Few would argue the retail sector is one among the world’s best and challenged sectors. The pressure to stay relevant drives an urgency to innovate with desirable offerings for patrons both instore and online, more sophisticated supply chains aware of speedier demand for goods, and seamless transaction experience.

In Australia, retailers are grappling with merging the physical and digital for several years. Around this same time, a variety of latest big data sets and site intelligence tools became more readily available. These offer owners and managers of retail centers a sharper, more timely view into our customers, their visitation patterns, and their ever-evolving store preferences. Given landlords are constantly making decisions spanning a few years, like fixed-term leases or planning multi-year redevelopments with both tenants and government authorities, a sharper lens gives retailers the advantage of having the ability to form better, closer to real-time decisions, mitigating risk, and improving returns.

At Mirvac, our ways of learning about our customers are evolving with data analytics and newer, bigger datasets. Within the past, there was an important reliance on external sources like demographic datasets and focus group qualitative insights. However, even customers with equivalent demographics are likely to exhibit completely different behaviors toward leisure, dining out, their brand preferences, and even their affinity for technology adoption. Using psychographic datasets at a micro level gives us greater color on customer segments. So too does social media data, which offers a capability to synthesize the voice and attitudes of customers—both positive and negative—in their area people's environment.

The availability of reliable expenditure data at a category level has been a step-change in gauging the underlying spending patterns of our customers. we will now more accurately understand sales leakage to other retail competitors, including online stores, enabling us to pivot and adjust our retail mix. We are exploring mobility datasets that enable us to zero in additional effectively on where our customers come from and therefore the patterns of once they frequent our centers, both day of week and time of day. Understanding the origin of consumers and once they frequent, is especially valuable for trade areas with transient populations including the worker, student or tourist visitor; alongside a resident catchment.

While the advantages of a far better understanding of our customers are substantial, expanding our capability with data analytics offers additional value. We are exploring ways to focus on key customer groups, track the effectiveness of campaigns and therefore the true return on investment of campaign spend. By learning with greater frequency and accuracy we will adjust and apply insight across other assets within the portfolio.

Front-end visualization tools are even as vital because of the data itself. While some are available through proprietary portals, more and more are brought in-house for us to consume through business intelligence platforms. Also visualizing geospatial information from both open source and proprietary data through cloud-based Software-as-a-Service platforms like Carto means we will build customizable and interesting location intelligence applications, which synthesize huge amounts of knowledge, scalable across the organization. Information silos begin to interrupt down, internal learning and our capability with data increases, time is expedited, and therefore the cost is reduced as dependency on consultants’ decreases.

Still, the challenges of moving to a data-savvy environment are many. Datasets in mobility, expenditure, social media, for instance, are relatively new and need careful evaluation and consideration of cost and benefits, given limited resources. They also require embedding in an organization’s digital architecture, strategy, and processes for deciding. New skill sets and talent are required for back-end programming and development work, while front-end development skills and interpreters that liaise with business stakeholders also are even as vital.

At Mirvac, we all know there'll never be a one-stop-shop for data and knowledge. For us, it's about joining the dots. As we make this step changes to using big data and analytics to curate our experience-led retail spaces, a high performing and engaged culture that encourages everyone to ‘be curious’, is that the real vital ingredient to success.