Light installation of traditional chinese paper lantern hanging above a illuminated tree in front of the shopping center Taikoo Li Sanlitun in the city of Beijing, China.
#Inspiration    25/06/2019

The power of placemaking with light

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It’s undeniable that online retailers have been game-changers in offering convenience and speed. As a result, today’s shoppers have radically different expectations of the so-called “traditional shopping experience”.  The experience is still essential but traditional has to give way to innovative, tailored experiences that offer compelling reasons for shoppers to visit. One way to achieve this is by using the one thing that brick-and-mortar retailers have that online retailers don’t:  a physical space in which create real-time and true-life experiences that turn spaces into destinations.

Most retailers have taken steps to make their spaces more attractive by including entertainment and service-oriented retailers in their tenant mix, but this is now the status quo. To offer an exceptional experience, retailers need to do more. And many are: from organizing events like concerts and fashion shows to investing in activity-based attractions like wave pools, ice rinks, climbing walls and even rollercoasters, retailers are changing how people view physical retail outlets.

Not all retail spaces have the luxury of an unlimited pot of money to invest in creating these sorts of attractions, however. Most center managers have a fixed space, a pre-defined budget and significant pressure to drive footfall. How can they compete with online retailers and nearby brick-and-mortar outlets? We believe that the answer lies in placemaking with light.

Flexible, emotive and fully-customizable to fit any space and need, light can form the backbone of creative placemaking initiatives of all shapes and sizes.

Becoming the heart of your community

Take Zagreb Arena in Croatia and their successful placemaking campaign that involved light and the community. The center wanted to engage and energize locals, so they encouraged people to collect old PET bottles to help create a new type of festive display. These were delivered to the center and were affixed to a tree-shaped frame designed by MK Illumination, then threaded with light chains. The result was unique co-created Christmas tree that turned Zagreb Arena into destination for all ages. By understanding the public mood and launching a campaign that connected with people’s values, the center not only increased footfall but also raised its media profile and firmly positioned itself as an important part of the community.

How could you use light, design and local campaigns as part of your placemaking efforts?

A light park in a shopping center

The UK’s Bluewater Shopping Center took a completely different approach to placemaking with light by creating a mini Light Park in their outdoor areas. Light-filled trees, 3D light sculptures of deer—including two stags with glorious antlers—and illuminated outdoor structures transformed the grounds into a magical winter experience, giving visitors even more reasons to visit the popular retail space.

Incorporating Light Parks into retail spaces is a simple and effective form of placemaking and one that can work year-round. Use a Light Park to offer visitors a themed experience that combines light, art, unique photo opportunities and even animated and interactive lighting displays, or create a Light Trail that winds its way through indoor and outdoor spaces and couple it with a market and live entertainment.

The only limit is your imagination.

Offer interactivity and one-of-a-kind light installations

When it comes to placemaking, interactivity is increasingly important thanks to the high-tech world that we inhabit and here too, light can be a powerful tool. China’s Taikoo Li Sanlitun center is a prime example of this. To celebrate Chinese New Year, they created a custom-designed, interactive display that invited visitors to strike a gong that triggered a light show, sending ripples of light through a sky of floating lanterns and then into the branches of a 3D tree. Shoppers lined up to be part of the fun, sending their Chinese New Year wishes into the heavens. The interactivity met high visitor expectations and generated both footfall and publicity.

Ready to harness the power of light as part of a placemaking campaign?

These examples show how powerful lighting can be as part of a placemaking campaign, but many more examples exist. Curious? Get in touch and let our team of experts shed some light on what’s possible in your space.

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