Shopping Centre Market Research

Albert Hamilton




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The rationale for accurate shopping centre market research

Over the years we have received requests from clients to provide rationales for undertaking research.  Marketing budgets tend to be limited and clients can be under pressure to clarify the benefits of market research with regard to return on investment.

These are a few of the questions our shopping centre clients sometimes need to answer.

  1. Why do research at all?  Our marketing budgets are tight enough.

Marketing is of course about communicating the right message to the right people in the right way.

  • Good shopping centre market research can accurately show which customer types spend the most money in the centre across the year. This lets you market for spenders, rather than footfall, meaning that the retailers and caterers perform better and are more sustainable.
  • Good shopping centre market research can show where the most valuable customer types live.  Location can be surprising as these valuable customers don’t often live in the best housing estates.

There is a misconception that the most affluent people spend the most.  They don’t.  The people who spend the most are those who have the greatest affinity with the shopping centre’s retail offer.  Finding out who they are is very important as it influences the messages that these customer types need to see to be convinced to come to the centre. It’s NOT just about fresh Creative.  That’s not enough any more.

  1. Shopping centre market research is for bigger centres with bigger budgets

  • Some shopping centre managers believe that they have insufficient budgets for research as they need to spend it on marketing, advertising and promotions.
  • Marketing is of course not just about events and appraising creative advertising options.  Unfortunately without actual data representing the shopping centre customer base and the potential customer base, marketing usually defaults to just that.  It’s a shame because while marketing without up to date customer information can be effective –it is rarely, if ever, the most effective.  A shopping centre that is not achieving its potential is costing itself money.  Weigh-up a 1% gain in shopping centre turnover against the cost of a market research study.


  1. Shopping centre market research just tells me what I already know

Poor research does, yes.  Poor research is just a costly distraction and not worth doing.  In some cases, shopping centre managers believe that they know their local market and centre so well that research is not necessary.

However, good shopping centre market research provides a tangible benefit to the bottom line.  Excellent market research brings success, faster.   Excellent research depends on finding an accurate statistical sampling strategy.  Using a questionnaire that avoids all the pitfalls including confounded variables and statistical and psychological biases.  Using properly trained interviewers who record without influence. And producing a report that correctly analyses the data ensuring outcomes clearly distinguish between correlation and causation.

Unfortunately we have seen very few of our client’s previous questionnaires that are suitable for use in shopping centre market research – and there are still shopping centres that believe longer a dwell time leads to greater spend.  All part of the legacy of poor past market research.

In summary, good market research provides information on which customer types are the most valuable to the centre over the year, and how much these customers are likely to spend. This helps to focus marketing spend on the small areas that will deliver the greatest gain, using the messages that will have the biggest impact on the most valuable consumer.

CARD Group is retained by many of the most influential centres in their regions (whether large or small).  Talk to us about how you could access essential visitor and catchment insight to increase sales or visit our shopping centre page.