The ICSC European Conference saw a series of leading industry experts and guest speakers call for the retail real estate industry to lead the way in creating authentic brands, destinations and experiences to meet the increasing needs of customers.
More than 650 delegates attended the ICSC conference which was held in association with the Italian Council of Shopping Centers (CNCC). The two-day event featured speakers and panellists including David Simon, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Simon Property Group, Inc., Andrea Illy, President & CEO, Illycaffé S.p.A, Gianmario Tondato Da Ruos, Group Chief Executive Officer, Autogrill S.p.A. and Beth Butterwick, outgoing CEO at Bonmarché and CEO-elect of Karen Millen, were among 30 speakers and panellists.
ICSC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom McGee said: “The ICSC European Conference has focused on authenticity – a topic that has attracted considerable interest at a time when many in our industry are seeking the best ways to engage customers. Our members are creating meaningful and innovative retail real estate spaces and experiences for shopping, dining and simply socializing.”
Delegates heard how the quest for authenticity was impacting the industry and what it required.
“Retailers and retail destinations need to continue to create social connections with people,” David Zoba from the Global Retail Leasing Board, JLL, said in an ICSC Next Gen Live! session which commenced conference events. “While on-line provides great connectivity there is nothing like bricks-and-mortar stores for the full social experience which is what retail is all about.”
Author and customer experience expert B. Joseph Pine II said that authenticity across all levels of the retail experience was critical. He suggested delegates look to several food and healthcare brands for industry direction.
“In today’s experience economy people want genuine products and experiences,” he said. “That’s why retailers have to render their places to be authentic. It’s the total experience of what happens inside those places that’s going to create demand. Without creating an experience, you just basically become a commodity.
“In terms of authenticity what is leading the way is the organic providers like Whole Foods and The Body Shop and personal body care companies,” Pine added. “The products that we ingest and put on our bodies are things that consumer most want to be authentic and that demand will extend through other consumer sectors.”
Mette Pedersen, Senior Category Manager, Airport Sales, for Copenhagen Airports also addressed the importance of customer experience. Pederson said their aim was to “create a home away from home” and to do so with more than 60 percent representation of Scandinavian retailers and experiences alongside international brands.
Gianmario Tondato Da Ruos, Group Chief Executive Officer, Autogrill S.p.A, also emphasised the need for customer connection. “We are constantly in touch with people living experiences in travel channels,” he said. “Trust is strongly connected to authenticity, especially in food and beverage and authenticity works if you deliver what you promise.”
In her own address to the audience Ms Butterwick said: “I think that authenticity a really, really important topic that is transforming how customers interact and engage with both retail and pleasurable experiences. Customers are driving what they want and I think people have to embrace that being authentic to their communities and customers is key to the success of shopping centres and the things that people do as pursuits.”
Butterwick also praised the ICSC event. “It’s really important that people take time out of their work to come to this conference to hear amazing speakers and challenge their thought processes and reflect on that so that they can go back and be better business leaders. A conference like this is about new insight and clarity.”
It was also announced that the 2017 ICSC European Conference will take place in Warsaw, Poland from 24-25 April.