Updated: Mar 9
In this episode of The Future of Retail Asia Podcast, Madalene See shares her insights with Jun and Imran, tapping on her nearly 20 years of experience working with retailers in the malls. She has worked with brands such as Adidas, Nokia, Motorola, HP, and most recently Bose. In this episode, she discusses the importance of sharing data insights between retailers and mall management to have better, customised campaigns with the consumer as the focus. This will eventually lead to better ROI for both retailers and malls, with consumers getting a better experience as well.
Episode 8: “Uplifting Retailer Sales in Malls with Data Insights” with Madalene See
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IMRAN: Welcome back to the Future of Retail Asia, my name is Imran.
JUN: And I’m Jun. Today, we have Madalene See, an omni-channel marketing specialist with over 18 years of experience working with renowned brands in APAC, Europe and even in the Middle East. Welcome Madalene.
MADALENE: Thank you very much for getting me onboard. I’m glad to have this time with you guys.
IMRAN: Thanks Madalene. Some of the brands she worked with include adidas, HP, Nokia, Bose on the APAC level playing an active or lead role in Go-To-Market, sales and marketing initiatives, even designing in-store digital experiences and organising the visual merchandising. She also has experience as an educator and consultant with Nanyang Polytechnic, Boston Consulting Group and Lithan Academy.
JUN: Yeah exactly, and I feel it’s very good to have you on our podcast, because you are actually our first guest from the retail side, and we really, really want to show all our audience that we want to cover the whole retail ecosystem, not just for the landlords. With that, I think we want to know more about your experience on developing the digital experiences in stores, can you share with us more about this?
MADALENE: Sure, I think these days from the past, it is just physical retail. But now we have evolved into digital. My recent one is in Bose, where we had really good place, in front of LV Stores, and the best part is our team was very proud of, we didn’t have to pay a rental. But I think there is too few things that they wanted us to have, is the senses. From the sight, the smell, the taste. But for Bose, we can’t taste right? I can only do visual, so we had a launch of Bose frames, basically. And when we were trying to get people engaged, we had a walking trade mount, plus an LCD. But as we actually get people to experience, to walk as if you are down the shopping aisle, in US, in San Francisco, and then how do we enjoy that. And from that, we get consumers to touch base, it’s called on the right hand side, you touch. How do you hear the sounds of the frames, how do I actually answer the phone while walking or in the gym. That is the thing that we have envisioned that is really not local, traditional anymore, it is digital. And then from there, back end, we can see people, how long they spent in answering those questions that we wanted.
IMRAN: Right, so you talked about engaging consumers with all senses, multiple data points as well as going digital. In order for that to really happen, there has to be very clear visibility of aggregated data, so as a retail marketer, where are the gaps do you think right now? So as you said, traditional retail marketing, and the ideal? Where are these gaps do you think we should be looking at to plug up?
MADALENE: Good question, I think one thing as a retail marketing for many years on the brand side, we do have data that are internally viewed by ourselves. Whether it is by our promoters, or our partners, or even our own investments, the Google and everything. The other flipside, we have to get data and support from the malls. Because I invest in stores, for example, I have stalls in Paragon, in Funan, but where does traffic drive? I have no clue. Where does it do my consumer journey? I have no clue. I guess that is the thing that as a retail marketer, we do know what store investment, when is the best time to drive the store’s opening, getting people to come to the stores to play around. But when is the right consumer journey, what target audience should I be focusing on? And also how should I work with the malls to get customised marketing campaigns to be more effective, to be more unique, to be more consumer journey, to touch points. Where I think Singapore, for example, all our malls, to a certain extent, look the same. Why should I come to this mall versus that? I think for us as a brand, that I worked with, we would love to work with malls, because our investments in the malls are two years, three years rental. But we need the yield, and how? I think for malls, we love to have a closer relationship with the mall on a more regular communication, apart from us as a brand to share our marketing calendar, product launches. But where are we? How are we performing? The recent one that I did was in Paragon, we invested in the digital screens. We were wondering who touched, where? How? Have people that actually touched, I am a man, are they male? Interesting, consumer electronics products. Did they click that button? On Bose? Oh that is the store that I want. I guess that is the data that as a retail marketer I need to better value add to my ROI and also present to my bosses what should we be doing next.
