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If you try hard enough, you’ll invent the future.  

Trevor Pollard, Senior Vice President, Design and Innovation at Westfield, is working to do just that for shopping centers and malls as they work to meet consumers’ changing preferences and carve out their own future in the retail world.  

At RetailSpaces, Pollard examined the adaptations and innovations shopping centers and malls must embrace in order to secure their place in the future of retail. A task proving more and more difficult to do.

“Ideas are happening faster and faster now,” he said. “You have a team and you aim for an idea. You hope you’re aiming for an idea that you can digest and get ahead of the curve. But a lot of the time, you’re hitting the idea after it’s matured. People are already there, you won't be as successful. It’s much harder to be successful with a new idea.”

While successful ideas might not be as easily attainable as they once were, Pollard believes there are a number of tangible changes shopping centers and malls can make now to remain relevant for years to come.  

Zeroing in on the Right Ideas 

Pollard and his team took time to examine all the ideas they believed were going to change the shopping center world and narrowed them down to find those that made the most sense for business.  

“We settled on 11 transformational trends,” Pollard said. “The ideas of tomorrow are already here, they are already being worked on.”  

Trends identified by the team included utilizing smaller footprints, creating customizable experiences, and embracing virtual options.  

Customers will come to shopping malls looking for experiences and convenience, such as retail that comes directly to them or products tailored to their needs. They will find there is no distinction between virtual and physical reality. Instead, Pollard said, customers will find augmented reality mixed with reality by humanizing computer science.  

“We laid the groundwork for connections, people, relationships that we could rely on and see if things are emerging quickly or slowly,” Pollard said.  

These ideas eventually became the basis for tangible changes shopping centers and malls could take for the future of their business.  

Mixed-Use Is A No-Brainer  

“It’s the core of business in every other country,” Pollard said. “You have housing, hotel, offices, retail. It’s all mixed. In the U.S., we are segregated, you have a shopping center and its surrounding by parking lots. How do you create a real destination?”  

Mixed-use shopping centers and malls will allow operators to layer experiences for guests. These retail destinations will offer shopping, food, and the opportunity to create unique experiences for customers.  

Art & Entertainment  

While living, working and shopping in the same area might not seem all that groundbreaking, the details inside mixed-use shopping centers and malls are what will make all the difference.  

Using landmark art will create memorable moments while incorporating entertainment will create new experiences one wouldn’t expect from such a destination.  

“You’re connecting the physical experience with the digital experience in landmark art,” Pollard said. “We’re seeing that everywhere. Iconic elements that will have transformative power in the long run.”  

For entertainment, Pollard used the example of a guest going on a safari, followed by an amazing meal.  

Embracing Technology  

“Technology can be used to effectively create an experience,” Pollard said.  

Augmented Reality in Retail Stores

As an example, Pollard shared that “overnight, an online retailer used digital technology to open 600 grocery stores on the doorsteps of their competitor.” Powered by augmented reality, customers used their phones in an otherwise ‘empty’ physical space, to make purchases. After selecting an item through the interface on their device, that product would be brought out to them. 

“That technology was eventually purchased by Walmart,” he said. 

In the future, Pollard sees the use of technology not as a way to relay information, but as a competitive advantage any players in retail need to capitalize on.

In closing out his talk, Pollard finished with a positive prognosis for the mall and shopping center segment — one that has experienced difficulty in adapting to a customer in flux.

“If we try hard enough, together, we will invent the future.”

Ashlee Kieler

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Ashlee Kieler is an experienced multimedia journalist based in Iowa. She is passionate about telling stories about healthcare, education, retail and a smorgasbord of other topics.

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