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Retailers Put First as Westfield.com.au Gets a New Look

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By Published On: April 20, 20180 Comments

In an effort to keep up with evolving customer habits, Scentre Group, the owner of Westfield shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand, has transformed its digital footprint.

At 2 pm on Thursday, Scentre Group unveiled 40 new websites across its portfolio, including the spearheads, Westfield.com.au and Westfield.co.nz.

In a statement announcing the release of the new digital offerings, Scentre Group’s Director of Customer Experience, Phil McAveety said the website launches are the first step in an ongoing program of innovation.

“Our centres are just as important as ever but our customer’s shopping habits are changing, fueled by digital technology,” he said. “We recognise the opportunity for digital technology to further enhance the customer experience in-centre, starting with our core digital offering. This will be brought to life through data-driven content, retailer-driven content, personalisation and open dialogue with reviews and social feeds.”

According to McAveety, retailers will play an important role in the group’s new online presence, especially through the addition of ‘digital shop fronts’. This initiative has been designed to give individual retailers a chance to bring their bespoke offerings to the site in a bid to complement their traditional bricks and mortar presence. It’s expected that the content provided in these digital shop fronts will be self-published by individual retailers, giving them control over how they present their brands.

“We’ve been working closely with Scentre Group on the development of the new digital shopfront because, for us, it’s another channel with which we can engage directly with our customers,” Renee Smith, the head of marketing at Cotton On said in a statement.

Cotton on's digital shop front on westfield's new site

Cotton On’s new digital shopfront on Westfield.com.au.

She explains how the new Westfield site allows her to curate content that’s relevant for the Cotton on Brand, which she believes is important to the company’s customers.

Employees working on the website re-development project claim the ‘digital-first’ offering will help take Westfield Shopping Centres, and the retailer’s within them, to the next level through the creation of an innovative and colourful brand that’s representative of the in-store experience.

The new websites have been launched to coincide with the Westfield Smart screen network, updated EDMs, Westfield app, and digital directories. Non-digital touch points are also expected to follow.

While the new Westfield sites have a completely new look and feel to them, the Scentre Group is yet to make a full shift to e-commerce offerings. Users are able to navigate through to different centre locations and explore the events and shopping experiences that are available in their local area, however, much like the original sites, the only products that can be purchased through the platform are Westfield gift cards.

The Scentre Group’s shift towards a more  digital environment is the next logical step for the investment group, and comes after former Marketing and Digital Director, John Batistich told a marketing leaders’ summit in Sydney in 2015 that Westfield was focused on “connecting the physical environment with the digital shopper.”

However, Westfield has often come under fire in the past amidst claims tenants are treated poorly in the chain’s fight to continually grow revenue streams in an increasingly online world.

Speaking to SBS last year, Scentre Group’s Chief Executive, Peter Allen said the group would quickly replace a tenant with a more popular retailer if it could improve both the retailer’s and the centre’s bottom line.

“When we do see poor performance or poor payment, we would work in terms of looking at replacing those retailers,” chief executive Peter Allen said as he reported a 10 percent rise in Scentre’s annual net profit.

The re-design of Westfield’s online community is believed to be a move that will help re-align Scentre Group’s goals with what’s best for tenants. However, how well the site will perform over the long-term is questionable, as individual retailers are expected to take the reigns to manage much of the site.

Will the more in-depth, largely visual site help generate more online traffic and drive extra people to physical shop locations, or will it fall to the wayside as the group continues to work on expanding in-store offerings and renovating its shopping centres?

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