IMRAN: I think this is very interesting, so we talk about omni-channel marketing, and when we look at the digital side, or the online side, you would see this kind of data available that is shared from the marketplaces like Amazon, Shopee into the retailer. We know, okay, opening hour, peak hour, this will happen, with the marketplace, and what happen with your brand, and how are we driving the uplift. And I think this would be very interesting if we can transfer data into the physical space. And that’s what we at Aimazing do for the malls, we can identify what are the real time trends, how are we comparing to the whole malls, how are we comparing the comparable. Maybe together map out the customer journey, which brands are synergistic in the mall, I think this is very interesting. Would this be something along the lines of what you are trying to plug in as a retail marketer, a gap of understanding the transactional data within the mall, and the real time nature of it?
MADALENE: I would say totally it is, because just now you were spot on about the e-comm. The e-comm is where we actually get more data, for example, that mega campaign. Why do we want to invest a lot during flash sales? We realise that for Singapore, in the North part, 12-2am, nobody sleeps. We are like huh! That is the data that helps us to better do investments, target the right product, and then yield whether it is traffic, whether it is ROI. I think that is something that we want this kind of data from the malls to be more relevant. Then I can work closely with the buyers and the mall. What kind of target you want, whether you want to have a Christmas promotion during that time, maybe we can work together?
IMRAN: So it's a very interesting point right, what you are saying is, if on an e-commerce marketplace level, we know, for example, from midnight to 2am, it’s an open secret in the industry that most of the day’s revenue is done in that time. And if we were able to go to the retailer and say hey, in the mall, most of the revenue is generated during these few hours, what you are saying is the brands will actually put in more budget?
MADALENE: Agree, totally. And I think we can spot on to the right way of doing. For example, if I have a lot more ladies shops in the afternoon, isn’t that my campaign should be more to the ladies, Bose headphones with rose gold to drive that. And also let’s say on the weekend, certain afternoons, there are more couples coming, I should then drive my store people to emphasise on the home entertainment, because it’s the home thing right? So that’s how I think we can get that value add that why your mall is so unique versus people just go to neighbourhood malls as well.
JUN: I see, very interesting. Just curious, how do you think mall management and retailers can come together to work more closely? Just now you gave a lot of examples already. From there, to ensure that we can create a win-win-win. Retailer, malls, and especially for the consumer as well.
MADALENE: I think one thing that basically I think malls are a little bit more, to be frank, more traditional. Or probably they are more conservative. They worry that we have this data, we share it with somebody else. I think that is their reservation. But I think they forgot that part of the world, these days, everybody's bottom line is to get traffic, get sales, and currently now the malls are quiet. So we need to have that. And also one thing is that with the right target information, then we are able to give them new experience. For example, they purchase online, come to the store, and how do I utilise, like Paragon membership, for example. There’s a reason for people wanting to continue the membership, like free parking, clock points with Ion, for examples. I guess that’s the reason why MBS has that kind of membership, that I think that we as a brand and consumers and even the malls have to work together as an omni-channel, is literally customer as the center, and have a seamless experience. I guess that’s how we have the data, we are able to get the right targeted way, to then more unique, why should I shop here? People will be, where is the best place to shop? At least I remember that place gives me a unique experience, that is something with the data I can get. I guess that’s something as a retail marketer, we need to generate a win-win, and convince the mall that we are not here to be the policeman, to tell you what data to give. But for them to tell us what they have, insights, and for brands, we can see what we have invested with the agencies, whether it is with Google, whether it is with the TV screens or whatever, or out-of-house, what kind of data. Then we can sit down and map out a more customised or exclusive kind of activities and campaigns for the mall itself.
JUN: Very interesting, I think we talked to a lot of landlords. Landlords always share that retailers don’t want to share the data with the landlords. But today is a totally different, opposite (perspective). If we are only talking about landlords collecting data just for calculating rent, there might have some gaps there. I think Madalene gave a very good example for the retailer, they are always looking at, if I’m willing to share the data, but how malls can use this data to help me bring traffic, to help me really understand my customer’s spending behaviour, and help me easily count my marketing ROI.
IMRAN: Increase the bottom line at the end of the day.
MADALENE: Correct, correct. I think also one thing is that they always ask us to pay something for certain bookings, like the TV screens for example. If they can give us the right data, as a brand, we are more willing to invest. Now is that we don’t have the data, I have bosses that question me, is it worth investing, what’s my ROI? If I have just another value or visual, I should then push it to somewhere else to do retargeting ads.
IMRAN: So like, it has to be the investment into the right kind of data, the right kind of spaces or opportunities or mechanisms that shows the right kind of conversion at the end of the day.
