ICSC: International Council of Shopping Centers

Guestblog: Through Innovation WE MUST Transform the Future of Shopping Centres

Publish Date: 26 May 2017

Topics: europe,icsc,innovation

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It was with great honour I accepted the Chair of the ICSC Innovation Group particularly in the current moment where our industry is “pumping” with novelties created by innovative people following a continuously evolving market.

I do believe through Innovation WE MUST transform the Future of Shopping Centres always driven by our surprising customers.

I do believe, as one of the main challenges we all (Innovators) have, WE MUST deliver value in a fast way. Make it happen is my “motto”. Try and learn, but always minimizing the risks.

We are facing huge challenges in our industry, if I can select the top ones for the next couple of years, especially for those trying to innovate and challenge the “status quo”, they would be mostly customer centric, and, in my point of view, are the following:



  • The first one that must be achieved.
  • If we can make the customer experience a highly positive one, then we “nail it”. Happy customers will always bring positive results.
  • The major achievement is the need to understand our customer journey and focus on the 2 key aspects:
  1. Pain points – the ones which could put in risk losing our customers (accessibility, parking, signage, right mix, services, …);
  2. Peak points - the ones which will differentiate a shopping center from the rest and make happier customers (relevant interactions; premium services; unique brands; …)



  • The most challenging one,
  • Mainly due to the several possible paths but also because Shopping Centres need to involve tenants and spend large amount of investment with the uncertainty of respective business model success.
  • There are too many aspects to consider under this digital transformation:
    • New customer tracking systems with several different technologies,
    • New platforms to connect with our customers.
    • Decisions must be made regarding where the SC want to go in this interaction – should it help retailers to generate product booking in the stores? Should it generate leads to the tenants’ online stores? Should it move into the transaction world either generating direct transactions or simply monitor the transactions? And in this last point, monitor the total amount of the transaction or the product detail.

A lot to digest!


  • The most creative one and with the longest-term impact
  • We all know F&B is the new fashion, but bringing great tenants to a food court is no longer enough, it is needed to deliver a great environmental experience to surprise.
  • If this is already difficult now we need to understand that customers want novelty, meaning you cannot make the place and consider your job is done. No way! This is just the beginning. We need to deliver permanent novelty, experiences, activation in the mall with the brands and our best partners – the tenants.
  • “If the tenants & the customers are dancing together, we need to create a beautiful dance floor, a cosy environment and an unforgettable music”.

And above all these challenges here is what I call the Supra-Challenge:


  • There is no Future Success if we do not engage on a win-win relation with our tenants.
  • There is no Future Success if our tenants do not engage their customers.
  • There is no Future Success if we do not speak the same language – the customer language.

So… in conclusion WE MUST use all our great human capital - our teams -, under the same vision, joining the knowledge of Shopping Centres managers/developers with the tenants with all those incredible companies (start-ups; high tech), to launch the next generation of Shopping Centres.

A big challenge which, myself and all the fantastic members of the Innovation Group, are looking forward to help solving!


Carlos Jesus

Head of Innovation & Mall Activation, Sonae Sierra
Chairman – ICSC Innovation Group

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