Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Milena Maksić, Digital Account Director, Ovation BBDO
Exactly sixty years ago, in October 1956, the world’s first shopping mall opened its doors. In the decades that followed, especially in the original market, the US, shopping malls and large department stores have evolved and grown, becoming a sort of a pillar and symbol of the consumer society. Today, however, they are at a crossroads. In developed markets, the future of the traditional closed-space shopping center is more uncertain than ever. The famous department stores Macy’s and Sears have already closed hundreds of its retail outlets, and about 200 shopping malls in the United States are at risk of closure in the near future, according to the latest Green Street Advisors and InReality research.
In a situation when the number of visitors is declining, and lessees are seeing ever slower business, there is more and more vacant space. The ones who survive are those who are able to transform themselves and keep pace with new technologies, changing the structure of lessees, and, above all, place the focus on the visitors, who want to buy when and how it suits them. They spend increasingly more time online, searching through offers and recommendations on social networks, finding inspiration on blogs, making choices in web stores, and they want to pay without waiting at the cash register. For consumers empowered by information from online sources, visit to the store now primarily serves to confirm the decision taken before the arrival at the shopping mall. There is still a need to see, touch or try the product, but the expectations from the experience of visiting a store are now higher – the consumer wants to buy with the same ease and speed that they can have online. Also, a growing number of customers use mobile devices in stores – from checking offers of a specific dealer (or its competitor) through consultations with friends via apps like Viber and WhatsApp, to updating their social media accounts while waiting in line. Therefore, for the shopping mall, as well as for all the existing and potential lessees in all fields, the largest challenge is to create shopping experience where the advantages of online and offline world intersect.
Shopping malls that are pioneers in innovation, such as London’s Westfield, create new opportunities for its visitors, enabling them to buy online, and then pick up their products in person, on arrival at the shopping mall. In addition, the stores offer the possibility to scan selected items with a smartphone, and pay online, on the spot, without waiting at the cash register. Thus the visitor is left with more time to enjoy in other segments of the offer. The very structure of lessees is changing with the aim of better quality and more differentiated consumer experience. More and more lessees offer services – shops give way to gyms, playrooms, movie theaters, restaurants, beauty salons, dental offices. Even indoor karting tracks.
In order to keep the interest of their visitors, shopping malls are building social media presence and are organizing various activations, promotions and events, trying to attract attention and impress their visitors, both online and offline – through installations at events inside the building, AR, VR gaming experiences and other forms of entertainment in which visitors will want to participate or take photos of and share them on their social networks.
Mobile apps of shopping malls are also undergoing significant improvements. In addition to providing information about the offers, promotions and discounts, they are also a source of valuable data about visitors, their needs, expectations and behavior, and are a great basis for the development of good communication with each individual. A dedicated approach and CRM can make a difference over the competition, whether online or offline. From personalized message that an app sends to the user at the door, or locating free space in the parking lot, through notifications about offers that are relevant to the individual, to the mapping of their journey through the facility and proposals on where and what they can find – a shopping mall is at service to the individual, something like a personal assistant in shopping.
And although more and more shopping malls in the fight for survival recognize the importance of changing their business paradigm, investment in technological solutions and attracting non-standard lessees, it remains to be seen how many players will actually succeed in the ultimate goal – to create a unique shopping experience for consumers in every sense. For them, time is the ultimate luxury, so shopping malls need to deliver a good reason for them to spend that time in their physical space. They need to respect their time, understand their needs and exceed their expectations. They have to ensure the right mix of brands, products and services in one place, and even more than that – they have to entertain consumers. They need to provide a reason for the visit, for the purchase, for the recommendation. Experience.
And even more importantly – a reason to come back.