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Shopping Centers Take Note: E-Commerce Isn’t Just For Retailers

June 17, 2020

Cadillac Fairview hired Adeptmind and others last year to support digitization for CF Toronto Eaton Center, according to Adeptmind managing director Jesse Michael. The three-year-old, venture-backed tech firm applies artificial intelligence to retailer websites’ e-commerce search functions — Ulta Beauty and Decathlon are among its clients — and it can do so for shopping centers, too. For Cadillac Fairview, Adeptmind is supporting efforts to put all products available at Eaton Center into an app called Live by CF. Cadillac Fairview also is expanding the service to its 18 other retail properties, all of which are in Canada, Michael said. SCT contributing editor Ben Johnson spoke with Michael, who says his company is moving toward contracts with many large U.S. retail landlords.

What do you do, in a nutshell?

Making the shopping center a marketplace. We bring all of the product, all of the services, all of the food offerings together within a website or an app, even with digital directories in some cases, to give consumers an idea of what is available in those centers and give them the opportunity to search and pre-plan their shopping trip before going.

What digitization do shopping center owners, in particular, need to do in this day and age?

Some feel they need to go the extra mile and provide a full commerce solution with not only search but checkout, payment, fulfillment, shipping and delivery. Others want to provide a new experience for their shoppers that are coming to their website — a search and maybe a wish list and shopping list — but they still want to drive boots to the store as their main goal. For the large center, it is really up to them. The smaller or mid-range developers want to support their tenants, providing more of a digital solution for them. We have tools in our suite that allow small shops that don’t have an e-commerce presence to set up not necessarily a store but imagery of their products, some pricing, description of the products [for] the search we are providing for the center. We are coming out of the pandemic, and these local shops and small shops have been really hit hard — and restaurants too. We can’t forget them.

“Customers have changed and they are all online, so [shopping center owners] need to be there, too”

[Shopping centers] need to think about innovation and get outside of the box from saying their only goal is to drive foot traffic. You need to fish where the fish are. If shoppers are on Google — and so many are — the whole goal is to intercept those shoppers where they are. We are intercepting shoppers that might not even know that your center exists or what is in the center. We need to find ways to drive foot traffic — that is a part of it — but e-commerce, supporting your tenants, providing better visibility to shoppers is equally important because it is a new piece of the pie. Customers have changed and they are all online, so [shopping center owners] need to be there, too.

Do owners share in the sales from the services you’re adding?

There is an opportunity for centers to earn revenue through this by partnering with us. If people are purchasing online, the center actually gets a portion of that revenue.

Are you working internationally, as well?

Yes, we are actively engaging with developers and owners in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.  There are a lot of different problems they are tackling there, especially in Asia, as that market does not see the need to focus on traditional commerce with Alibaba and JD dominating the space. Europe and the Middle East have similar issues to North America and are interested in Adeptmind’s total commerce solution versus the wish list solution. They are embracing the concept of “A sale is a sale.” And while they don’t want to lose foot traffic, they want to make sure they have a presence wherever the shopper is shopping, online or in store.

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