One year after the acquisition of Westfield and 7 years after the launch of URW Lab, we wanted to share a view into our innovation priorities through this video. Why, what and how? Let’s recap together in this article!
The world of retail is dramatically evolving and brands are rapidly adapting to anticipate changing customer needs and expectations with respect to in-store digital experiences, omnichannel, experiential shopping, and social responsibility. Digital and physical retail are converging to shape a new way of shopping. As the premier global developer and operator of flagship shopping destinations, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has set up clear innovation strategy to transform an ever-evolving industry and stay ahead of the curve.
This innovation strategy relies on 3 pillars:
STRENGTHEN DESIRE FOR OUR VISITORS: innovation to offer memorable experiences
- Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield seeks to design appealing mixed-use destinations with a diversified offer where people can shop, work and get together. The Group offers destinations that welcome unique experiences with health and wellness, entertainment events (such as concerts, sport classes and facilities…) and that reinvent dining through new concepts such as the Food Society at Ateliers Gaîté – the biggest food hall in Europe to be opened in 2020. It also provides residential experiences – Westfield UTC, slated to open in 2019 will be a 23-story residential tower with high-end services – and co-working spaces – Westfield WTC partnered with WeWork to offer creative office space solutions for all types of companies at the Fulton Centre.
- Relying on its strong assets, the Group sees innovation as a way to be the preferred business partner for digital-native and sustainable retailers entering the physical retail market. We create adapted business models for digital natives brands: for instance, “White Box” formats are tested at Westfield Century City and La Maquinista to implement a turn-key solution allowing brands to open a pop-up easily in an all-equipped and highly technological space. We also support innovative concepts and sustainable retailers: through the Grand Prix Commerce Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, promising retailers are sourced and have the opportunity to develop within the Group’s shopping centres.
- The Group wants customers to live seamless experiences with the highest standards of quality. From digitally-driven smart parking systems to in-mall the “Answers on the Spot” service to seek immediate support or advice in the U.S. assets, the ambition is to minimize pain points and make customers’ journeys efficient and memorable.
STRENGTHEN IMPACT FOR OUR RETAILERS: innovation to create more value
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield wants to build an omnichannel marketplace that harnesses the power of digital and data to generate unprecedented value for cutting-edge retailers.
- To achieve this goal, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield generates more value from every square metre by merging online and offline logistics to meet omnichannel standards: for example, the first omnichannel platform for food delivery in a shopping centre in Europe was opened recently at Vélizy 2. More value also means creating better value by implementing more responsible behaviours: Too Good To Go, a start-up fighting food waste, is currently being deployed in all French assets to save 100k meals in 2019.
- The Group leverages data and digital infrastructure to better interact with customers thanks to collaborations with digital partners. In this respect, it builds individualized relationships with visitors with tools such as Wifit Media and Captain Wallet, two start-ups that communicate with visitors through push notifications (respectively through WiFi connection and loyalty cards digitization). Overall, the Group seeks to create more value by interacting individually with visitors: today, over 9.5 million members are part of one of the loyalty programmes.
STRENGTHEN AGILITY FOR OUR OPERATIONS: innovation to set new standards
- Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield leverages new technologies to deliver operational excellence. It has set high ambitions of carbon emissions’ reduction and building management through IoT, data collection and Cloud technologies. To achieve its Better Places 2030 strategy, the Group is focusing on the following topics: renewable and decentralized energies, energy efficiency – through a partnership with Engie –, smart buildings and mobility. The Group is also building adequate digital infrastructure, for example with the app Connect by Mallcomm co-created with the Group, to better manage shopping centres and share relevant information between retailers, management and providers.
How do we do it?
URW Lab, the Group’s innovation hub, focuses on all scalable projects that bring the most value to our visitors and partners and oversees the innovation strategy through 3 roles:
- Understand retail’s fast changing environment by exploring trends to anticipate the future of the industry. For instance, a partnership with TrendWatching helps us investigate different topics throughout the year – sustainable consumption, retail experience of tomorrow etc. – with keynotes, presentations and reports to better understand these new consumption and retail trends.
- Transform our assets and reshape them with the best of innovation through partnerships and projects led with external partners,
- Involve internal teams in this process: the Innovation Champion Intrapreneurship programme, keynotes, Innovation Days throughout regions, trainings dedicated to innovation, etc. contribute to fostering a culture of innovation within the Group.
To accelerate further, the Group created URW Link, its open innovation platform, in 2015 to continuously leverage a strong external innovation ecosystem, especially start-ups, and also venture capital funds, large corporates, retailers, think tanks etc. To support the 360° digital transformation, URW Link has 3 main missions:
- Sourcing the most promising solutions and technologies for the Group,
- Testing them in our shopping centres: URW Link supports and coordinates the teams with our external partners,
- Deploying the innovations throughout the assets if the pilots go well.
Since its creation, URW Link has involved over 100 employees, carried out 43 experiments with start-ups in the Group’s assets, among which 11 have led to long-lasting partnerships!
If you want to support us in accelerating this innovation strategy, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You want to learn more about the Group’s innovation strategy? You can have a look at the Investor Days’ presentation here!