Technology is no longer a nice to have in Placemaking

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By David Fuller-Watts

Managing Director at Mallcomm


Placemaking is a process that’s being applied across the real estate industry but what does it mean and can technology make a difference? David Fuller-Watts shares his insights. 

Defining placemaking is easier said than done. It’s a term we hear more frequently than ever before yet remains open to interpretation. Across the real estate industry, there are various explanations and views on the process. However, despite these differences, there is a common thread that can’t be disputed in placemaking – and that’s a focus on people.

For any place to be successful, it has to meet the needs of the people it serves. Whether that place is a mixed-use development, shopping centre or even an office, it must offer an attractive environment that encourages people to stay or visit. Fostering a sense of community is key to this approach.

Successful placemaking can involve many different measures ranging from investment in local infrastructure such as transport and new amenities through to wellbeing initiatives and new public realm. But in an increasingly digital world where online interactions are part of daily life, technology must also form part of the mix.

Keeping connected

Digital tools can play a crucial, and highly effective, role in strengthening the connections between people and places of all sizes. Tailored in the right way, technology can bring a space to life at the touch of a button, helping to reinforce a place’s identity and most importantly, enhancing engagement with a broad range of stakeholders.

The Mallcomm platform for example, creates a digital hub that seamlessly connects all those who work at, or visit, a place including occupiers, management teams, suppliers and customers. Key information is centralised through the App with a range of features tailored to people’s needs.

For larger mixed-use schemes and shopping malls, the platform can enhance people’s experience of the destination both on and off site. The latest news and information, including special offers, events, and competitions, can be accessed whenever and wherever people want. To support local communities, the technology can also be used by businesses in the area to promote their events or offers to potential customers.

To improve the environment for tenants of all types, including office-based employees and retailers, the Mallcomm platform enables instant messaging with property managers. This real-time communication helps to enhance relationships and build trust, while driving operational efficiencies.  To further strengthen the sense of community, tenants can share and promote job opportunities and events, all using the same App.

Technology in action

Liverpool ONE, a shopping, residential, and leisure complex, is one example of a place that has used technology to its advantage.

The Mallcomm platform was adopted to manage Liverpool One’s vast retail community across all departments, including marketing, operations, and security, enabling the management team to efficiently engage with more than 5,000 people daily.

Following its success, the technology evolved to strengthen Liverpool One’s engagement with the wider community, enabling customers and local residents to access the platform. People can now view the destination’s latest information via a simple to use App, designed to reinforce a sense of place and encourage people to visit and keep coming back.

After the first 12 months, the platform had been downloaded by 14,500 people and viewed 1.39 million times. A total of 140,904 offers had been redeemed, 71,187 news articles were read, and 5,564 events responded to.

Continuous improvement

To ensure a place continues meet people’s needs, monitoring is essential and this is another area where technology can help. Bespoke feedback forms, polls and surveys can be created to help measure customer satisfaction and tenant feedback on a wide range of areas, including placemaking initiatives.

Retailers’ sales data can also be analysed in the same way to help establish the impact of campaigns and how places are responding to customers’ needs.

Adding value

In a world where digital and physical experiences combine every day, technology can’t be ignored in placemaking. Digital tools can be deployed in a variety of ways, providing solutions that offer far more than just a virtual link between places and people.

Bespoke platforms can not only help a destination or building to create deeper connections with its tenants and the public, but online communities that will help places of all shapes and sizes to thrive.

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