Shopping sale

Shopping Centers Go Digital: Bringing The Mall Experience Online

Bal Harbour Shops, the luxury shopping area in suburban Miami that has been dubbed America’s fanciest mall, now offers customers an opportunity to peruse their shops without leaving their homes one hundred.

In June, it established the Bal Harbour Shops Marketplace. This e-commerce platform enables internet consumers to purchase things directly from mall businesses for in-person pick-up or delivery.

The Marketplace, according to Matthew Whitman Lazenby, chairman and Founder of Whitman Family Development, which manages Bal Harbour Shops, is a venue where consumers can explore “Shops at Bal Harbour edit” – handpicked clothing and accessories presently shown in the center’s retailers.

According to Lazenby, besides buying Ferragamo, it’s the only area outside of Bal Harbour Shops that can visit the Salvatore Ferragamo Bal Harbour shop.

Last year, Main Street and mom-and-pop businesses realized how critical it was to have an e-commerce platform that enabled them to sell their products during quarantines and shutdowns. Malls are now discovering the value of their e-commerce platforms and how they can be a practical tool for driving visitors.

According to Whitney Livingston, president and chief operating officer of Centennial, they’re also a means to “future-proof our company,” according to Whitney Livingston, president, and chief operating officer of Centennial. This real estate investment group pioneered the trend last year with the debut of its ShopNow! Platform.

“With the growth of e-commerce, we recognized we needed to adapt and couldn’t continue to depend on what worked yesterday,” Livingston said.

Last autumn, Centennial launched an omnichannel platform, ShopNow!, at seven of its hotels. As with the Bal Harbour Shops Marketplace, ShopNow! Enables mall tenants to sell their retail merchandise online.

At the mall, I am fulfilled.

According to Livingston, ShopNow! is more of a brick-and-mortar approach than an e-commerce one. “The items that are being shopped on our marketplace are available in the real storefronts of merchants in our locations,” she said, adding that they are not being fulfilled from remote warehouses. Purchases purchased on ShopNow! are credited to the mall’s sales total.

Lazenby’s vision of the Bal Harbour Shops Marketplace is similar. “In general, orders are completed in the boutique, making this a true store-level solution. “Not an e-commerce business,” he said.

When Bal Harbour Shops launched Marketplace, the company aimed to replicate the unique experience of shopping in a physical mall online, Lazenby said.

The typical luxury consumer in Bal Harbour, he said, is a globetrotter who has visited the London, Paris, and Milan locations of a premium company such as Ferragamo.

“They don’t want to see a cookie-cutter version of the same shop when they come to Bal Harbour,” Lazenby said. This regulation, he said, applies to the Marketplace. The idea was to create a space where consumers from out of town or who couldn’t make it to the mall could virtually peruse the store displays and discover which clothes are showcased by the premium stores in Bal Harbour.

Currently, categories include “Apres Pool,” “Arm Candy,” and “Jump Around” (jumpsuit fashions).

“Associating oneself with others of the Bal Harbour Shops Marketplace is an incredible opportunity for our brand and all of the other fantastic companies at Bal Harbour Shops,” Antonio De Matteis, CEO of luxury apparel company Kiton, said. “I am certain that it will also assist in luring clients to shops,” De Matteis said.

E-commerce with a human touch

Stanley Whitman, Lazenby’s grandfather, created Bal Harbour Shops in 1965 to attract wealthy snowbird clients visiting Miami from the north. A tropical garden inspired the three-story open-air mall. The mall is routinely ranked among the top-producing malls in the United States in sales per square foot.

Lazenby said Bal Harbour’s secret had been the emotional connection it has developed with consumers over the years. “we want to take that emotional connection and expand it to the internet realm” through Marketplace.

The center does this by focusing heavily on Marketplace content, which is drawn from the center’s twice-yearly glossy magazine, twice-weekly emails, and 250,000-follower social media presence.

“Bal Harbour Shops has such a unique point of view,” and the magazine, and now the Marketplace, express that view via content developed by an in-house staff, according to Carolyn Travis, general marketer, and publisher, Bal Harbour Media.

Shoppers who utilize the Marketplace platform may purchase from various merchants located throughout the area—having a single point of sale—Shopify powers the platform’s sales functionality.

Centennial started testing a newer version of its ShopNow! Technology this spring enables customers to make purchases from various mall locations using a single online shopping cart. The upgraded ShopNow! is now being tested in Centennial’s MainPlace center in Orange County, California, and will be rolled out throughout the company’s other properties later this year.

Additionally, the new version allows small local tenants who do not have their e-commerce websites to utilize ShopNow! as their e-commerce platform. This is proven to be a desirable asset, giving Main Place an advantage when securing leases with local tenants, Livingston said.

ShopNow! was built for Centennial by Adeptmind, a Toronto-based business specializing in e-commerce and artificial intelligence.

Recognize what mall patrons want

Since the ShopNow! Platform’s phase-one introduction last year at seven Centennial sites, Livingston said, it has processed several thousand transactions. She said its worth extends beyond the number of sales made on the site. Additionally, it informs mall managers of what consumers are looking for.

According to her, the most popular search on ShopNow! in April was for prom dresses. It became evident that the searchers were not searching to purchase their gowns online but rather to determine which shops had the styles they desired to organize their excursions to the malls in advance.

“It gives a wealth of information about what consumers desire, and we as the landlord can utilize that knowledge to guide how we sell and merchandise our facilities, as well as share it with our tenants,” Livingston said.

When Centennial introduced the ShopNow! Last year, several mall managers and merchants questioned why a real mall would promote a means to avoid shopping. “I believe that many individuals in our profession were perplexed,” Livingston added.

“Historically, shopping center developers and operators have felt that increasing visitation to their locations increases sales,” Livingston said. However, the new truth is that “e-commerce does not erase merchants’ requirement for having a physical location,” she said. “Merchants that use both channels to their advantage are the most successful.”

Lazenby concurs.

“I do not feel that having Marketplace detracts from customers visiting Shops in Bal Harbour,” he stated. “The shopper in Bal Harbour is someone who frequents the center and also occasionally visits to purchase a product or service online, either because it is convenient for them at the moment, or because they are out of town, or because they shopped here while on vacation and are now back home.”