At the 2017 Viva Technology Forum in Paris, major annual event dedicated to innovation, Ludovic Flandin, Managing Director of Innovation and CSR at Unibail-Rodamco, took the floor as part of a panel on the Future of Retail. He explained his perspective about shopping centres, which must become physical and sustainable platforms dedicated to social interactions at the heart of tomorrow’s cities.
Considering the fact that 52% of Fortune 500 companies in the year 2000 no longer exist today, and that the vast majority of disappearances concern retailers, there is no doubt that we are witnessing an upheaval of the players in the commerce sphere. Henceforth, platform models are taking over. As for online platforms, ecommerce has thrived, as evidenced by the successes of Alibaba or the French marketplace PriceMinister. But physical commerce and brick-and-mortar venues are under a platform revolution as well, led by companies such as Unibail-Rodamco.
How did the Group manage to transform its shopping centres (Forum des Halles, Carrousel du Louvre, Quatre Temps,…) to impose itself in the all new paradigm? Ludovic Flandin answers: “Today, it doesn’t make any sense to oppose offline and online commerce. What matters to us is that shopping centres must become physical retail platforms, bringing huge value to tomorrow’s cities.” The great thing about physical places is that guests can live memorable experiences and have genuine social interactions. That’s what Unibail-Rodamco is working on, on a day-to-day basis: a shopping experience that can be remembered by visitors who can take the time to savour each moment, discover new things and awaken their senses.
That is why innovation is fundamental for the Group, who decided to focus on its 70 assets capable of competing with online commerce because they are exceptional venues. They are quickly becoming more environmentally-respectful places and social places dedicated to local communities, in other words, “Better Places”, in line with the CSR strategy launched by the Group in September 2016.
Those shopping malls are constantly transformed thanks to technology and are converting into places to meet and to socialise. “To be honest, until now, we didn’t make the most of what our shopping centres could offer. The average visitor only visits 3% of the stores in our shopping centre. Digital transformation is a way to transform our places, by using the smartphones of our guests, for instance. They are good ways to offer new services, improve the shopping experience, promote local communities and improve our centres for them to chime with our customers’ needs”, Ludovic Flandin explains.
As an illustration of the rediscovery of the potential of shopping malls, Jam, a French leading chatbot company helping millennials to make the most of their everyday lives, is now collaborating with Unibail-Rodamco as one of the startups accelerated by UR Link for its third season. The Artificial Intelligence of its conversational technology will soon contribute to animate the community of millennials around the Forum des Halles by suggesting activities around the centre, via Facebook Messenger. “Actually, we we are stealing the success of online retail to bring it to physical!” concludes Ludovic Flandin.