitter works better than Facebook say or-

Joe: It’s all just about like the …… what they’re using themselves. I guess that does come from if you don’t attain market research and it’s just trial and error. It’s just about seeing what  …… platform gets the most engagement. Yes, it’s most reaction of your audience and-

James: I think all the things that …… that sends the managers and most people that work in children’s into the digital world might not be everyone’s forte. They know that customers, they know their audience, they know who they are, they know how old they are, they know the kind of a mix of, A, B, C and all that kind of business. They have a real good handle on that.

It’s not that difficult to look at the demographics of your centre and then compare that to the average demographic or choose the segment that works and then decide which one is the best one for you to start with and that’s kind of the way. You get going  …… Pick one another, go at that and then build up to using the other ones rather than doing a broad brush to get set up on every single one and they just don’t post on it, most of them, which I think is that a lot of people end up doing.

I’ve got my social media account set up and I’ve made them look all right, I’ve got some pictures on and things like that. Now I’ve got to write everyday, how you come up with content for a shopping center every day.

Joe: If you are a small team, you don’t want to write it live. Some people cameras are if they’ve got enough time dedicated, but as, as the example we’re talking about, so they don’t have the time. Think about content plan. Think about which channels you have most access on. Facebook, you don’t have to really post more than three times, three times a week. Writing posts for that. It doesn’t have to be terribly difficult.

You can talk about a tenant, you can talk about an offering to up the season, you can talk about an event that’s going on in the center, there are a lot of options and you can do quality content as well, don’t feel you have to constantly talk about the shopping center at all. You talk about your local community as well, about events going on around you to show that you are engaged with. As we’ve always said, the local audience that will probably naturally be following it. I don’t think you need more than at worst, an hour, probably a week. If you take it really slowly to do a quick few Facebook posts and if you’re on Twitter or Instagram you could, you probably should have time to do a post on there as well.

Ali: Like what you were saying when you’re actually like planning content, that’s where the laces like sweet or tweak day comes and how I’m doing. It does make writing your content and planning a strategy a lot more simple and because what your saying is like what people, a lot of people don’t do is if they’re just like tweeting line or something, then it’s really inconsistent and again they just don’t have the time–

James: What happens is you get like I’m normally like when I’m going to nail social media this week or we may need to get this done, so let’s crack on. We’re going to do it and on Monday, Tuesday cutting posts every day. Wednesday, a load of other things have happened somebody’s going to do it on Thursday and by the time you get into it you just drifted just to dry off. Yes, I think scheduling stuff using platforms like that and there’s–  …… they cost a lot of those things and you can get a lot of stuff done on those. The other thing that they actually insist, its just boatloads of content, isn’t it? It’s just loads of good stuff to go out. You’ve got shops though, all got new stuff coming in all the time. You’ve often got events going on as if you’ve got a cinema.

There’s new movies coming out all the time. It’s just loads and loads of stuff just have to go out, so I think that’s part is get up from your desk, go and walk out into the role or into the central area or whatever there is and go and see what’s going on, see you or talk to this  ……could talk to the stores, find out what new stuff they’ve got in, see if you can get some poses or clothes or, what new movies are out, whatever else and just find something interesting out there.

That’s part of the challenge of social media and content marketing as a whole, isn’t it? It’s being able to sort of sniff out those stories and find those interesting little, little things because just like the staff at centers, the retail staff are fascinating. There’s a low, the low will be doing interesting things. Little have little initiatives and little ideas, especially in independence the, that you can potentially get involved with them, then you might find out someone will give you a prize or a competition and then that’s golden giveaway, something like that. You’ve got a great way of driving some more people.

Joe: The good thing is really that was like the huge amount of depth in content, with that you do attract a lot of different members of the public, that are interested in things like games, whether that’s shopping, fashion, and foodies, anything. You just, you gather all those different types of people and you have such a good engaging content for that, so then you are attracting a lot more crowds rather than just like the one crowd.

James: Okay. You probably have got a website. We’ve had a little dabble in Seo, we got a social media set up and that’s pretty nice. We’re posting regularly such a thing, it’s all good. Email.

