The return of retail: ICSC 2012 conference

Ken Koo, Allison Collister and I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 ICSC RECon conference in Las Vegas recently. It is the world’s largest gathering of real estate professionals focused on retail, from the industry’s largest professional group: the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). The conference supplies ample opportunities to network, make deals and learn from industry experts. It is an important annual event for us at Imaginuity Interactive to connect with our friends, clients and potential clients who participate every year.

The good news: It looks like retail is making a comeback.

After several years of struggling to match pre-recession attendance numbers, the 2012 conference boasted more than 32,500 attendees with literally thousands of opportunities for development, leasing, investment and management. If the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds throughout the more-than-a-million-square-foot conference floor are any sign, the shopping center business is on the upswing in 2012.

Imaginuity Interactive has become involved intimately with the challenges of the retail space, through our relationship with the retail division of global real estate services provider Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). In retail, JLL manages nearly 250 million square feet of retail at more than 600 properties worldwide for a diverse array of clients.

Our part of that success is designing, developing and managing more than 45 websites for JLL-managed properties — and creating more than 30 mobile apps — with our Imaginuity Centers retail platform. [We have also helped Plaza Las Americas, the largest shopping center in the Caribbean and a premiere destination in Puerto Rico, create a bilingual website that is social-centric.]

Our challenge is not only to stay ahead of trends that affect our customers, but also the trends that affect their customers. The shared challenge for our clients and the thousands of retail and real estate pros at the RECon conference:

  • How to connect with shoppers in fresh, relevant ways
  • While also keeping a close eye on budgets and resources
  • And staying flexible in a rapidly evolving marketplace

In today’s digital economy, shoppers expect continually fresh content on everything from the latest trends to up-to-the-minute promotions and discounts. The challenge comes down to resources vs. that voracious demand for fresh content.

Most individual shopping center managers have a limited (or sometimes non-existent!) marketing team to keep up with the kind of instant gratification demanded by the mobile consumer. One solution that we have adapted for JLL delivers dynamic feeds for retailers’ social content, integrated directly into each center’s mobile website.

This solution brings real-time fresh trends, events and discounts directly to shopping center consumers where they are, in the formats they are already immersed in: mobile social media. Analytics have proven that this content is extremely valuable to consumers; time spent on related retail website pages has increased two to three times on average with the near-time social feeds.

One business principle that has remained constant in all the evolution: To connect with your customers, you need to go where they already are and use the mediums they already use.

For most of North America, that includes social media and mobile. As we roll ahead into the second half of 2012, we will continue to work with our growing shopping center customers to develop even more effective ways to connect with their shoppers. You can find more retail shopping and property trends from 2012 ICSC RECon here.

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