Mall of the future, in the online era

By Susil Dungarwal, Sole Promoter & Chief Mall Mechanic® of Beyond Squarefeet

Footfalls in Malls have declined steadily, since the advent of the Online shopping portals, who are able to offer the merchandise to the consumers at their doorstep. Will this stop the consumers from going to the Mall? Not really. Will the Malls shut down? Not really… then what? The Malls are an inflection point for the consumers, hence the Malls of the future will have to be re-invented, than just following the age-old way of developing them with being Shopping centric. Malls will now have to offer the consumer, beyond shopping. No longer are consumers primarily visiting a mall for shopping. Today, consumer is not looking at only shopping as a reason to go to a Mall, they are expecting that the Malls, should be able to offer options beyond Shopping, as shopping is now done on their palms, thanks to the portal online options available to the consumers.

Indian Malls, are most impacted by this scenario, than their international counter-parts, as the online business in India is growing at very fast pace. While we are not sure how long will this scenario continue, Mall developers are sprucing up their Malls & offering a complete experience to the customers. Gone are the days, when a Mall developer would sleep over such trends, today, Malls also have stiff competition from the industry itself. The digital transformation of Shopping is not all bad news for Malls. On the contrary, it presents new opportunities for Malls to engage consumers throughout their decision journeys.

To ensure that the Malls are not left behind, Mall developers, have no choice but to create more reasons for consumers to come to the Malls than just for shopping, as shopping can be done anywhere, it the overall experience & engagement that will keep the consumer come back to Malls again & again. Malls developers, who can understand the current trends & also envisage the future, will have to gear-up for the future, which is in the interest of their asset/Mall. The Malls of future will have to be planned much beyond shopping; they have to be an epicenter for Entertainment, Enjoyment, Experience, Engagement, Experiment, Enthralling, Eatertainment, Edutainment, and many more.

The Malls of the future will have to offer the consumers an all-inclusive experience & should be able to engage with the consumers for over 4-6 hours. The category mix of the Malls will have to change drastically. Previously, most malls were 70% Shopping & 30% F & B and Entertainment. This will now have to be reversed with more allocation of space to F&B, Entertainment, Amusement, etc.

The other key element, which will have to change in the Mall industry, is the size of the Mall. If the offerings of a Mall have to change, the first impact would be on the size. Gone are the days, when you can build a one or two lakh sq.ft. Malls. Now anything below a Million sq. ft. in Metros & about half million sq. ft. in Tier I towns would be treacherous. The size has to be changed to accommodate the new experience points for the consumers.

Malls of the future will have to be technology friendly, which shall help the malls to transform mall usability as a means of improving customer satisfaction. Today, There is ample opportunity for malls to decrease customer pain points, while simultaneously creating entirely new delight points. Technology, for instance, can be used to address one of the biggest challenges shoppers face at the mall – finding parking. Sensors located in parking lots detect how many spots are available on each level and give visual indicators to drivers. Once within the mall, mobile apps can offer quick, easy guides to help shoppers find what they’re looking for at today’s increasingly large and multi-level malls. Technology shall drive the future malls in inviting & retaining consumers, regularly.

Malls cannot anymore be perceived as real estate projects, but will have to be taken seriously as Retail business, with greater involvement from the Mall developers. Retailers, on their part, will also have to evolve and offer the consumers the experience more than just merchandise.

The world of shopping is changing rapidly, but a Mall can become a community center for both urban & rural consumers. The Mall developers can seize the current opportunity & spurs up their Malls, and re-inventor re-orient them, in such a manner that not only are they future ready, also when the “Online” shopping dies eventually, they will be better geared up to take-on from there. Size, Offering & Technology would be the key ingredients of the Malls of Future.


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