Bringing community engagement to life digitally

Ranfurlie Centres GM marketing shares the new platform investment helping bring gamification, mixed reality, tailored communications and offers to its retail customers

Building community engagement and loyalty through gamification, mixed reality activations and tailored communications is the name of the game for Ranfurlie Shopping Centres after investing in a new digital platform.

Ranfurlie Shopping Centres has been around for nearly 10 years and owns several large format centres in the outer western and southern suburbs of Melbourne in Victoria: Burnside Park, Cranborne, Tarneit and Manor Lakes. The shopping centre group is a subsidiary of Dennis Family Homes, an iconic land and housing development giant in Victoria, with locations acting as retail and activity complements to core housing estates.

Having had her share of experience building digital and mobile apps in the retail space, Ranfurlie GM marketing, Lisa Charter, told CMO she was looking to find a way of connecting customers and retailers digitally that was cost efficient and provided optimum agility and time to market.

“Being sub-regional and a smaller asset class size, we wanted to find a solution that was digital given the way the world is tracking, but very importantly, that led us into more engagement with the community,” she said.

“Community is a big buzzword - every shopping centre is community based. We wanted to hand on heart activate that community engagement. We are fortunate that our centres are heavily adopted by the community. They feel it is their shopping centre, which is fantastic from a marketing perspective. So there’s already strong attachment to our centres. We wanted to leverage that.”

Credit: Ranfurlie

To do this, Ranfurlie has teamed up with marketing tech startup, Komo Digital, on a new digital platform designed to allow users to create user-first interactive digital campaigns and activations through integrated engagement tools. Dubbed HQ, the platform provides a centralised capability and toolkit for Ranfurlie along with data collection and reporting dashboard. It then allows Charter’s team to customise front-end modules, activities, campaigns and other gamification capabilities by location. HQ debuts in July.  

Facilitating interaction

Charter said the platform ticked all the boxes thanks to its microsite and module-based capabilities, offering speed to market, cost effectiveness and flexibility.

“The really important thing is that the product is designed to facilitate interaction and engagement at a community level. That’s not just retail-driven, and things like discount coupons or offers, but from a gamification point of view,” she explained.  

For example, one capability Ranfurlie plans to use straight off the bat is live virtual trivia sessions. Fun facts and polls are also on the agenda.

“We’re not asking people to come into the centre to do that. It also has ability for local sponsorship promotion,” Charter said. “For example, with the local football teams, we can put video up for last week’s game, ask people to guess how many goals John might kick this week and that can be virally spread to that club’s database. Then you have the mates, family and club sharing and participating. So the viral ability from the content is huge.”  

Another key use case is being able to offer instant win coupons, replacing physical gift cards with digital vouchers that go straight to a registered customer’s mobile phone. This provides instant redemption at point-of-sale without the need for additional software at the retailer’s end.

Behind HQ’s front-end is a dashboard and analytics platform for analysing data collected via the new digital platform. When Ranfurlie chooses to run polls, surveys or ask people for their favourite coffee shop or milk, this data can be collected and then used to target customers based on their preferences or choices. For instance, consumers who have noted a preference for almond milk could be offered a free almond coffee with a breakfast purchased at their local Ranfurlie centre. Equally, the distinct demographics of each location could be used to tailor activities, loyalty offers and more.

“The reporting dashboard provided is not only very easy to read and interpret but can be utilised as part of the information we provide back to the retailer that has participated in an activity or special through HQ,” Charter said. “We’re giving them information over and above the general stats generally fed out to retailers in a shopping centre environment.”

Another key use case for Charter is the ability to run augmented reality (AR) activations directly through the platform. Ranfurlie is now planning an activation during the September-October school holidays.

“School holiday entertainment is looking very different as a result of the pandemic. We can’t encourage crowds, but this way we invite people into centres in their own time, rather than for specific show times,” Charter said. “Using HQ, consumers can scan QR codes, participate in AR interactions, or interact with a screen onsite.

“It gives us that ability to invite people to the centre, in their own time, and interact with our retailers, but also at the community level, rather than on a hard commercial basis. It’s a nice blend of real community and the commercial element we need for retail.”  

To register, consumers either scan a QR code or go straight to the dedicated HQ URL. Every time they then use a QR code or the link, they’re straight into the site and can access to whatever is currently available at that centre location on that day.

While initial use cases are marketing oriented, Charter saw the potential for HQ to extend into services such as click-and-collect and elements that may service other parts of the Ranfurlie business.

“We can also use data collected towards leasing and run targeted surveys in a gamified way to drive participation,” Charter said.  

Initially, the three months sees an emphasis on the retailer and onboarding people to the platform through exclusive, value-added offerings, along with live trivia and a themed Spotify playlist.

“They’re fun things people will see as a bit different and fun. There are a few gamification activations planned again around driving fun engagement, plus promoting new retailers and general centre information. For example, one centre has a community centre launching, and this is a prefect platform to let people know about that,” Charter said.

With data capture and utilisation, Charter said data is only as good as the way it can be harnessed.

“We’re conscious that what we need to collect needs to be relevant and to actions we can take,” she said. “The first thing for us will be consolidating the data to tailor to the retailers and find out what is useful to them.

“Ultimately, it’s about providing real value back to them. This isn’t a set and forget, it’s very much living and breathing the evolution of this platform every day and week. We are treating it like a customer loyalty opportunity that’s far more flexible and agile.”  

As to driving customer take-up, there is a wealth of marketing activity kicking off. Charter said the team is “soaking the centres in marketing collateral”.

“We have used very bright colours that are appealing to the multicultural communities our centres sit in. We have a comms plan including bus backs, letterbox drops and press, and we’re also pushing through retailers and community group we are linked to, who will promote,” Charter said.

“We have high take-up on Facebook already, so we’ll promote heavily there, plus we’ll have competitors to join now.”

Proof will also be in retailer take-up. “We have had great feedback from community groups we’re linked with, wanting to share their databases and share content. For example, the football during activations, and local housing estates,” Charter added.  

“Everyone in the last 12 months, both consumer and retailer, has become digitally savvy. The QR code has helped immensely – across age brackets, people are more affable to it. The world and landscape has changed greatly, which has enabled an easier foray into this offering.”

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