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What Does the Sharing Economy Mean for Shopping Centre Marketers?

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The Sharing Economy may mean opportunity for innovative shopping centre marketers.

There’s a growing movement afoot—a movement where people are happy to borrow the things they need rather than buy them. It’s called the Sharing Economy, and it’s worked its way into accommodation, transportation, food, clothing, home improvement, employment and more. Think Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Couchsurfing and TaskRabbit, to name just few.

The Sharing Economy has two main elements—either the sharing of goods, or the sharing of services. For example, you have a spare bedroom in your house that you never use. You can list that room with Airbnb and sell it to travelers who are looking for an inexpensive place to stay. If you don’t want to pay for an expensive taxi, you can use a car service like Uber. Uber will provide you with a pre-screened driver who owns his or her own vehicle and will take you where you want to go at a significantly lower cost. Want to swap your web design skills for a lawnmower? Swapsity.ca instantly generates local matches based on your criteria.

With the Sharing Economy gaining ground and stealing market share from traditional corporations and brands, the pushback has been fierce. Uber has been banned in a number of cities, and companies like Airbnb are under increasing scrutiny for issues related to security, licensing and taxes. Even so, some analysts estimate the sharing market will grow from $3.5 billion in 2014 to over $100 billion in just a few years.

As the Sharing Economy grows, many people win. But what about traditional corporations? What happens when people stop buying as many clothes at the mall, or don’t feel the need to buy a $100 drill that they’ll only use once every few years? As history has taught us, complacency is not an option. Here are some strategies for shopping centre marketers:

1. Differentiate your proposition through better customer services and premium experiences that are hard to replicate on a sharing platform. There’s a reason many online retailers like Amazon, JustFab, and Piperlime are opening brick-and-mortar stores. They recognize the benefits of physical spaces and their ability to offer consumers the multi-sensory experiences and personal service not available online.

2. Promote the retailers in your centre that are participating in the sharing economy. For example, Home Depot, which is in the business of selling tools, is now renting them in about half of its locations. Let shoppers know where they can take advantage of these types of services at your mall.

3. List your vacant space with companies like Storefront, a business that matches landlords with people looking to rent short-term retail spaces like stores, galleries and event spaces.

These are just some of the many ideas that are bound to come forth in the months and years ahead as shopping centres find new and relevant ways to protect and grow their market share.

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