On April 22nd, French television channel BFM Business aired an interview of Ludovic Flandin, Managing Director CSR and Innovation at Unibail-Rodamco, in the “Innovating for Commerce” programme. He explained how the Group’s open innovation strategy was revolutionising shopping centres. Here is a summary of the interview.
When innovation stems from startups
It’s been a long time since Unibail-Rodamco has given small, innovative teams a chance to renew its shopping centres. The Great Prize for Young Retail Entrepreneurs was created no less than 10 years ago, and already gave the opportunity to novel solutions such as Lunettes pour Tous or Tediber, to scale their concept in Unibail-Rodamco shopping malls. The Group then brings these brands in its shopping centres, delighting guests who crave for new offers.
Two years ago, the company launched UR Link, a startup accelerator at the heart of the Mixer, the innovation hub of the Group. It’s a co-development programme with digital solutions addressing internal needs, such as sustainable development. For instance, Sous les Fraises, a pioneer in urban farming, is soon going to open a farm on the roof of the So Ouest shopping centre in Levallois-Perret.
Innovation from the inside
In parallel with those external contributions, the Group has developed an internal programme to accelerate innovation. The Dining Experience operation, rolled out in 10 centres – and 4 new ones this year – transformed what dining looked like in shopping centres, giving guests the opportunity to discover new types of cuisine and to attend events featuring famous chefs, such as Thierry Marx.
Another challenge for Unibail-Rodamco is to constantly renew the retailers the malls host. The goal is to renew 10% of the brands each year: last year was 13%. Temporary activity is also rising at pace; pop up stores generate more and more revenue – it doubled last year. Thanks to temporary retail, Mall of Scandinavia in Stockholm, one of Unibail-Rodamco’s new malls, had more than 14 million visitors in its first year, the same level as Carré Sénart.
All those innovative initiatives aim at generating more traffic and contribute to a revolution of retail, which is not only driven by digital solutions.
Collaborating with retailers to innovate
Coordination with retailers is a critical challenge for Unibail-Rodamco. Most of the time, innovation is brought by new brands shaking up the old ones, such as Amazon opening its first boutique in Europe in a Unibail-Rodamco mall in Düsseldorf.
The company is now planning to build a new club, Better Retailers, to gather the most innovative retailers. Actually, the Group has already launched collaboration projects, for instance in terms of sustainable development with LED lighting systems installed by Sephora, Nature & Découvertes or Mango.
Retailers’ priority is omnichannel: digital and physical commerce are no longer competitors, as they have so much to learn from each other. The boring part of shopping and groceries is now likely to become an online activity, while shopping as an actual social and entertaining activity can only be experienced in real life. This is why retailers are striving to offer double answers, physical and digital, or “phygital”, to improve the shopping experience.
On the long term, and through those innovative initiatives, Unibail-Rodamco aims to transform its shopping centres into places to meet and to socialise, where events and entertaining activities are organised. Tomorrow’s shopping malls will give people the opportunity to gather together and consume better in a comfortable, safe and environment-friendly atmosphere.
Watch the entire video here (in French).