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Comment: Bluewater head Robert Goodman on why enjoyment is vital to the success of shopping centres

At Bluewater, we are moving our emphasis to focus on ‘enjoyment’, and our rationale is simple: one can have a good or bad experience, but enjoyment is always positive.

Our approach at Bluewater is much more Disneyesque than a traditional shopping centre.  We treat visitors as guests, technology is used to facilitate an enjoyable experience, rather than an answer in itself, and we have created a series of statement stores. The purpose of all this is to ensure guests enjoy their visit to Bluewater because, when they do, they spend more time and money. They also tell their friends and family which, in the age of social media, is highly influential on the behavior of others.

We make great efforts to measure the effectiveness of what we are doing as well, so we can refine and enhance the experience to make it more enjoyable. Working in partnership with Service Management Group (SMG), we analyse guest feedback on their experiences in almost real-time, and utilise the insight to refine existing initiatives and test new ideas. So far, we have collected insight from more than 10,000 people.

The insight has also led to the implementation of a number of initiatives to increase enjoyment. Host rosters have been rescheduled to ensure a more consistent level of interaction with guests at key times during the day. We have also redesigned our mall guides and directories to highlight brand names to make finding retailers and restaurants easier. Our marketing and commercial partnerships teams have also secured a number of bespoke experiential activities from leading brands, all of which add to a visit. Seemingly small steps perhaps, but very significant in the impact they have on guest enjoyment.

All of this takes time and effort. As an industry, however, if we fail to evolve and to innovate, to deliver enjoyment to positively affect behaviour, we run the risk of being left behind by consumers.