GPT Group recognises the importance of having to continually push the boundaries and innovate.
As owners of real estate, we are constantly adapting to the evolution of the physical environment and more recently this has come to involve the digital world. We now operate in an environment where the physical and digital worlds are intertwined.
Over the past five years we have built stronger digital foundations across the portfolio, invested in new mobile responsive websites, enhanced our social media presence and introduced new Electronic Direct Marketing platforms.
Late last year we stepped our efforts in this area by establishing a Property Innovations team to identify how we could embrace new technologies that could enhance the guest experience, generate new sources of revenue and offer retailers in our centres digital platforms they can leverage off.
The Property Innovations team identified GPT’s Rouse Hill Town Centre in Sydney as the “live” innovation lab where the group would trial cutting-edge initiatives and new technologies.
Last year, GPT partnered with Sky-Fii to roll-out a high-grade, free public Wi-Fi service across the centre. Apart from providing a high-quality internet connection for visitors to Rouse Hill, the service has provided us with additional insights into shopper behaviour, which is helping shape how we cater to them and support our retailers. We have now started rolling out the service to several other retail centres and office towers across our portfolio.
The retailers and shoppers at Rouse Hill Town Centre have also been benefiting from the trial of a mobile application called Pronto, which is designed to streamline the order and purchase of food and beverages within the centre. Pronto allows shoppers to connect to any vendor offering the service, see what food and beverages are on offer and order and pay direct from their mobile device.
Pronto cuts down the time guests have to wait in food court lines, it offers food retailers another way to engage and it provides simple, convenient ordering. Melbourne Central rolled out Pronto in June, with a number of office and retail assets to follow over the coming months.
Rouse Hill is also the testing ground for an iBeacon trial. Several beacons have been placed throughout the centre, which will allow retail offers and incentives to be promoted to our guests, direct to their mobile, through the Pronto app. It is this direct engagement that is changing the shopping experience and also providing new opportunities for customers to engage guests in the centre.
We are also very excited about the recently launched trial of the click and collect service ParcelPoint at the centre. The concept allows guests to collect or return purchases made from a number of online retail websites at the Rouse Hill Customer Service Centre.
The Property Innovations team constantly prototype ideas in real time in our operating assets, providing us with the opportunity to learn and evolve the products and services. The team can identify prototypes that we want to roll out across the assets in our portfolio and conversely, those that sound good in theory but once tested don’t have the impact that we require to roll out the concept further.
Another big leap forward for property and for GPT has been the emergence of co-working, with the rise of digital the evolution, the evolution of the physical space still remains a core part of our business.
GPT was the first Australian Real Estate Investment Trust to set up a co-working business and the first retail location was again at our “live” lab, Rouse Hill Town Centre.
Space&Co offers all of the services and facilities you would expect from a corporate office environment including wireless internet, workstations, meeting rooms, and breakout spaces, except rooms can be booked by the month, day and by the hour. What is most unique is that this work environment is available at a shopping centre.
We are tapping into the growing phenomenon of mobile working and the creation of new ways of using traditional property space.
The success of the Space&Co. platform at Rouse Hill and at Melbourne Central Tower, has led to GPT now opening a third Space&Co. venue at ONE ONE ONE Eagle Street office tower in Brisbane.
GPT’s Space&Co. business was inspired by its initial investment in LiquidSpace, which now provides the world’s largest online real-time marketplace for flexible workspaces. GPT is responsible for managing the App and its platform in Australia. The supply of co-working spaces on LiquidSpace locally, has grown 39 per cent in the past year and now makes up approximately one-third of all the workspaces available for hire in Australia.
LiquidSpace was the first of the start-ups we partnered with and the list has grown significantly since then. Sky-Fii, Divvy, Pronto, Parcel Point and Parcel Lockers provider TZ are just some of those GPT has collaborated and innovated with.
Collaborating with innovative and entrepreneurial start-ups that are passionate about their product or service makes sense for GPT, we can provide solid property experience and significant financial backing; this can be a perfect match for delivering innovative products and services for our guests and customers.
We recognise that not all new ideas we trial in 2015 will grow into permanent solutions. Those ideas that do pass the rigorous testing phase will eventually be rolled out across relevant assets within the portfolio and deliver unique, often first to market experiences.
Today, physical and digital experiences are not mutually exclusive, they are blended to create immersive and engaging interactions that connect with our customers and our shopping centre guests. They are the beneficiaries of the experiments of today, which will become the experiences and platforms of tomorrow.
This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in Shopping Centre News.