27.10.2015 Ludovic Flandin, UR Lab general manager

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This consumer goods specialist now leads the research and development department for the Unibail-Rodamco Group.

What does UR Lab do?

It's an innovation incubator created by Unibail-Rodamco, the commercial real estate leader with offices, convention halls, and most importantly 72 shopping centres in Europe. Our role is to invent services that improve our visitors' buying experience. That includes physical and digital services, for example an app that remembers your place in the parking lot, a system to pick up items bought on Internet, etc. We also focused on working with "exclusive or young designer" brand products, especially in fashion. Remember that 20 years ago the Forum des Halles presented the collections of a young, unknown designer named Isabel Marant! We're going to open two new pilot shopping centers, in Stockholm and in Cagnes-sur-Mer with a 5,000 m2 space for young designers called the Designer Gallery.

What changes do you see in the buying behavour of women consumers?

One strong trend today is that consumers buy as easily on Internet as in physical stores, and they go back and forth constantly between the two possibilities. Given this situation, it's essential to work on the customers' contact points with digital technology and real life, which we do in our shopping centers.

Consumers have clear expectations and they lose interest in brands that don't provide this double approach. Now you have to offer an online platform, be present in social media, and also create events like pop-up stores, partnerships, etc. We have to adapt our buildings for technological considerations to make connectivity easier, and at the same time offer personal shopper services.

Which services now seem essential to you?

Making shopping easy is fundamental. That happens through well trained, quick-acting sales people and the availability of products online or in the store which are then delivered to customers' homes. The human experience also plays a critical role. Shopping sites should be welcoming and include food services and leisure activities as well as art and culture. Spaces are becoming multi-functional. The success of the Marais district, for example, is due to the mix of art and boutiques. This is the philosophy we used to create Polygone Riviera, our new Cagnes-sur-Mer shopping center. It includes an open air art gallery designed by Jérôme Sans, who founded the Palais de Tokyo in 2002. Boring, functional shopping centers are finished!

And how about digital technnology, today and in the future?

Visiting a shopping centre is an experience that happens before, during, and after in both digital and physical modes. Borders no longer exist for consumers.

Meet with Unibail-Rodamco at the TRAFFIC trade show, in the Commerce & Retail Zone and at their "Evolutions in Retail" conference on Thursday 4 November, 10:00 in the Conference area.


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