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Open-air retail – why tenant experience is no longer enough.

Discover the importance of a connected community in driving NOI by efficiently managing a property remotely.


By Robert Paulus, Global Commercial EVP, Mallcomm

As the news headlines remind us, it’s been a difficult few years for the retail industry. However, we are starting to see the seeds of change. One area that is showing real signs of strength is open-air retail, also known as strip malls or neighborhood shopping centres. The Commercial Observer recently wrote an interesting piece on the positive investor and tenant appetite for the asset class. 

The diverse retailer mix, and service-orientated approach to open-air is attractive to both investors and tenants. This positive trend is encouraging – and importantly has space for continued recovery and future growth. However, whilst curating the right retailer mix and improving performance is the key to success, it is easier said than done.

The connected community equation

Attracting and retaining tenants can be difficult, and creating a service-led environment even more so. It requires building strong relationships, and in turn requires more than tenant engagement – it requires a connected community. This being a combination of tenant engagement, positive shopper sentiment, and enhanced management and operations. In an open-air retail setting this is more often than not run from an operations hub located offsite. 

Building strong relationships with tenants allows property managers to better understand what is working, and what isn’t. Thinking of the retailers as a customer is relatively recent shift, and it pays off. Taking an interest in their business and their performance can be transformative. However, getting the entire community at a destination to work together as a balanced ecosystem, is what empowers that entire community to be truly  successful. 

Communication across different teams
Create efficiency in remote management

The most efficient way to do this is through centralizing the communication and operations within an asset and embracing remote management. For those with off-site operations this can cause challenges. The question many have been asking is: should they be using technology to support the management of their assets?

The simple answer should be yes. The digital transformation within the commercial real estate sector has been taking hold for a number of years now. However, it is more complicated than that.

Having a raft of single point solutions that try to solve various tick-box problems, can become costly and time consuming to manage. You can find out more about that in our latest eBook here

Technology should be a facilitator, not a blocker. If you can do it manually but it’s labored, paper-heavy, or time consuming, it should be enhanced with technology – not complicated by it. To put it another way, it’s not about having technology, it’s about having the right technology.

Effective remote management is all about bringing together multiple stakeholders from a retail destination. Harnessing multiple touchpoints from marketing, facilities through to security, to help manage a property in a controlled manner.

Improve asset performance

Technology becomes a must-have. This is because of its ability to de-silo the relevant teams and do so in a cost-effective way. In a world where budgets are sacred, technology can be a game changer when used properly. When communications sit in one single place and are digitalized, it becomes trackable, auditable, and actionable. It provides unparalleled levels of transparency.

Digitalizing what were previously manual processes helps to save time and reallocate resources to where they are needed most. It also allows property managers to be proactive instead of reactive and provides adaptability. Being on the front foot with tenant communication, facilities and compliance, and security creates a better experience for tenants and shoppers alike. As a result, tenants perform better, and overall asset performance improves. In today’s retailer landscape – isn’t this what we are all working towards?

Drive NOI

It’s easily thought about in terms of time. Time to communicate, time to ensure you are communicating to the right people, time to discover any issues, time to report facilities issues like a leak, time to solution, time to organize contractors, time to identify a security threat, time to mitigate risk. If you think of time as a commodity, technology is the best money saver available. And as it brings everyone together, it also improves sentiment and satisfaction.

If the recent success of open-air retail has shown us anything, it’s that tenants and service are incredibly important. This is just the start. Utilizing tech-led remote management can take these concepts and turn tenant experience into a connected community – taking early signs of success to improved NOI, and increased revenue.

If you want to learn more about how to activate your community, get in touch today