Today’s young professionals with discretionary income are asking for deeper engagement with their surroundings, a greater sense of ownership, and fewer barriers between work and play, connecting on a personal and emotional level with their environment. Panelists speaking at ULI’s 2018 Carolinas Meeting in February discussed what that might mean for the marketing and design of retail, office, and residential projects.
“When people come together, they feel a part of something bigger, and prosperity follows. That leads a lot of the work that we do,” said Norma Morales Perez, a senior vice president at Edens, a development company headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland.
Edens’s goal is to build brand loyalty—even if, in this case, the brand is a location rather than a product. “Where you choose to spend time and money and emotional experience is about brands, those that stand out,” she explained. “We go with our gut feeling. So, the question is how to tactically execute on gut feeling.”
In this, Edens is guided by the hierarchy of human needs developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. His framework posits that people are first driven to simply survive; after that, they successively seek security, community, self-esteem, and finally personal fulfillment.
Those elements can translate into a retail setting, Perez explained. The first need is met simply through convenience or price (e.g., picking a particular coffee shop because it is close by). After that, though, a consumer might choose to patronize a particular café because its offerings are high-quality, or because he or she has friends there, or because it provides “Instagrammable moments.” And in the end, that coffee shop simply feels right. At that point, Perez pointed out, a relationship exists. That means the buyer “will forgive the brand if necessary.”
Edens combines those efforts with old-fashioned market research. For example, after buying Park Road Shopping Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2011, the firm spent the first few months simply studying consumers’ patterns there. It identified that the shoppers were multigenerational, and that the center quieted down around 6:00 in the evening.
In response, Edens added a range of new restaurants, stores, and services, and created events that would encourage people to spend time at Park Road. And it worked. “Shop sales have increased by more than 70 percent since 2011, and there are now 60,000 trips to the center,” said Perez. “It’s really been embraced by the community.”
Read more at Urban Land Magazine.