Last week saw the launch of Festival Place’s FPTV channel. The new channel received over 410 hits in just four days. It got the team at Festival Place talking about the importance of presenting a business across a multiple of platforms.
Multichannel is a growing trend the retail industry is talking about in 2012. The internet is now easily accessible to an increasing number of consumers and businesses will miss out if they are not engaging with shoppers on multiple platforms.
Retailers tend to be at the heart of discussion about multichannel. However, as the Centre Director at Festival Place I believe it is critical for shopping centres to explore the options too. Facebook, Twitter and online video sites, such as YouTube, are now websites that consumers’ visit and interact with on a daily, even hourly basis. And because this is where our potential customers are, we need to be there too.
Festival Place currently interacts with customers on Facebook and Twitter and via our Style Academy blog. Last week we took this one step further with the launch of our TV channel.
So why did we do it?
With the current economic climate every penny needs to be spent with caution. We always try to connect with customers and inform them about new store openings, events and the shopping centre’s latest news. Facebook and Twitter have been going well for us, and we do take part in advertising throughout the year. With the popularity of online video content, we decided to launch FPTV, a platform that promotes our offering, is cost effective, and can be a regularly updated, newsworthy channel delivered via a number of channels (website, in the centre, on Facebook and YouTube) at a fraction of the cost of broadcast advertising.
Festival Place is not the first shopping centre to launch its own TV channel; other malls such as the Trafford Centre and Westfield have dedicated TV pages, even though these are a re-edit of existing films rather than original footage. Having your own channel enables centres to bring promotions and news updates to life and to offer retailers another showcase for their products and style. It’s also a great soft sell approach to engage with customers.
How easy is it to implement your own TV channel?
When watching FPTV the heavy content may give other Centre Directors the impression the money and time investment was extensive. When the idea was first presented to me I must admit the scale of the project looked very labour intensive. I was concerned about the cost and what our return on investment would be. However, we soon found by working with a team of great people who were experienced in creating video content, the entire project was more than do-able. In fact it took us just four months from start date to launch.
So what is the ROI on being multichannel?
With the first week going well, I am confident the return on investment in our TV channel will make the project worth our while. We have plans to update the channel monthly with news from our retailers, information about events as well as fashion and gift ideas from our resident stylist. The reach we achieve will be smaller than gained through traditional broadcast channels but the cost of advertising is on a completely different scale. Importantly, there is a big difference between choosing to watch a shopping centre’s channel and happening upon a piece of advertising – the former is a more proactive touch point and I believe it will foster a stronger link between viewing and visiting than advertising does.
Facebook and Twitter again are easy to implement, but it is important to realise that it’s a full-time job. Dipping in every now and then will not create the level of engagement you need with customers to have an impact on sales and footfall. Multichannel platforms can boost your search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is a big investment and continuously refreshing your online content will drive your channels to the top of search engines such as Google.
So how do I keep my content refreshed?
When working across channels, shopping centres should talk to retailers to help with content. Find out about retailers’ new product launches and sales that the shoppers (your viewers) will be interested in. Huge national campaigns often don’t connect with customers on a regional level, so shopping centre TV is a good opportunity for individual retailers to engage with shoppers locally. It is essential to take time to nurture these relationships and show retailers the benefits it can bring them. After all, we all want the same thing – good footfall and sales.
A great example is our work with Holland and Barrett. We were able to highlight a sizeable number of their products and offers in our latest FPTV news round up. The store manager allowed our crew to film in the store and even appeared in the film. The coverage was cost-free for the retailer and clearly highlights current stock information with a good amount of air time. No large retail chain would be able to get this amount of awareness on a local level without substantial investment.
Finally to add to what we’ve learnt at Festival Place from having multichannel platforms is – listen to your customers. I know it is nothing new; however, it becomes very easy to push information out and not step back to listen to what your customers want. So how do you find out what they want? It’s simple – ask them. The beauty of online channels is you can get real-time feedback. Ask your followers what they would like to hear about. Invite them to comment on posts and video content. And then of course react to this vital information.
Multichannel has bought new opportunities for shopping centres to interact directly with shoppers. The platforms are ever changing, but I feel it is important the industry continues to experiment with existing and new channels. Not only to drive footfall and sales, but to continue to engage with shoppers to find out what they want from us in 2012 and the future. It’s important we stay one step ahead and continue to give our customers the experience they look for when visiting shopping centres across the UK.
Steven Connolly Centre Director for Basingstoke based shopping centre Festival Place