Ali: Talk about email again. Short on time, so I have a quick Google look at some plenty of pretty cheap if not free, depending on the audience size, Emails that have marketing tools. Mailchimp for one I know is particularly good. You can use those tools that will help guide you through the process of creating a nice clear template. Nothing too complex with too many things going on, it will give you recommendations, but subject lines, sort of length of the text, type of images to use and then you can sort of build yourself quite a nice — I’d always keep it quite succinct, to be honest. I don’t think anyone’s going to be scrolling through a long email, so keep your subject in your talk is quite short and sharp. I said, those tools will help guide you through whether, have you thought about this, have you thought about that, and it’s a great place to start if you are time shy.

James: Yes, it’s a great thing and a lot of these things like managing, for example, free to get started on, get a template check your logo on, write a very nice copy, promote a couple of offers, promote competition, if you’ve got a blog and you got some stories on there then talk about those, got an event coming up is a great way. I think that email is a great way of getting to just a totally different audience and we still see really, really good open rates on those things. I do think you- mentioned before about GDPR, and I think that that has scared a lot of people away from doing email. It’s just delete everything like that.

If you gathered your email database through nefarious means, delete your database, that is the right thing to do. For the most part, if you’re capturing data and using a newsletter signup form and you’ve got a proper octane on your website and it’s absolutely clear why that person is signing up, just, grabbing emails off every Tom, Dick, and Harry that walks past, then this is fine. It’s not going to go them. Someone said, I want to receive an email.

Send them an email. This is not – don’t over email them by any means, but, that’s really not a problem, don’t be buying data off random strangers in the public, that’s a bad idea. Capture laser if you can and ask people to sign up for our newsletter. Again, get them to sign up, get them to tick a tick box, make sure you save all that information, I hasten to add ……

Certainly not giving you any legal advice, but really I think a lot of people have got very scared about sending any sort of communication out and in reality if you’re doing the right thing, if you’re capturing data that ……you’re asking people for permission and then getting a legitimate concern from most people, it’s not a problem.

I think, we’ve seen some guys really, really take a real hard line, listen to it and really annihilating databases and very quickly grow them back up again by just going back to people and asking, or just inviting to enter competitions via a data capture form instead of just that I can share on the website. There are those ways to try and grow that database and get some more people back on the list again. I do think it’s a really, really valuable way of getting different people to come along to events or get involved and stuff like that. Again, the ability to segment it and to do a lot of other stuff once you get a bit more advanced, really does make a big difference.

Ali: Absolutely.

James: We talked a bit before about content marketing I think that’s something I wanted to talk a little bit about as well. You’ve got a website, you talked about doing blogs and stuff like that, we talked about the social and how to come up with ideas and things like that, but content marketing is something that people blast around a lot all the time and things like that. What does it mean and why should a shopping center care about it? You’ve got everything, you’ve got your email sorted as well now, we talked a bit earlier about blog articles and things like that. I think a lot of people look at that and go, “I’m writing a blog, I haven’t got anything to say about anything, how can I write a massive great blog article?”

I think something that people do get scared of is this idea of content marketing, this idea of creating these big pieces of content and stuff like that. Why, as a shopping center should I care about content marketing?

Ali: Well, as we said, it can really bring your shopping center to the focus of the local community around you and by having a content strategy, that is how you will achieve that. You don’t have to worry about writing a blog a week. That’s probably unachievable. If you have a strategy, if you think long term about what you would like to try achieve, how you’d like to drive traffic to the website, how you’d like to grow your social media ……to engage with the public.

You can think long term, at the beginning of the year, have a sit down with you and your team and think about events, projects, ideas you’d like to try and promote, some campaigns perhaps, then you can do blog content off the back of that, then off the back of that blog you can do some video content, you can do some social media posts, you can really start to think about how little ideas can suddenly become huge pieces of content, just by sitting down at the beginning of the year and maybe thinking of a six month, three month strategy where you can plan these things out and everything gets chopped into nice management chunks, which is always the best way to approach it.

James: People have stuck with this long- let’s give people a few examples of types of content they can really easily create, that would be great for a website, but again, create some lovely content for social as well.

Joe: I would definitely say, first and foremost with shopping centers, they’re very late with their fashion in their retail stores. I’d definitely say ones like Halloween trends, if there’s any festivities happening. Again, Christmas as well. Autumn winter trends, if any of the tenants have any nice new collections that are coming out or anything, stuff like that. Also the beauty with shopping centers is, if you have other retailers like maybe book shops, you could say the 10 best sellers of the year, something like that. It’s just all-encompassing all of the different parts of your shopping center that you have that you want to push forward.

