Starwood Retail Partners' Live 360° customer engagement program, which enlists the aid of the community in programming events at its properties, has been shortlisted for a prestigious World Retail Award for "Best Customer Experience Initiative-Mall Owners." The honors are presented annually at the World Retail Congress conference, being held this year April 17 through 19 at the Marriott Auditorium in Madrid.
The World Retail Awards annually recognize the best retailers and retail initiatives globally across a wide range of categories. Starwood Retail is the only North American company shortlisted in its category, which is being presented for the first time in 2018. Other finalists hail from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, China, the Philippines and the U.K. Selected by a grand jury consisting of outstanding retail leaders from around the globe, the winners will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, April 19, at the Palacio de Cristal de la Arganzuela in Madrid.
"We are very excited by this tremendous honor, especially to be the only North American company to be a finalist in this new category," said Laurie Paquette, senior vice president of property management at Starwood Retail. "The nomination is a testament to the hard work and creativity of our center marketing teams, and to the consultants who helped us develop the program. It proves that there's no limit to what you can build when you turn to the community for new ideas."
The goal of Live 360° is to help centers directly and authentically engage with their customers, allowing the projects to recapture their role as cultural leaders in their communities. Starwood Retail and New York-based guest experience consultant Riley Group Inc. worked with urban revitalization specialists and held community workshops to solicit ideas for the program.
Starwood Retail launched Live 360° as a neighborhood movement, encouraging all members of the community to bring their passions and ideas to its centers and share them. Each Starwood Retail site hosts community workshops and scouts for local talent to feature at upcoming events. These activities occur in a variety of areas across the centers, including common areas and unleased retail space.
In 2017, Starwood Retail piloted the program at two properties: The Mall at Wellington Green in Wellington, Fla. and Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted, Ohio, with both projects focused on wellness and art programming. Passionate locals taught classes ranging from children's yoga to indoor vertical gardening. Other activities, such as adult art and a local green market, were also held. The centers continue to host activities, working with over 30 community partners to showcase the weekly events.
The World Retail Awards is recognizing Starwood's Live 360° events as groundbreaking guest experiences.
"The joy and the challenge of Live 360° is that it is never exactly the same at any property because it adapts to each community's desires and needs," said Carl Riley, founder of Riley Group. "It's been a privilege to create this program with Starwood Retail and to work with its marketing and management teams around the country."
With the success of the pilot programs, Live 360° is being integrated throughout Starwood Retail's portfolio throughout 2018, evolving the centers into community cores that are the hearts of their markets. Recent bar-raising events include a pop-up collaboration with New York artist Isabella Bustamante and her Teen Art Salon, which provides budding young artists the opportunity to learn from a master. Another event, Brandon Doman's Strangers Project Exhibition, invites guests to explore the lives of others through the more than 25,000 anonymous stories Doman has collected. Guests are invited to contribute their own story to the archive.
"The goal for Live 360° was not to win awards, but to enrich the lives of our guests by utilizing available community space at our properties. We've seen that happen wherever the program has launched," Paquette said. "That's the real reward. But we will have our fingers crossed on April 19."