13 May 2021 12:00

Next Steps: getting to work to change the shopping center. Step by step, in the right direction

The shopping center world is looking for ways to create a new foundation upon which to build the relationship with the shopper: an evolution which – most assuredly – will lead to more personalization and targeted offers.

IGD already has a dedicated team working to find the solutions that best reflect the preferences expressed by the different types of shopping center visitors.

During an interview of Daniele Cabuli, Chief Operating Officer, and Laura Poggi, Head of Leasing, they explained to us what this project will bring and the excitement surrounding these new developments.


The pandemic, and the restrictions on mobility imposed, caused many people to shop online, or to make purchases at nearby stores or in the historic downtown areas and, consequently, they changed their habits. What will IGD’s shopping center visitors look for once the anti-Covid restrictions are eliminated completely?  

D.C. This is precisely the question that led us to create the work group that we called Next Steps: we, in fact, are working to define the next steps that should be taken to have shopping centers that meet the new needs of our shoppers.

Who is on the Next Steps team?

D.C. They are all people from IGD, selected in order to have a multidisciplinary approach: the group is led by Laura Poggi, Head of Leasing; other members of the team include people from Marketing, Asset and Network Management and the Investor Relations/Communications division: in this way we are sure that we will achieve concrete results. Not only will we look at the areas to work on, but the technical and economic feasibility will also be assessed in order to ensure the actual realization and define the communication strategy.

How long will the team’s work take?

L.P. Work started on 16 April and has already produced results with the definition of the goals and the areas involved, in addition to a work plan which were presented during the induction of the BoD appointed during the last Shareholders’ Meeting. There is a lot of interest in this project so the entire team is in great creative ferment at this point.

Do the “next steps” include large projects?

D.C.  I would say not. The purpose is to find things that can be done easily and quickly, including using limited resources.

How were the shoppers’ new needs determined?

D.C. Based on surveys carried out between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. We asked more than 13 thousand people about their intentions and aspirations, dividing them up into four categories based on age: teen, 18-35 year-olds, 36-55 year-olds and over 55.

The idea then is to develop a matrix of solutions for the different categories of shoppers?

D.C. The work group’s task is to identify specific steps that can be taken to meet the needs of all the different age groups that shop at our shopping centers, in light of the four areas that can be leveraged on to meet these needs: lay out, services, events and merchandising mix. Thanks to these tools we can develop omnichannelism more effectively, make the spaces in our structures more livable with a view to innovation, as well as introduce new tenants that better meet the consumers’ needs.

Which target do you think will be the hardest to reach based on the surveys?

L.P. Let’s start with the easiest target to win back: the surveys show that the over-55 – who were online less during this period – are the ones more likely to go to our malls with the same frequency as before. For this category we will continue to work – as we have in the past during the reopening of the malls after the first wave of Covid-19 – on a message focused on highlighting the safety of our structures. We also must work on dedicated services. For the other targets, for which the propensity to make purchases online increased during this period, we will have to work on an even more customized offer, to meet the new needs that emerged during the long period of anti-Covid restrictions. We are basically dealing with a new consumer who needs quick and increasingly more personalized responses.

Are young people also the ones who used the internet the most to make purchases?

L.P. Young people certainly increased their online purchases. This target was already very close to the digital world, so this shift obviously didn’t take as long. The sales strategies of the online retailers also went to great lengths to reach this age bracket in order to increase their revenues. Just think, for example, of the widespread use of influencers or the social media channels used to reach this specific target.

What will the underlying goal be, the common thread shared by all the initiatives that will be carried out?

L.P.  Shopping centers have a big advantage over online realities: they can respond leveraging on both omnichannelism – working on a digital plan – and physical shopping by making profound changes to their spaces, with a view to increasing the experience, the meeting and human contact. This strategy is even more valuable with young people: let’s not forget that this is the target that was hit the hardest by the government’s restrictions. For several months school was solely remote, there were no sports activities, they couldn’t go out with their friends. These limitations have most definitely left their mark so the desire to socialize again will be very strong.

Are any initiatives already underway?

L.P. Certainly: since the reopening of bars and restaurants was allowed, in less than one week, for example, wonderful outdoor areas were created in the open spaces of our shopping centers… many initiatives were started spontaneously by the restaurant service providers who, naturally, asked us for our assistance.

Which services were asked for the most frequently?

L.P. In the wake of the remote working that became so widespread as a result of the pandemic, we found, above all, the need to have co-working spaces available. We also, however, intend to develop an online shopping center in order to provide tenants with visibility and allow the shopper to have an even “smarter” experience.

How much time does the Next Steps team have to define a cohesive group of initiatives?

D.C. The definitive list of the projects to be developed, broken down into short, medium and long-term projects, along with a clear definition of the timeframe and the necessary costs, will be presented to the Operations Division by 11 June.

How do these new initiatives fit with those of the more structured brands?

L.P. The big brands have done a lot recently to develop sophisticated CRM systems in order to be in a position to provide customers with increasingly personalized offers. In this regard our approach is collaborative. We need to make an effort to form a network with a shared goal: if an initiative is part of a shared project, it will likely be more successful.

We look forward to hearing about the initiatives you decide to launch soon. Buon lavoro.