Changing the channel

Retail & leisure
What are the emerging trends when it comes to the IT systems used for combining traditional and online sales channels?

Wojciech Zieliński, the president of the board at MakoLab: I look at this issue from the point of view of the tenants, who we work for most. They are extending the traditional forms of sales with the virtual approach. In this case omni-channel is a combination of the traditional sales channel in a brick and mortar shop and an online presence. I mean not only online stores, but also social media and, importantly, smartphone applications. Everything that makes marketing activities possible and keeps you in touch with the customer. Tenants’ activities are mostly aimed at identifying and keeping the customer, and thus to stay constantly in touch with them. Hence the popularity of mobile applications. Thanks to such activities a brand can send personalised offers. On top of that there are systems that combine the various forms of ordering: in a brick and mortar shop with home delivery – or the other way round, an online order that can be picked up from a selected outlet. New solutions also include combining online sales with a consultancy service. This involves a consultant looking at the shopping basket of a given customer and offering help or professional advice when needed. This advice does not only relate to the selection of products, but also the easiest way to purchase them, their availability, promotions, etc. This works particularly well in the interior furnishing segment, when you need a consultant to help you choose suitable items and suggest where and how to buy them. There are systems that connect a customer with a person present in the store via a mobile device (a tablet or telephone) and make it possible to see the product, select it and include it in their traditional or online basket. These are new sales and shopping consultancy models. Their aim is not simply to connect two channels, but to add something extra and indicate additional advantages.

What are your clients mostly looking for?

In Poland these systems are still not widely available. Our customers are mostly focused on developing websites, shops and mobile applications. Making internet platforms as attractive as possible along with the responsiveness of the website, as well as all the kinds of applications that send out offers, promotions, discounts, and other information – these are the tools that are the most popular.

And are your clients asking you about the possibility of creating a platform that would combine what brick and mortar shops have to offer with online stores? Such a system is available in the Westfield shopping centre chain.

I have not had any such enquiries yet. In my experience the efforts of managers and owners are mostly focused on inviting as many people as possible to their centres. The tools they use are mostly designed to win new customers and increase the footfall statistics. Such shopping platforms have not yet taken off.

As far as the managers and owners of shopping facilities are concerned what do they need?

We mostly operate in the management systems field. With IT solutions that facilitate the contact between the owner and the tenant, such as when it comes to the management of contracts, shared costs and the sale of the area. This gives the owners of facilities a competitive advantage. Management firms compete with each other for tenants and the latest IT systems are meant to help them do that. A good IT system makes it possible to smoothly manage a facility on the one hand and on the other to provide the option of detailed data reports for the tenants and owners/investors. The smooth creation and sending of reports that outline order the current situation of a facility is in demand now.

And what do the managers/owners of office buildings put their emphasis on?

They need platforms for communication with the tenants. These are designed to enable the settlement and smooth reporting of needs/faults/failures by tenants and the possibility of following up on the progress made towards solving a given issue. All of this should, of course, utilise online and mobile access. The second approach involves creating visualisations and graphics related to the marketing and promotion of a given location. IT systems are treated by the managers and owners of office buildings as a very important element in giving them the edge over their rivals. Everyone is currently focusing on fast and smooth communication, not only with tenants, but also with the investors and managers of funds who want to have their facilities under continuous control. A good IT system undoubtedly supports the everyday work of an office building and it streamlines the coordination of activities and supports mutual communication – all of which has a significant influence on relations with clients.