Hubert Burda Media

Veri Y. Setiady: The Next Big Thing

Outsmart e-commerce businesses by providing out-of-the-box experiences.

Shopping malls are ultimately striving for today is to be known for doing something different,” declares Veri Y. Setiady. “When consumers clearly see how your offering is unique, it’s easier to win their attention. I feel that competitive positioning is the foundation of the entire business we are in.”

Setiady, 50, is one of Indonesia’s luxury retail experts. In his role as Vice President Director of Agung Podomoro Land, he is CEO of the property company’s portfolio of shopping malls, including Senayan City, Kuningan City and Central Park Jakarta.

Discussing how his company differentiates its malls, Setiady says: “Senayan City is one of our most prestigious developments and it’s currently in transformation mode. We are targeting international tenants and A-list brands. As with all mall developments, it’s about getting the look and feel right – and it’s often about pushing the boundaries of architecture, design, construction and innovation.”

A graduate of Trisakti University, from where he graduated with a degree in Architecture and Planning, Setiady joined Agung Podomoro in 1999. During the past two decades he has played a significant role in the conceptual designs and schematic planning of his company’s malls. He also plays a major part in the development of the group’s hotels and resorts, notably Sofitel Nusa Dua Bali, Pullman Hotel in Central Park, Jakarta and Indigo Hotel in Seminyak, Bali.

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Discussing the future of his company’s malls, Setiady tells us: “We are positioning Senayan City to continue its evolution as a fashion and lifestyle destination, and as one of Jakarta’s leading shopping malls. My team and I are going to create a new experience for customers, a new standard of luxury retail and lifestyle. We are exploring new-to-market fashion brands, both international names and Indonesian ones. Many of these will be making their first appearances in Indonesia. Apart from fashion, we are upgrading our gastronomical and international dining experiences. From Western to Asian, there will be a plethora of diverse cuisines to satisfy diners at a whole new level.”

These are brave words to be sure, but in an era when there is an app for everything and more and more people routinely buy groceries and other essentials online, what kind of a future do malls really have? “To survive in the digital age, we must reinvent ourselves,” Setiady admits. “My team and I are fully aware that the e-commerce revolution and the rise of digital technologies are fundamentally reshaping consumer expectations.

“The function of retailers is shifting towards providing useful and entertaining customer experiences. While they need to reinvent themselves, brick-and-mortar stores still own most of the market share. There’s no need for them to panic. As mall operators, we are encouraging our brand partners and retailers to think about how they can make their stores more attractive. They should become destinations in themselves, places where people like to spend time and buy goods.

“Meeting the needs of consumers while responding to rapidly developing technologies and participative experiences will be the key to offering successful entertainment in malls and stores. We are also positioning more dining within retail areas. The idea is to create gastronomic ‘stop spots’ to attract shoppers.”

In line with this trend, Setiady believes families and friends will continue to socialise in malls, perhaps even more so as their buying habits change. Malls provide safe, comfortable and pleasant environments for families. “Shopping malls in Indonesia are still the best places in which to socialise in many cities, especially in Jakarta,” he observes.

“Even as today’s consumers embrace digital technologies, there are positive ways to respond to these trends. We must redefine the traditional shopping mall to adapt to this behaviour and get closer to consumers, and figure out how to meet their evolving wants and needs. That means rethinking the role of the shopping mall and adapting its strengths to those of the virtual world.

“During the next five years, Senayan City aims to be at the centre of people’s lives, to be a place that is the heart and soul of the community, and even a social sanctuary for millennials. My opinion is that great mall management plays a significant role in maintaining traffic and retail sales. Along with the malls, shoppers have changed as well. Today, shopping mall operators and retailers are finding that to stay competitive and attract shoppers, we must incorporate entertainment and unique experiences into the mix.

“Consumers are surrounded by both digital and conventional marketing in their day-to-day lives. We need to outsmart e-commerce businesses by providing unique and out-of-the-box experiences that you can only experience in brick-and-mortar stores. We must be proactive and innovative. Sensory marketing is one of the ways to succeed. Malls have an advantage in that, unlike e-commerce, they provide all five of the senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.

“To survive in the digital age, we need to strengthen our physical strategy. The way forward is to develop and operate iconic shopping centres in the world’s leading markets, in the areas where retailers want to have their flagship stores and consumers want to shop.”

How does Senayan City reach out to millennials? “By creating really great social media campaigns,” replies Setiady. “As the growth of users in Indonesia has increased rapidly from year to year, social media has begun playing an increasingly important role in Senayan City’s marketing strategy.

“For example, we used social media to spread the news of Senayan City’s latest all-day food-court dining concept, Delicae.  We began the campaign days before the launch, creating collaborations with culinary bloggers and influencers to attract the attention of avid food enthusiasts. We are pushing the boundaries of how food courts should look and operate at Senayan City, and Delicae has become the talk of the town. This development reflects the idea that food has usurped fashion as a force in the worlds of retail and travel. One example is the fast-growing trend towards healthy eating, driven by millennials desire to avoid becoming overweight.

“Then there was our highly successful Senayan City Sacred Ramadan campaign last June. Thanks to good postings on social media, the late-hour shopping festivities peaked with the highest sales recorded since the annual programme was first held in 2006.”

Setiady sees the rise of digital competition as an opportunity rather than a threat. “There is no doubt that digital technologies are transforming global lifestyles and changing the way we live, work, shop, eat, play and learn,” he declares. “My task as one of the leaders of Agung Podomoro is to create exciting new ways to meet Indonesian consumers’ needs and desires in the years ahead.

“As consumer tastes evolve, my team and I are making sure to lean in and be relevant to where they are. We continuously create generational marketing targeted to the younger crowds and millennials of today. Millennials love the next big thing, of course. So while shopping malls have to please a lot of different consumers spanning different generations, millennials are vital to our company.”

How much has the retail industry changed since Setiady first immersed himself in it? “So much!” he replies with a smile. “We pioneered the superblock concept, bringing together residential, retail, leisure and office space within one integrated high-rise development complex to create a pleasant and extremely convenient urban living space, with both sale and lease components.

“We have been responsible for bringing a number of iconic properties on the market. We have run 12 hotels and there are five new developments in the pipeline. Moreover, we operate 10 shopping malls and there are four new ones in the making.

“The retail industry has been changing dramatically for the past 10 years, but I think the shopping mall still can play a central role in urban societies. Based on my experiences of working with brand principals around the world, I believe that malls can still thrive. But to do so, my team and I need more than ever to focus our energies on evolution and innovation.”

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