Voice of the month: Philippe Bacci, Innovation Manager at NHOOD, Mulliez Family Association.

Welcome to the « Welcome to the « Voice of the Month » series, where we showcase the experiences and insights of leaders in the tech and commercial real estate sectors.  » . Our guest this month is Philippe Bacci, Innovation Manager at NHOOD, a real estate services company (Association Familiale Mulliez). With operational experience as a Mall Director, Philippe Bacci brings a unique perspective to his role as Innovation Manager.  In this interview, we explore his background, expertise, and his reflections on the past and future of technology. Without delay, let’s delve into our conversation with Philippe Bacci, our Voice of the Month.

What’s daily life like for an innovation manager at NHOOD?

Today, I’d say I’m a facilitator, an intrapreneur for site transformation. On a day-to-day basis, I work with startups to integrate them into our roadmap and thus meet the challenges of retail. For example, we are shareholders in Euratechnologies,  which is how I met YOUrban. I’m also developing a pilot acceleration project in the AURA region where, through a call for applications, we selected 8 local startups to support them on the operational side with NHOOD and on the academic side with POLYPUS (fundraising, HR, sales, etc.). For example, the call for applications covered several themes: mobility, leisure, digital, tech and new services, as these are the subjects on which the group is focusing. Our ambition at NHOOD is to “Make places better”. So we need this gas pedal to do better and always offer better digital and customer experiences.

Could you tell us a little about your background ?

I’ve done different jobs. When I started out, I worked in site and brand marketing. Then I worked in development on prefiguration aspects – what sites under development might become. Then, for 7 years, I devoted myself to operations and site management – the life of a shopping center. On the strength of this experience, I wanted to propose a roadmap to my general management, in which I put forward a certain number of ideas and proposals to accelerate the transformation of sites, to capitalize on competitive advantages in site transformation in order to gain a strategic and operational advantage.

I then went back to school at EMLYON to discover and practice entrepreneurship in conjunction with my missions.s at NHOOD.  It is finally entrepreneurship that made me want to intraprise.

“There’s a need to innovate to meet consumers’ needs, because they are the real masters of usage.”

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing retail today ?

Commerce is a reflection of society: it invents nothing and adapts to its environment. Today, there are enormous social, political, economic and environmental changes. Consumer society is facing five major challenges:

  • an ecological crisis,
  • a crisis of confidence
  • an ethical crisis,
  • digital transformation,
  • concerns about purchasing power.

There are also numerous territorial divides: medium-sized towns and rural areas are becoming more precarious, while large cities concentrate the majority of wealth, the population is ageing, and family patterns are changing


Photographie réalisée par Bruno Cervera

There are many challenges facing the retail world, and these are driving major changes, such as the use of data. Today, we are truly a data-driven society. So we need to innovate, first to identify and then to respond to consumers’ needs, because they are the real masters of usage.

“Traditional modes of governance are no longer able to provide the impetus expected by the younger generations and digital natives.”

Photographie réalisée par Gustavo Fring

What does this paradigm shift mean for commercial real estate ?

It used to be that the big property companies and landlords would find a plot of land, market it, and decide where they were going to put the signs…

Today, not only can they no longer develop because of the ZAN (Zéro Artificialisation Net)

they have to do better at isoperimeter. What’s more, retailers are no longer in a development phase, but a restructuring phase. Finally, consumers want to be involved: they want to be associated in the process, in the choices that are made.

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift, and it is imperative that we work with hybrid modes of governance, because the vertical and traditional modes of governance are no longer capable of driving what the younger generations and digital natives expect.

In fact, if we had to retain two major axes of retail transformation, they would be :

  1. Have a positive impact on all our actions
  2. Offer a seamless, emotional experience.


“If we want to recreate flow, we have to recreate interest.”

What levers can be used to recreate traffic ?

My feeling is that if we want to recreate flow, we need to recreate interest. Today, commercial offers are no longer enough to convince: consumers want to be recognized before, during and after their visits. They want to experience something different. Otherwise, there’s no reason for them to waste time commuting to a shopping mall, whereas with Amazon, they can have everything without leaving home.

Jean Viard, a sociologist and author I’m particularly fond of, used to say that random meeting places were becoming increasingly rare. In fact, these days, people measure the value of real-life encounters before they travel, whether for personal or professional reasons. To become a real hub, the shopping center must therefore recreate interest so that people move.

Photographie réalisée par Startup Stock Photos

Why include collaboration with startups in your strategic business plan ?

We live in a world of uncertainty. To emerge from it, we need to have convictions and choose a future rather than suffer it. By partnering with startups, we are helping to build that future.

In addition, the pandemic has led to an acceleration in digital transformation, transforming a number of frames of reference. Startups have jumped on board because they are more flexible, faster and can develop more rapidly.

They enable us to test solutions and iterate much more quickly to find solutions to our customers’ problems. The ability to get out of the business is very complex in large structures, with administrative processes that are often very heavy and a verticality that is not necessarily suited to an iterative approach.

Today’s transformation is not simply a marketing issue, it’s a real culture shock that is transforming our day-to-day business and forcing us to question our model, to pivot, to work with different structures, to create our own innovation center… All managers are facing the same questions.

Photographie réalisée par Tima Miroshnichenko

What are the concrete benefits of such an alliance ?

