Madison Marquette’s Whitney Livingston on Customization, Localization and Activation

Whitney Livingston, Madison Marquette Whitney Livingston, Madison Marquette

Whitney Livingston, Senior Vice President, Madison Marquette recently sat down with Retail Insight to discuss what makes consumers tick nowadays.

Regardless of consumers’ personal style or brand preferences, Livingston says one thing is clear: the power to keep shoppers in a center lies with the shopping center owner.

SCB: What are the most compelling retail trends evolving now?

Livingston: According to the National Retail Federation, 42 percent of brands are opening stores, while 43 percent are holding steady and 15 percent are showing net decreases. We take into consideration what brands are showing high-performance numbers, and which ones are adaptive to the evolving high-tech and AI (artificial intelligence) landscape.

Larger, global brands have the capability to tap into the newest market tools like facial recognition and robotics. They can also create a customized, localized shopping experience based on a consumer’s habitual DNA. Madison Marquette recognizes shoppers want a distinct combination of the best brands in their local market, combined with the authenticity and hyper-local exclusivity of niche and boutique brands. 

One of the over-arching trends we're seeing is the retailer no longer steers the direction of what becomes successful in this retail landscape. The shopper sets the standard for what and how they want to shop, and the retailers who have the strongest platform for adaptability and tech integration will be the ones to achieve long-term success going forward. 

SCB: How does convenience play a role in attracting foot traffic to shopping centers?

Livingston: In today's hyper-competitive universe, convenience plays an outsize role in bringing foot traffic to centers.  Elements that spell out convenience include transportation access via multiple modalities. Can customers arrive on foot, by bicycle, utilize public transportation, Uber or Lyft, and can they find ample parking if they choose to drive there?

We encourage tenants to build out their digital platforms so consumers can order online and pick-up in store, learn about special promotions and even have customized stylists working with them online 24/7. With two-person working households on the increase, time is of the essence.

We also focus on creating shopping environments that allow shoppers and diners to satisfy all their needs in one place. Our shopping centers feature highly curated offerings, including food and beverage, personal health and wellness and soft goods, among others. 

SCB: Does activation increase the popularity of a shopping center?

Livingston: We all know experience is the only thing you can’t buy online, so activation can absolutely make a difference for a consumer when selecting where to shop or dine. While activation five years ago specifically focused on what you are doing in select common areas at a center, today it is much more.

Activation, when done right, is a consistent rhythm of activity that is authentic to your market and is unique. It is something special your center offers that enhances the consumer’s experience throughout the entire project, elongates stay and reminds the consumer “this is why I come here, versus another center.” It can be in-line pop-ups stores, food trucks or specialty food, events and music, art, furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E)  that is playful and engaging, interactive barricades or displays, blogger headquarters, etc.

SCB: Madison Marquette recently commenced the redevelopment of Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Florida.  What elements of this redevelopment are you most excited about?

Livingston: Every tenant expects enhanced and improved access, visibility and signage. The redevelopment at Bell Tower Shops was designed specifically to feature these important characteristics in a modernized environment that offers a merchandising mix that will drive traffic 18 hours a day.

BTS RenderingBell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Florida

With a variety of reasons for consumers to come, they will come more often and stay longer. We have also paid close attention to ensure we have unique-to-market activation and inviting common areas. Upon completion, there will be no reason for tenants or consumers to go anywhere else!

— By Nellie Day, contributing writer. This article originally appeared in the Retail Insight newsletter by Shopping Center Business, a six-week publication leading up to ICSC RECon and including post-conference coverage. Some of the articles and the videos in the publication are created in conjunction with our content partners, which sponsor the newsletter. Click here to subscribe and to see archived newsletters.