By Marshall Mills, President & CEO, Weitzman
A few years ago at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) retail real estate convention in Las Vegas, the biggest technology buzz surrounded geo-fencing.
In a nutshell, geo-fencing is the use of a virtual geographic boundary that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a "fenced" area.
To show you just how fast technology has evolved to help our retailers, geo-fencing is being supplanted by powerful big data tools designed to help our small retailers and restaurants efficiently reach their customers.
The retail industry is making extraordinary strides in the use of a suite of tools that fall under the general category of 'big data' - which involves analyzing large data sets to reveal patterns and trends, especially as they relate to human behavior and interactions.
At Weitzman, for example, we have replaced the focus on geo-fencing with a scientific, hyper-targeted approach based on individual customer interests, which we have found to be more effective.
We collaborate with an agency partner to use big data tools that locate high-interest customers to target for our centers and our tenants.
This approach also allows us all to have access to the analytics to run any report at any time and to constantly refine and improve our targeting strategies and messages.
To reach customers in dense areas with a lot of competition - think Frisco or West Plano - interest targeting gives us the ability to reach the frequent and loyal customers who may live, say, 10 miles away but still make a trip to a particular center or restaurant a weekly ritual.
As Texas slowly re-opens during the pandemic, our digital marketing platform allows us to gather data regarding the number of our tenants that are re-opening across the state, the processes and procedures of which they do so, and how this affects the customers we target and how we target them.
Analysis of data can also direct us to the messages that will result in visits to a particular center, shop or restaurant.
Big data offers a critical tool that helps our small tenants, because with the proper analysis, we can understand a targeted area's customer needs in the future. That understanding can prove invaluable to the ongoing success of our small tenants, both during and after the current pandemic.
This column originally appeared in D CEO magazine.