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Anticipating the needs and expectations of customers

A “customer journey” through Venice

The Rialto Bridge is an icon of Venetian architecture. It is also a 500-year-old paradigm of modern-day leisure ecosystems. Built in 1591, with two inclining ramps in a nod to the original wooden structure that allowed Venetians to cross over to the Rialto market without hindering boat traffic on the Grand Canal, the rows of shops along its sides were originally conceived as a means of raising taxes to pay for maintenance.

Little could the architect, Antonio da Ponte, have imagined that centuries later his creation would be a major attraction for millions of tourists, or that the rows of little shops would continue to make a roaring trade. Without the benefits of 21st-century technology, which enables developers of real estate assets to study the expectations and necessities of potential visitors, da Ponte had incorporated behavioural design into his plans.

In fact, the Rialto Bridge is just one piece that fits perfectly into another leisure ecosystem on an even grander scale. It’s as if the city of Venice itself, with its gleaming canals, its palaces on wooden legs, and rooftops adorned with carved angels was tailor-made for leisure.  Visitors wandering along its winding alleys are met with cultural, historical and architectural surprises at every turn. And of course there are shops too, selling a range of consumer products from ice creams and fridge magnets to designer bags and Mardi Gras masks.

In this sense, Venice is a perfect role model for mixed use projects. However, attempting to emulate the “customer journey” of its tourists is not without pitfalls. While visitors to Venice may well relish a trip down the Grand Canal in a gondola, and on disembarking, may feel the impulse to purchase a pair of sunglasses in a nearby store or a pizza in a restaurant by the waterside, a trip in a gondola in their local shopping centre may, unfortunately, have less appeal.

Sometimes, during the process of developing real estate assets, in an attempt to recreate the feel-good effect that works so well elsewhere, elements that do not necessarily fit well together are copied and implemented without a clear and coherent strategy.

The Frankenstein effect

At theleisureway, we call this the Frankenstein effect. Victor Frankenstein, with his scientific curiosity and eagerness to create life, paid no heed to the emotional needs of his creation. He stole skin, bones, and limbs from an array of corpses, stitched all the pieces together, and then gave his hideous creature the gift of life. But in his naivety, Frankenstein had neglected the creature’s feelings. By failing to anticipate emotional needs, he conceived a monster, which in the end turned against its creator.

If a mixed use project is to create a memorable feel-good effect on its users, an effect so profound that they will return again and again in the same way that many tourists return to Venice, it is not enough to simply pick and mix concepts that have worked well in projects in other cities around the globe.

Of course, leisure ecosystems must be developed with the latest tendencies in mind, but before they are given the spark of life, there must be assurances that the arms and legs of each project are in harmony with the heart and soul. 

Creating social hubs that are a home from home

At theleisureway, we carry out extensive market research that enables us to anticipate and prioritize the emotional and physical needs and expectations of shoppers. This research is used to conceive tailor-made customer journeys, which, like the canals of Venice, are the arteries of our leisure ecosystems.  Each and every one of our projects has its own heartbeat. We design real estate assets to measure, with unique identities that are in sink not only with the climate, the economy, and the culture of the geographical region, but also with the behavioural patterns of the people who live there.

We aim not only to avoid the trap of the Frankenstein effect, but above all to create leisure ecosystems that are, like the bridges and piazzas of Venice, at once familiar, and full of surprises—social hubs that feel like a home from home.    

Do you need a leisure strategy?

We can help you to develop your bespoke leisure strategy in any of our areas: hospitality & leisure resorts, shopping & mixed use, leisure architecture, playgrounds, family leisure destinations, urban realm & leisure landscape,education & working environments and food court living