With the liberalisation of the FDI policy, evolving consumer preferences and strengthening eCommerce in the country in India, mall developers are busy adapting their retail developments to the changing requirements and trends.
While increasing focus on planning and optimisation of retail spaces has been one of the most imperative transformations, the malls developers are also churning out strategies to offset the exponentially growing impact of online retail.
The rapidly evolving phenomenon of online retailing has had very perceptible ramifications on physical offline retailing. Due to increasing online shopping, it has become imperative for shopping mall developments to attract consumers by offering a superlative experience and conveniences. Introduction of newer concepts and retail formats positively impacts the footfalls for a shopping mall.
Today, customers are using multiple channel and information sources to make their desired purchases. They will continue to use the most convenient channel. There are regional differences in the adoption of technology; however, mobile commerce and social media commerce are game changers.
Mobile commerce is a powerful tool in the hands of consumer that allows them to match prices and even purchase online while being in the store. Likewise, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly influencing consumer decisions.
The message herein is that that the future has to be geared to provide more than retailing to the customer. Consumers expect retail venues to be the destination in their own right, with interesting ambience, the latest brands and a host of activities of leisure, F&B and social activities other than shopping. These will be the key differentiators for malls going forward. If I were to identify three key points on how retail spaces will need to evolve, they would be.
• Landlords must become flexible in the design of the space, layout, materials, etc. and make their retail spaces more vibrant by proving more leisure activity
• Stores must evolve to enable the consumer to use in-store technology to access a seamless online and offline shopping experience. Newer technology like holograms, virtual interactivity, socially networked shopping, 3Dexperience, etc. must find their way into stores.
• Providing experience retailing will be the need of the hour, and landlords must go the extra mile to bring a unique experience and emotional connect with customers and society at large. If a mall is to be a place for physical visits, it has to create a firm social connection via interactive means that compel consumer to physically be a part of the process.
• Further, the marketplace needs amplification in availability quality mall spaces. Brands do not prefer malls with sub-optimal design and low footfalls. In this respect, there is a need to optimise spaces in non-performing shopping malls by re-engineering them in terms of design and tenant mix. The importance of connectivity has also taken on a whole new context and meaning.
While the retail industry has always been aware of the need for adequate connectivity and parking, the increasing inconvenience of overall urban commuting has itself become a red signal. Public transport will now become a key driver, and malls that are accessible by public transport will have an edge over other shopping centres.
Retail Asset Management and a structured research play an important role in improving space utilisation in a shopping mall. Resetting retail spaces according to the requirement of various stakeholders is a vital and never-ending requirement that calls for both structural and operational modifications on a constant basis.
This article has been written by Anuj Puri, Chairman & Country Head, JLL India.