IMRAN: I think that is really interesting, because that is really the problem that I think as a whole industry we need to solve. There are all sorts of players in the data space, the tech space saying how do we build the right kind of dashboards, the right kind of insights, the right kind of recommendations. The truth is in any malls or in any marketplaces, we are talking about millions of data points at any given day. I think it is really about understanding which are the use cases that are really, let’s say, on an overlap basis, win-win-win basis. We focus on this 10, or 5, or this 20, we can really, at the bottom line collectively together. I think that’s not a straightforward answer that you answer today, by any single person. But I think that involves us coming together and sharing that data, and saying okay, how do we build from here. I think we want to ask a couple of questions around if you did have a retail manager in front of you, and then if you had a mall manager in front of you, and in today’s context, with Covid crisis, lockdowns, reopens, I think it is quite an interesting concept, together with the whole rise of e-commerce. I think it is a very interesting time and space, where I think no one really knows what’s going to happen. I think everyone, especially people who are listening in, would always ask, where is the future? What should I be doing now with my time and money and resources? So what would that be, with a retail manager, a mall manager, what would be your one piece of advice to them.
MADALENE: I think one thing is that, a very good question, was that I was in that position, literally 18 months ago, when Covid started. It’s all of us thinking, we will just invest in traditions. But when Covid started, digital and online accelerated ahead of them, they were all the while there. But then, how do we co-exist together, and how do we make sure people come back. So I guess that is this word, we call the retail entertainment. If people want to purchase online, and pick up at the store. Or vice versa. And people want experiential these days. Why as a brand we invest so much, half a million dollars. We want to drive experiential, how do we compete against the marketplace. Online and offline are different things, but how do I drive the brand stickiness. And the recent one I think, the Apple launched the MacBook, Apple Watch, just 24 hours ago, I was trying to find out more about the Apple Watch, but then we played around with the VR, focusing on the phone, your hand and everything. That is how we say, hey I want to buy that, I want to go and explore that. I guess from us, it’s how do we use the technology, the VR and AI, to actually build the experiential. And then for us as a brand, as a retail brand, we just have to do that kind of live streaming, how do we then make sure that live streaming is entertainment and gamification. I think the recent to get them entertained as well, not just watching and hard sell. Then at the mall is then, of course, for us a brand. How do we present them that we will still come back to you? So I guess it’s how do we collaborate, that easy pickup, or safe payments, there are a lot of things. Spot on is that we do in the store, probably a year ago from this time, is that we want to make sure people feel comfortable coming to the stores. We were having exactly that kind of question. We were all tidying up, making sure that it was safe there. Safety is there, safety payments are there. I think people’s way of shopping has changed. They are more worried about the virus than the journey. As a brand itself, we also make sure that the way is safe is payments itself, collection, the journey is actually smooth and enjoyable but it is not disruptive. So I guess that’s something both sides we should actually look into. How can we ensure consumers come and shop and feel safe, and actually enjoy and they don’t feel frustrated. Because when I put myself as a consumer. At the time when they lock down some of the doors, consumers will get frustrated, how come I walk here it takes me an extra 30 minutes to go to the stores? Why was it not communicated clearly? I guess that’s something that the mall has demonstrated that we also take care of you, making your journey not so frustrated. They use digital push to say where is my first entrance to come in. Because there is a lot of retargeting ads that they can work from brands, to ensure that people do come into the store, and not frustrated that they can’t find the door, they’ll go somewhere else.
IMRAN: We had a recent conversation with one of the mall managers recently, and they were saying that people feel comforted when they smell the smell of dettol. So even all these little experiential things could really matter, especially in this time.
MADALENE: Totally spot on, because our Bose table, in the past we really focused on product, product. So when you walk into the entrance, we do have that Dettol thing in front of you, and also when you walk into the entertainment room, you have that dispenser. So I guess that’s something that we tell everybody, we are safe, and we are ensured. I guess that is something that as a customer myself, I put myself as a customer, I also want to walk in and don’t get soaked anytime, I don’t get virus. So I guess both brands and malls, we just have to get, to tell customers one thing is that we are safe to shop. I think the payment, the payment wise is very important to have safe payment. And also educating that we are going to digital payments, and I think that is the next thing we are going to talk about in the retail. How do we then use digital to build the experience, build the positives, to get them to come back and shop more? Because a lot of people say, online digital payments are very unsafe, but I think that is something, at that time, we worked with Alipay, and also engaged customers that if they use Alipay, and the next time they come back can actually have a discount on the next headphones.
IMRAN: So it’s return vouchers?
MADALENE: It’s e-vouchers, and we encourage them to have online shopping. I guess at that time nobody actually cared about it, but I think these days we can encourage them on e-vouchers. And also getting people on QR codes. The reason why I think 10 years ago, I was trying to push QR codes. Nobody can tell me that, oh, QR codes are not easy to use, it is very difficult. But I was saying why today people are embracing QR codes? So I guess the Covid has brought everything accelerated much faster, and people are embracing it, as compared to at the moment I was trying to convince people.
