Community engagement

Consumer behaviours and shopping preferences are continuously changing. Creating unique and relevant experiences for our consumers requires an intimate understanding of local communities wants and needs from our destinations.

Our centre management teams serve as Vicinity’s day to day touch points with communities across Australia.

They are our front line for direct engagement with consumers, retailers, local government and other community partners and through these interactions facilitate great in-centre experiences, keep abreast of local issues and garner feedback on the needs of our communities.

“We are out in the centre every day, alongside our retail partners, creating the best retail experience we can for our consumers. We engage with our communities through informal and formal interactions and activities that resonate, providing appealing destinations where they can connect. Most importantly, we greet them with a smile.”

 Gabe North-Harney, Centre Manager, Bayside Shopping Centre

 

 

Providing a consistent experience for our consumers and communities

During FY20, Vicinity continued our journey of implementing a consistent framework for consumer experience across our centres to provide a better guest experience and create places where people love to visit and connect. This year we built and implemented a centralised system to manage, analyse and report upon customer feedback and complaints to enable us to identify systemic issues, deliver resolutions and report on customer complaints to the Board.

We have developed a guest experience strategy that outlines a suite of core and tailored guest experiences for different types of centres across our portfolio, considering the current and future needs of the communities we serve. The strategy focuses on increasing overall satisfaction by implementing a consistent suite of services, including providing the right information and recommendations to our consumers, addressing consumer concerns, advocating for our retail brands and inspiring consumers to connect with our centres. In addition, we introduced a new platform to streamline data collection and response processes across third party websites and social media, as well as automate and report on incoming volumes, sentiment and key issues impacting customer satisfaction.

Net Promoter Score FY20

Vicinity has focused on delivering our guest experience strategy through an internalised model, via the appointment of guest experience managers across our portfolio and led by a National Guest Experience Manager to oversee the function at a group level. All guest experience team members have undertaken relevant learning and development programs through the Customer Services Institute of Australia which focuses on important skills such as communication, managing consumer interactions, positive attitudes and resilience.

Data and Analytics

We recognise that digital technology and growth in online retailing is changing the way our consumers shop, how our retailers trade and how we manage our assets. Over the past four years Vicinity has strategically invested in both technology and internal capability to create an integrated intelligence platform which uses advanced data analytics to drive better decision-making and improve business outcomes. It also provides the foundation through which we can support our retailers via data analytics insights and help them improve their performance.

In FY20, Vicinity trialled the use of a Retailer Recommendation Tool (the Tool) – a bespoke in-house developed tool that uses advanced statistical models to provide insights into which retailer is likely to perform well in a given store location (and centre). The Tool considers the audience of the centre, the past performance of the retailer, and the retailer’s projected future performance in relation to its reliance on foot traffic past its specific location. The Tool’s positive reception by the trial group has resulted in the application being broadened to the entire Vicinity Leasing team to assist them throughout the COVID-19 period.

Our retailers have told us they want access to data that helps them improve their performance and in response, Vicinity has created a Retailer Insights Platform.  This digital platform provides access to store analytics and centre insights retailers can use to determine their optimal store network and improve sales performance and profitability.  The platform has been created based on input and feedback from a trial group of retailers and utilises the building blocks of data that Vicinity has developed to generate and support our own insights.

Underpinning our intelligence platform is a robust data governance and cyber-security model, which provides high levels of security and sets out principles for the collection, use and protection of data. To learn more about our approach to data and systems see our 2020 Annual Report (page 30).

Data analytics and Vicinity’s COVID-19 Response

A key focus for Vicinity in FY20 has been to leverage our Data and Insights capability in responding to COVID-19, and operating our centres safely.  Vicinity has an agile data and analytics environment enabling us to early identify the impact of COVID-19 on centre foot traffic. In response to the evolving impact on our business, having an internal data capability enabled value to be created through quickly and accurately applying insight to enhance decision-making processes across the business.

The rich data we are gathering from our portfolio-wide WiFi network, which was established in FY17 is helping us to gain insight into consumer behaviours including dwell times, foot traffic and traffic flows, enabling us to alleviate their pain points and enhance their retail experience with us. In line with government instruction, social distancing was introduced to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Vicinity created an industry-first program that utilises real-time data on consumer movements from our WiFi systems to assist with compliance with the recommended measures. With our real-time insights into foot traffic and consumer behaviour, Vicinity was able to monitor social distancing in centre and automatically trigger low, medium and high range alerts to centre teams who are able to respond in real-time.

Vicinity regularly surveys its shoppers in order to gain feedback on how it is delivering on the retail experience in our centres. In order to help ensure that COVID-19 safety measures implemented by Vicinity were in line with what our consumers needed in order to feel safe, Vicinity surveyed approximately 2,000 shoppers. The research enabled Vicinity to confirm that safety measures being implemented included the key concerns of our consumers.

Engaging communities in centre developments

Developments offer Vicinity the opportunity to build sustainable and inclusive destinations, create positive outcomes for our communities, introduce the latest retail concepts and revitalise our offer.  

Our sustainable design brief (SDB) guides how our development projects align with Vicinity’s Sustainability strategy and respond to the unique needs of the local community, be that through the design of our centres or the means through which we construct them. Throughout all stages of a project, from concept phase through to planning and delivery, the SDB requires that our teams consider,

  • engagement of the community during planning and construction stages;
  • significant community needs that can be addressed through the development (such as accessibility, social inclusion and placemaking);
  • enhancement of public spaces and common areas to support local placemaking initiatives such as community gardens, youth start-up or co-working spaces or child care facilities;
  • how the construction phase might be executed to positively impact the local economy (for example, through use of local, social or Indigenous enterprises);
  • setting employment and training targets for youth or Indigenous Australians during contract delivery; and
  • initiatives that integrate Indigenous cultural significance aspects into the design.

We engage with local communities during the planning and construction of our development projects to ensure that our centres continue to evolve in line with community expectations, and do not create any unintended negative impacts.

During development planning, our development and data science and insights teams conduct extensive consumer research, consulting with local communities about their lifestyle preferences, shopping habits and expectations from our centres. We incorporate these findings into our concept and design works to ensure that the final product meets the needs of our retailers, consumers and the local community.

Regular engagement with the community during planning and construction phases ensures they are kept informed, interruptions are minimised, feedback is received and any concerns are proactively addressed.

Vicinity submits environmental and community impact assessments and mitigation plans to local councils for all major development projects.  

Information about these projects and potential impacts are displayed in the centre and on its website. We also equip our centre management teams with key information to pre-empt potential community concerns and ensure a timely and sound response is provided.

Case Study: Community engagement program for Chadstone development

In December 2019, Vicinity announced a major expansion to Chadstone Shopping Centre in Victoria. The project includes a nine-storey office building, 1400 additional car spaces, an upgraded food precinct and an expansion of the leisure and dining precinct.

To ensure local residents were well informed, a series of community consultations took place from December 2019 – March 2020. These consultations encouraged our customers and community to be a part of the planning process for the redevelopment and included 9 community engagement sessions to provide residents greater insight into the proposed applications and 12,000 newsletters, brochures and flyers delivered to over 4,000 households.

Key concerns included construction impacts on local streets and loss of parking at Chadstone during the works. To address these concerns, Vicinity prepared detailed mitigation plans and consulted with residents and local leaders with key measures incorporated into the planning permit including road use/parking restrictions into the builder contracts and having construction and retail workers shuttled to the centre on peak shopping days.

 

For more information, including FAQs on the development please refer to the Chadstone Development page available here.