Intu, the property company that owns shopping centres such as Lakeside, Trafford Centre and Watford (formerly the Harlequin Centre), has launched a new digital platform that aims to provide a transactional multichannel experience to its customers.
Beta site Intu.co.uk was launched this month and provides a single site on which customers can access all of Intu’s 13 shopping centres nationwide. Previously each centre had a separate site providing basic information such as opening times, location and job vacancies. Intu has now merged these sites onto one platform and added transactional functionality.
Retailers that occupy Intu shopping centres are now able to be part of Intu.co.uk and sell product directly through the site. Shoppers can buy directly from the site through a single checkout and choose either home delivery or click-and-collect.
With click-and-collect, customer collect their order from a customer services point within the Intu shopping centre of their choice. Intu is trailing a new format of the customer services point in three of its shopping centres that provide much more than basic customer service. The new customer lounges, one of which is in Lakeside, provide a relaxation area with sofas and TVs, iPads on which customers can view and shop on Intu.co.uk, and will also pilot a changing room facility from the autumn. Customers that have ordered on the Intu site can then pick up their items from a shopping centre’s customer lounge and try it straight on.
Retailers that have joined up to the Intu site so far include Jules B, Oxygen Boutique and Schuh. Sean McKee, head of ecommerce at Schuh, said of the initiative: “Bricks-and-mortar landlords have been very slow to digital and it is important for us all to better understand how customers are shopping; anything we can do to help landlords understand this, the better. This is just stage one of a journey that needs to evolve to include direct interaction [by the consumers] from the Intu site to each individual retailer bricks-and-mortar store.”
Previously, total visits to the 13 individual domains generated 1 million visits a month. Intu expects to see the same number on the one Intu platform but anticipates it will double within the next three years.
McKee says the success of the Intu site will be judged on volume and credible conversion. “We know our customers have a desire for click-and-collect and fast fulfilment. We want Intu.co.uk to demonstrate it is capable of delivering volume and an enhanced customer experience at the shopping centre. It’s a case of trying it and seeing what traction it has with customers.”
Intu.co.uk will give retailers another platform on which to reach customers, whether online or by driving footfall to the centres. Opening hours of the centres vary but with some open until 10pm on weekdays it gives consumers an out-of-hours delivery option that retailers may not be able to offer otherwise. Plans at Intu include a £1bn investment into its centres over the next few years to offer a full leisure experience, including cinemas, restaurants and retail, to drive footfall. On Intu.co.uk plans include allowing retailers control over their own landing pages on-site and a ‘return to centre’ option similar to click-and-collect. This is just the initial stage in landlords’ thinking and quest to provide a full multichannel experience, but with consumer expectations at an all-time high and retailers already embracing this change in shopping behaviour, landlords must keep up the pace with if shopping centres are to prosper.