IMRAN: I would have to say that actually personally as a marketer, 5 years ago, I was talking to brands and said, who uses QR codes? And here we are today. So exactly you are right, some of these things we cannot see where it will go.
JUN: I think today if you want to go into the shopping mall, you have to scan the QR code today. Everybody needs to have a QR code scanner.
MADALENE: One thing in the past, when people wanted to get the product. We are all very traditional with print stuff, POS, catalogue and everything. At that time, exactly 10 years ago, I was asking them, if you want an ebook experience, you can actually scan a QR code, have the ebook flip, as if you are doing it on a book. But all my retailers, or the owners or the malls saying, Sorry, they still like the book smell. But as a brand, we have to invest a lot more money, but in today’s world, exactly about 2-3 years ago, I was educating on it. At Bose, we use PDF files and also QR Codes. We kind of changed their mindset, from the 20-30 pages book catalogue, we became a PDF. And if my country is like Indonesia, they are more advanced, surprisingly, the distributor they want an e-book. So they educate people on the e-book version, and they can upload to the Tokopedia and leave it online.
IMRAN: I just want to make sure to be clear on your point, for the retailers, what you are saying is putting the customer at the center and understanding their POV, their data points, and making it as seamless, as painless for them. What was your point about the malls?
MADALENE: The malls have to be able to communicate clearly that my place is safe. I think that is very important, and also clear direction. Of safe payment, or contactless. I think that is something that we need to know. If the mall keeps telling us, oh they close this door, close that door, I think it’s more frustrating, but they can actually use their technology to push it to consumers that we are a safe mall, where can you find us, where can you enter safely.
JUN: I think today is very interesting because before that we invited a lot of mall management people, they will always have this concern and worry about the retailer sharing their data with shopping malls. But I think today, when we hear from you, we are always talking about the experience, how we can actually create a better experience for the shopper. And then we can create that win-win. So malls can use data, aggregated data, and use this data to give some insights to the retailers. And then the retailers can based on this insight provide another good user experience. And then the customer, because of this experience, they will come back to the mall again. So I think that will be a very interesting point because for the past few episodes, everybody is worried about the retailer being willing to share their data. So the answer is yes, but you need to give some insights, give something back to the retailer. And always, our last question is, will the retail continue to be king? Why or why not?
MADALENE: I think that kind of question is very spot on, because I think, think about it, 10000 years ago, the Flinstone age, they had barter trade, it will never go off. Retail will be evolved, about more experiential. We have to drive a lot more experience, rather than a physical bread and butter, or probably just a pick up store, that kind of thing. And of course, we have to drive the online and offline experience, which means brands or malls are able to scan the QR code, or probably push it to them to do the pick up and purchase. The reason I think is that we did a test once in Indonesia, we loved that experience, we got a shock that they enjoyed it. That means the customers feel comfortable, means they purchase the thing online, and then come to the store to test it and then they deliver it to their house. I guess that is something that we did a test on, and in this time we should go beyond it, about experiential, people cannot come to the stores, how do they experience sound? How do they experience the scent? As a lady myself, we want to buy lipstick, but these days we cannot test anymore. How? I guess it’s a little bit of the digital world that I tested myself. Oh, my lipstick is like that, look like this colour. I guess that’s how we are a little bit enjoying it, a little embracing it. It’s only then, how do we encourage the malls and the brands, as well as our seniors to shop in this kind of comfort.
IMRAN: It does show from the data around the lockdowns to the reopenings, that when we do reopen, that’s when the retail sales do bounce back close to pre-Covid, not yet. But I think that is where it is headed. I think certainly there will be a large proportion of it that starts becoming more hybrid. Click and collect, your hybrid experiences. You shop physically, and then buy online later. All these various experiences that will start getting unlocked. I think those are very insightful points, I think we have to close today’s episode. But for those of you who have questions for Madalene, of course, feel free to tag us in your posts or comment in the post below and ask that question. We will be happy to answer or even forward it to Madalene to have a conversation as well. Thanks again Madalene for coming down.
MADALENE: Thanks so much for inviting me, I enjoyed this session totally.
JUN: Thank you!
IMRAN: Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments. For those of you who are thinking about how you enable experiences and evolve your retail ecosystems with data, feel free to reach out to Aimazing as well. All our social media platforms, LinkedIn, of course you are listening to this on Spotify or Apple Music. We are on Facebook, Insta. We hope you have enjoyed today’s episode, stay tuned for the next episode of the Future of Retail Asia.
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