James: That’s a great idea to try and localize that content, isn’t it? If you’re doing something like Top 10 Bestsellers, try and make it Top 10 Bestsellers in your local area or this local area’s favorite book, or even trends for people in this local area. Again, I think it’s just more interesting for people in that local are if it’s more specific. We see a lot of people do things like movie reviews. There’s a million websites I can go to to get a much better movie review than is going to be done by a shopping center, but I would be quite interested to know what were the top 10 movies of the year in my local area. I think that’s how to approach it. You talked about that, the local communities as well, Joe, are there any other ideas for getting involved in the community.

Joe: There’s plenty because I think it’s that thing, that a shopping center doesn’t have to be completely looking internally, look externally as well. You’ve got lots of holidays that you can throw events and cater towards and obviously write blogs and do videos to promote those, but also talk about the local area, show that you’re engaged with it, talk about local attractions, tag them into blog posts, tag them into social posts, you will more often than not have that reciprocated by the area itself and therefore you’ll increase your catchment area, get some new audience.

You could have, say, summer holidays that have just been, you could do your local attractions during the summer, so if you’re near the coast, or there’s theme parks or National Trust places, you could go to those kind of things, mention them in your posts, tag them in and those guys are looking for more publicity, so the idea that a local shopping center is mentioning them as well is just- you could just riff off each other. It’s quite a strong way to produce content and get good engagement as well.

James: It’s all about not being quite so interior and not thinking about your center as this little island in the middle of this town. Think about all the other stuff. Obviously, don’t talk about the competition. You create a narrative of things to do in the local area that usually pretends that the other shopping center that’s just on the other side of town doesn’t actually exist. You just talk about all these things. You talk about places to eat, you don’t talk about anywhere that is comparable to a place you’ve got.

If you’ve got a nice burger restaurant, you don’t talk about a burger restaurant that isn’t in town. You might talk about a fine dining restaurant, because there’s no competition there, so again, you can spread your wings a bit wider and as you say, you will get reciprocators, you will talk about those people, they will share your content and then their audience will see, “Right, okay, these guys are working together, they’re interested in- that’s fine, I’m more likely to go there now, because of that”.

Joe: I think it makes them more trustworthy as well, because you will tend to find that, with a lot of people and again, it’s putting your eyes in the public, if you see that it’s constantly, “Come to our shopping center, this, this, this”, but it’s all about them, then a lot of people will think that it’s quite biased. If you do have quite a lot of community stuff and you’re seen supporting other restaurants, other brands, whatever, then it will make it a lot more trustworthy to the public and ultimately it would attract them to your social media, your website, ultimately.

James: Obviously, there’s a huge amount to go out there, there’s a lot of- it’s a pretty wide landscape of stuff to be trying out. You can break it down into little bits. Again, check out our white paper, it breaks down how you can do this in an hour a day, a bit of a plan for breaking up your time and it’s a great- the other thing is that in a lot of centers or even in stores, there are people that are like budding photographers and they’d love to be given the opportunity to go and get some content.

This is a fun job, that’s the thing I always think is, it’s going out and taking photos of people or of clothes, or of products or of things that are going on. This is not a chore, this is a fun thing to do. You’ll often find somebody that fancies having a crack at that, so put the word the word out, ask the tenants and the staff of the tenants to say “who’ve you got, have you got anyone that might be interested in being a budding reporter for us and bring us some of that content, bring us some photos and stuff”.

There are ways of giving those jobs to other people and ultimately it’s good, it’s development for other people and it’s helps the center as well. There’s loads of good stuff there and you can do a lot of it by breaking it down. Obviously, wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t say if you can’t do it, we can do it for you. That is something we’re very happy to do. You can achieve a lot of success just by following on with some of these tips.

Like you said at the start, I love working with shopping centers, I think they’re fascinating, I think the people that are there are fascinating and I love the diversity of different types of things you can do. I hope you found that useful, I hope there’s something in there that you’re able to take away and do and action, tell us how you got on. Love to hear what sort of things have worked, what hasn’t worked, stuff like that. Yes, let us know. Any other closing thoughts from you gentlemen?

Joe: No I think we’ve covered everything pretty succinctly in our lovely little podcast, but go have a go, that’s the thing. Why not try it.

Ali: Just not to be scared of it. It is social media after all, we’re all exposed to it and I think it’s trail and error, as well, it’s about putting stuff out, seeing what works, what doesn’t work and ultimately just being creative and enjoying that really.

James: Well thank you very much for joining us today and we will see you next time. Bye.