Every consumer wants to find quality products at a good value, and delivering on those basics is the foundation of any successful store or shopping center. But it takes a great shopping experience to make customers want to stay on-site longer and return more frequently. As a landlord, we strive to find the right tools to enable a shopping experience that embraces the new dynamic world of retail and real estate.

Kimco is constantly exploring new opportunities to enhance the consumer experience. After listening intently to customers and retailers, we’ve been inspired to launch modernization initiatives that cater to contemporary lifestyles and keep us on the industry’s leading edge. Recent successes have proven to us that focusing on sustainability and technology has real meaning and value to shoppers.

As we’ve discussed here on the blog, the installment of charging stations for electric vehicles (EV stations) at several locations has been very well received, including the most recent Tesla Station in Truckee, California, and we’re now looking at options to roll out the program nationally. Our advances in LED lighting have been warmly received as well — the recently announced Illumi-Nation initiative is on track to overhaul the lighting systems at over 40 percent of our Western Region portfolio. The lighting program reduces costs and energy consumption, similar to what we’ve accomplished by instituting water-efficiency standards. Collectively, our sustainability initiatives have provided value-add amenities to our shoppers, created a more welcoming retail environment, and reduced costs for tenants, with the added benefit of contributing positively to Kimco’s operating and financial performance.

As it relates to technology, we are actively pursuing a multitude of pilot programs to determine which products and strategies will create the most dynamic experience for our shoppers, while driving the greatest value for our retailers and the property. At Westlake Shopping Center in Daly City, California, the sheer size and diverse composition of the property provides an ideal incubator for us to explore new technologies and capabilities that can be used across our portfolio. We’re excited about our recently launched Wi-Fi pilot at Westlake, which will ultimately provide greater interconnectivity between retailers and their customers. Complementary Wi-Fi is currently available across the entire shopping center. A mobile web portal is associated with the service and provides a platform for our retailers to advertise specials and even a link back to their own websites. The portal also allows tenants without a web presence to advertise specials and provide more information about their businesses to shoppers using the Wi-Fi.

Kimco’s Wi-Fi pilot program debuted at Westlake Shopping Center in Daly City, Ca.

In an effort to improve operational awareness for our retailers, we are piloting systems that provide insight into pedestrian and vehicle flow patterns. In the next phase we’ll be evaluating shopper density to identify optimal times for merchandising opportunities, such as promotional offers, as well as working with our tenants to help them improve conversion rates (foot traffic into the store).

We see many advantages in Wi-Fi for both shoppers and retailers. For starters, as landlords we’re showing that we understand the modern consumer and are raising the bar on the neighborhood and community shopping experience. Retailers continue to modernize and integrate their own systems, and soon retailers at Kimco’s shopping centers can take advantage of technologies like geofencing where shoppers can be pinged on their mobile devices with relevant offers and information as they stroll around a site. It’s our goal to provide a foundation for our tenants that enables retailer-to-customer engagement, both online and offline. Retailers will be able to stay connected at a local level with their customers, increasing their ability to offer a dynamic shopping experience with the goal of retaining customers for the long term. These are the early stages of creating an “intelligent” shopping center, and thus far we have been able to make insightful business decisions that optimize the performance of the asset while meeting modern consumer demands.

Each modernization effort we pursue requires a good deal of advance research in the field on technology trends from inside and outside of our industry. Prior to embarking on any venture, we first solicit feedback from customers and retailers to understand their wants and needs. In the end, we are observant of industry trends while choosing a long-term strategy that best addresses the demands of the property in question and for Kimco at large.

Kimco’s end objective is to provide premier services for our tenants and customers. We want to elevate the shopping experience and help retailers stitch themselves into the fabric of their local communities. By integrating sustainability and technology initiatives, we are helping to preserve and create value, while fostering lasting relationships as landlords, tenants, and customers march together into the future.