Today, we’re looking for external expertise to meet the Group’s challenges. For example, we have a lot of agricultural land around our shopping centers, which cannot be built on. We are therefore carrying out a pilot project with FOODBIOME, an expert in agricultural issues, to provide an AMO solution for the reterritorialization of agricultural production. Finally, we have the land, but to develop the solution in-house, we need an expert. So, we’re not just going to add value to the land, but to the asset as a whole.

We’re at the dawn of increasingly important hybridizations: we used to work in silos, vertically.

Today, we’re going to work horizontally within the company, but also with all the Group’s brands. So it’s strategically important for us to get closer to startups to source all the nuggets we need to ensure our leadership in the future.

By working with startups, we accelerate the transformation of our business model, while at the same time acculturating our employees to a new way of operating, one that’s more iterative, faster, in sprint mode, daring to try things out… It also makes it possible to arouse vocations among the company’s employees, who can then benefit from support in developing their structure.

“Tomorrow’s shopping center is a 360° space that can respond to all needs and emotions”.

We’ve talked about the current challenges, but what about the opportunities ?

We have a very interesting area to develop.

There’s an axis for transforming agricultural land and parking lots. With modal shift, we could turn our centers into genuine random meeting places, where people can learn, relax, take care of themselves, grow old… We could bring together different uses by bringing together production, shops, industry, incubators, entrepreneurs…

There is also an opportunity for transformation in connection with mixed use, by compensating for or pre-empting what was sometimes devolved to public service. For example, to bridge the digital divide, we could make offices or training centers available, provide support for senior citizens, offer shared gardens, enable startups to exchange ideas with our end customers in spaces…

Ultimately, it’s a question of designing spaces that will help to create a memory, because we’re more likely to remember a concert than the purchase of a gourmet basket. In my opinion, the shopping center of tomorrow is a 360° space that can meet all my needs and emotions.

Photographie réalisée par Andrea Piacquadio

Let’s talk about the brakes, and in particular digital natives: the great absentees of shopping centers. How do you convince them to come back ?

Today, we can see the interest and importance of influencers in every field. Many communities are being created everywhere, as soon as you get into “non-branding“.

I imagine the shopping center of tomorrow as a place for communities, a hybrid place where people can meet for moments of zen, adrenaline, work… A space where contact – which is the great advantage of physical commerce – is paramount.

To attract digital natives, it’s necessary to create a community: a meeting place for people with shared values.

Today’s shopping center must be associated with content marketing, events and experiences. For example, it’s no longer enough to simply sell a drill; you need to bring in a drill specialist who will teach you how to choose and use it, and distribute this content widely online.

“The meeting point between digital and physical is the community.”


What’s your opinion on avatars, metavers and other digital solutions ?

The meeting point between the digital and the physical is the community.

Today, we still go to restaurants, but we can order on our smartphones using QR codes. Digital technology makes it possible to simplify exchanges with customers and to capitalise on data to better identify and respond to customer expectations.

Today, the question is how to engage local residents and build a community. So we need to find methods and tools to identify the needs of local residents and get them involved.

Before, we used to be influencers: we would build issues and then see if they worked. Today we need to be listeners: we need to stop doing cosmetic studies and really understand what local people need before launching a project.Groups like ours have done a lot of communicating about commitments before putting them in place. At Nhood, we want to get things done before we communicate.

This is also why solutions such as YOUrban, which are capable of photographing people’s expectations in real time, are essential because they are objective. In this way, they can bring all the players together around the table to create meaningful projects.

Photographie réalisée par Andrea Piacquadio

How do you work successfully with a start-up ?

Many ‘play’ the innovation game by meeting start-ups in quick succession and then giving them no further sign of life by the time it’s time to sign a contract. Startup managers don’t have time for this kind of posturing: they’ve invested time and money in their company, so they need to be taken into account and not made to wait for nothing.

So the first step is to sound out the real desire on both sides to move forward together, before looking for a start-up.

The second step is to identify start-ups with potential. Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to source the right projects:

  • Does it fit in with the company’s strategy?
  • Does it meet a business need?
  • Do I believe in its leader?

The third step consists of presenting the projects to the group and selecting the startups with which we will be working. It is therefore crucial that the start-ups can demonstrate :

  • Their ability to explain the benefits of their solution for our company
  • Their ability to draw us into their story.
  • Perseverance and flexibility.

At the same time, we need to find intrapreneurial allies to defend our projects internally and manage change.

Your advice to start-ups who come to you to sell their solution ?

Before selling a solution, talk to the people in the company to understand their needs.

Take YOUrban, for example. Instead of simply presenting your solution, you explained what it meant and why. You asked us what we expected, what we were interested in. You didn’t try to make us fit into your boxes but rather to understand how your solution could fit into ours.

Any innovations you’d recommend to our readers ?

Yes, an organizational innovation. Some companies organise COMEX SHADOWS : they bring in someone from outside the management committee to open up the chakras. It can be interesting to bring in people with expertise and vision to feed into the group’s vision.

Today, we can’t transform the company by reproducing models. So we need to invest in people who are committed, who have an entrepreneurial culture and hybrid profiles with a desire to change things.


Philippe Bacci has been working for 10 years at NHOOD,  a property services company for shopping centre chains and the AFM (Association Familiale Mulliez). His mission is to give life to NHOOD’s ambition: to make places better. To achieve this, he is focusing on innovation to meet the challenges of transforming sites by working with start-ups identified through the incubation and acceleration programmes in which the AFM (Association Familiale Mulliez) ecosystem is a shareholder.