How malls are gearing up to address the eCommerce-savvy consumers?

Mall developers have been conducting incessant research to determine the preferences of their prospective customers so as to provide them with an ultimate shopping experience combined with boundless entertainment, says Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director,
Pacific Mall, New Delhi

Gone are the days when shopping malls in India were among the favorite haunts for people to shop and socialise. As more and more consumers of the 21st century prefer spending a major share of their money online through mobile phones and apps, shopping malls in the country are leaving no stone unturned to re-invent themselves to cater to the evolving needs of e-commerce- acquainted customers.

As consumers are increasingly shifting to online shopping, malls are gearing up to make their offerings more attractive by transforming themselves and setting up more salons, spas, eateries, cafes, entertainment zones and even gyms to compete with the sudden explosion in online shopping.

In order to catch the consumers’ imaginations, many shopping malls in India have also multiplied the frequency of eye-catching events such as fashion shows, auditions, multi-cuisine festivals, exhibitions, book fairs, and live music concerts. Some shopping malls are also setting up eCommerce website to enable its tenants to sell online; however, buyers have to visit the mall in order to collect their deliveries.

In order to offer an amusing ambiance that appeals to the senses of customers, shopping malls are revamping themselves in three dimensions—

Space: Mall developers are becoming more flexible to adapt themselves to the changing scenario of shopping. In order to transform un-utilised space in the malls into highly productive, mall developers have started utilising their space in a different way.

The size of large retail stores in shopping malls are now shrinking as mall owners are increasingly reducing the size of retail stores to accommodate more global brands, international food outlets and amusement areas.

At the same time, malls are allotting adequate community spaces for hosting promotional events and exciting activities to provide visitors with a unique experience of shopping and entertaining themselves, simultaneously.

F&B: Recreational and F&B spaces now form the most important component of shopping malls. As per reports, while the space for retail stores in Indian malls is shrinking, the space allotted to food courts and amusement areas has gone up by almost 20 per cent. For example, though it is a common practice for shopping malls to dedicate the top floor to food outlets, many mall developers are now bringing eateries to almost every floor of the mall since they are a big attraction to keep shoppers coming. 

Mall developers are also overhauling the concept of food court by introducing branded international cuisine experts. Shopping and eating go hand in hand. In the past, people used to visit malls for the purpose of shopping and they used to eat at the food court to take a break from shopping. Presently, people visit shopping malls mainly to relish exotic cuisines and they may end up shopping, as and when any product catches their fancy.

Thus, mall developers have started offering dining options to visitors at every floor so that they can get a panoramic view of the different showrooms and their irresistible in-store displays while dining.

Zoning: Zoning concept, as a trend is catching up fast in India to create the ideal tenant mix and facilitate the smooth movement of consumers in shopping malls. Zoning indicates the distribution of space in a mall for positioning different retailers on the basis of different categories.

In order to keep pace with this trend, malls are slotting space for specific retail categories on each floor of their mall. Taking cue from the West, Indian mall developers are allotting the first floor to kids and ladies section, while the ground floor is allocated to global luxury brands as it has the largest footfalls and the highest rental, compared to other floors.

As per this concept, the second and third floors of a mall are allotted to home furnishing and consumer durables segment. Zoning also helps avoid bottlenecks besides allowing international brands to steal the limelight.

Customer Engagement: Since the millennial shopper is not easy to please, shopping malls in India are going hi-tech to survive the eCommerce craze by taking innovative measures to spur footfall and boost sales by enhancing customer engagement.

Customer engagement solutions such as interactive floor displays or interactive kiosks installed in shopping malls play a key role in drawing more visitors by reducing the rate of walk-outs. Audio-visual technology has been contributing greatly to capture the interest of shoppers by—

·         increasing the frequency of their visit

·         driving sales

·         ethe average volume of transaction

·         helping retail stores win customer loyalty

Shopping malls are also utilising advanced analytics for making targeted offers and providing tailored services to their consumers. Data-driven insights help retailers to determine the patterns of customer traffic, optimum inventory levels, and optimal distribution routes, besides improving customer’s shopping experience.

By accumulating data pertaining to transactions, customer’s feedback and customer interaction, malls can easily predict the buying habit of their customers so as to design ways to offer an improved shopping experience that will tempt shoppers to visit the mall again.

The Road Ahead: Glowing or Gloomy?

Mall developers have been investing a considerable amount of their time and money to face the intense competition from eCommerce sites. Experiential marketing strategy formulated by mall developers to compete with eCommerce will go a long way in driving sales by developing an emotional connection with consumers.

Though eCommerce has gained the upper hand and presents a threat to shopping malls, a majority of shoppers still prefer to experience the feel of the products before purchasing them. Thus, shopping malls will continue to evolve and grow with time by following a dynamic approach and adhering to innovative retail-business models.

 

The article has been written by Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Mall.

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