Kids playing in the fountains at Easton

The CRE Developer’s Guide to Guest Experience

November 27th, 2019

By Yaromir Steiner

Developers of commercial real estate are incredibly busy people.

We have a lot to think about in terms of maximizing the success of our properties—tenant occupancy and leasing rates, online sales and fulfillment, structural improvements, technology, marketingand more—all while vying to stay afloat in a competitive CRE market.

With so many angles of the business to attack each day, there is one critical ingredient to success that developers often overlook or deprioritize—guest experience.

A survey from PwC states that consumers would pay up to 16% more for better customer experience, so why don’t more developers take note?

To help provide more insight, here is the CRE developer’s guide to guest experience.

An Industry-Wide Lag

In the 1980s, developers were building malls and shopping centers at unprecedented rates. And why not? Stores were opening everywhere, profits were high and it didn’t seem like the trend was going to die down any time soon.

But now, the overbuilding bubble has popped—we now have around 20% more malls, an overabundance of retailers and overall too much of everything for the amount of money Americans are willing to spend. This, combined with around 4% of consumers shifting their spend online, has culminated in remarkable closures of once-massive retail brands.

With the shopping centers doing so well for so long, many developers spent decades coasting off of the success. Why invest in guest experience when customers are already flocking? Today, the majority of those properties are no more, or nothing like they once were. The cutting-edge properties in the surviving group have successfully learned to adapt to the new socioeconomic reality—experience is king.

Feel Good Inc.

Strong mixed-use projects like Easton share many traits—an engaging mix of tenants, healthy demographics and strong management. But most importantly, they simply make people feel good by conveying a sense of authenticity beyond the shopping experience. While great CRE developers must deliver from a retail perspective, their true success lies in the placemaking that resonate with every sense and emotion.

Steiner + Associates has been creating and conceiving extraordinary guest environments since 1993. We have long been identified by our trademark experiential dynamism resulting in trend-setting destinations and high-performing assets—including our 20+ year-old Easton Town Center project in Columbus, Ohio. Our winning formula culminated in Easton Town Center being named the number one retail center experience in the United States in 2019.

This was the result of thoughtful planning and constant recreating—from the addition of office, hotel and residential components to cutting-edge renovations of buildings, strategic evolution remains a top priority and can never be fully finished.

Successful retail and mixed-use destinations become great and remain great by constantly improving their tenant mix, amenities, physical layout and overall guest experience. They listen to their customers in humble and modest ways. They provide superior shopping, dining, viewing and congregating experiences to guests.

Successful CRE developers drive change, rather than react to it. They create places instead of stores; experiences instead of convenience. They are constantly in a state of rethinking.

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