The ICSC Blog

Q&A with MOCIAL speaker Alan McKeon

McKeon, AlanTell us about yourself….
I’m Alan McKeon, CEO of Alexander Babbage a consumer insights company that works with physical destinations such as shopping centers, sports arenas, the arts and retailers. We help them understand who their customer is, why they come to the shopping center, how to engage the customer and how to drive additional spending and loyalty.

What is your favorite apps to use?
Uber. I travel all the time and find the combination of real-time availability, ease of ordering and ease of payment as a great example of re-thinking a customer experience in the physical world and enhancing it with technology.

With society’s increasing dependence on technology, what changes in marketing strategies has it made in last few years?
Marketing has moved from being a source of potential competitive advantage to being a strategic differentiator and the primary driver of revenue. Almost all store sales growth has been from companies who have identified their core target market and are optimizing all of their experiences around that target. At the high end with growth in Experience (e.g. Nordstrom) or the low end with growth in Value (e.g. TJMaxx) sales growth is accruing to those retailers who are focused on experiences tailored for specific customer targets. As technology makes it easier to target and market to individual customers in a way they want to be spoken to, those who understand and drive customer engagement will continue to be the winners.

What have been the benefits of incorporating digital marketing and mobile apps into your corporation?
We work with senior executives responsible for strategy, marketing, leasing and development. If you had told me five years ago it was possible for them to get more done in their day then I would have laughed – but sure enough they have even more to do today and very little bandwidth to do it. To communicate with them through LinkedIn, Newsle and other tools that keep our thought leadership articles in front of them but at a time that is convenient to them is essential to our success.

In what ways has the digital age revitalized your industry?
The digital age has provided an explosion of data about where the consumer is going and what they are spending money on. This “big data” is both wonderful for providing us data in great detail that we previously could only gather at great cost but at the same time is overwhelming to many clients. What, exactly, do they do as a result of the information? That’s where we come in. The digital age is allowing companies, like ours, who truly understand the what, why and how of consumer behavior to provide customer insights that can drive critical business metrics such as the right traffic, from the right target market with the right retail spending.

How important is consumer engagement? How do you bring attention to your brand through you social media channels/mobile apps?
Customer engagement is critical to our clients. Shopping centers have a choice of providing either basic needs fulfillment or lifestyle enhancement – think of the difference between a basic grocery anchored strip and the same strip center if the grocery store is replaced by a Whole Foods or a farmers market. These retail concepts are based in customer engagement and to be successful shopping centers must understand and engage their customers at a whole new level otherwise their value will be reduced.

What do you hope participants will gain by attending your MOCIAL session?
My session is Social Media – Who’s winning the battle for the shopper’s wallet? We’ll be studying how social media is being harnessed to overcome the omni-channel challenge by looking at social media and consumer insights to understand how to identify, motivate and drive shoppers to a center. What should a centers mix of platforms, content, communications and frequency ideally be? Participants will come away with strategies they can put into place tomorrow to increase their shopper engagement. In my session we’ll be discussing a ski resort operator in the U.S. Is using RFID, mobile apps, game-ification and social media to build guest loyalty and drive frequency at their resorts. The tactics they are using have great implications for shopping centers.

Is the increasing number of online shoppers a concern to you?
Yes and no. Over 80% of shopping center inclined purchases are still made in physical stores – it all comes down to the engagement and experience. In some categories such as books, movies, games the online experience is better than the retail experience. In others such as apparel and shoes, consumers tell us the ease of shopping, selecting and purchasing is so much easier in a physical store than online. We see retail evolving quickly to satisfy basic consumer needs and delivering enhanced experiences that connect with consumers. Entertainment and restaurants – well, clearly those can be engaging experiences that are enhanced by technology but never replaced.


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