Shopping centre developers must make more use of technology and the internet to engage with consumers if they want to remain relevant to a new generation of shoppers, delegates at the World Retail Congress in Berlin were told today.

Architect Eric Kuhne, best known for his seminal work at Bluewater, said that the shopping centre in the southeast of England is looking at creating a “third, virtual floor” for the two-storey mall, which would create an online community of about 180 retailers not physically present in Bluewater.

Kuhne said that those retailers taking part would then be given the first option to take physical space in the mall as it became available, he said.

Ronan Faherty, commercial director of Land Securities, which opens its One New Change shopping centre in the City of London on Thursday, said that as a developer/landlord, Land Securities was increasingly focusing on how it might embrace and use social networking and other technological advances.

Faherty said that Land Securities has used Facebook as part of its marketing campaign for its new scheme in Leeds and has achieved very positive local consumer engagement.

“We are looking at the complete customer journey, right from when they leave home to come to one of our shopping centres,” he said. “Public realm in our centres is becoming incredibly important. Once you create the right environment for people, then you get dwell.”

Isak Halfon, executive vice-president, international expansion at Mango, added that he believed shoppers would be drawn to large regional malls but that adapting to a new technological age would be far more difficult for smaller shopping centres. “I believe the future will be about the large, iconic shopping centres,” he reflected.