Customers are very demanding and malls have to live up to their expectation of a true experiential centre. Besides proper retail tenant-mix with entertainment and F&B options, malls also need to focus on excellent hospitality, unique events, and smart digital platforms that can better engage with the customer – these will prove a game-changer in attracting footfalls.
A mall can either compete on price or on differentiation in services offered. For a better customer experience, mall operators need to bank heavily on cutting-edge technology which extends to the loyalty schemes; make the visit a fun experience all across the mall, in the retail stores, in the cinemas, and in the event/game zones; food courts can always add some surprise along with the meals; and above all, need to empower and invest in employees who will deliver the excellence in hospitality.
It is a growing trend now that online retailers are partnering with offline shopping centres and stores. “Buy online and pick at store” draws extra footfalls, which can eventually enlist fresh buying. The mall and stores can also say “buy in store and get it delivered at home”, which will facilitate customers who are not going back home after shopping.
Every good service and product needs a better awareness mechanism that conveys, engages and attracts. Through digital marketing, the mall can engage and encourage customers to share their personal experience. Experiential marketing like fashion shows, beauty tips, themed restaurants, make the customers feel special. Through partnership marketing between tenants health-beauty-fashion stores can team up, or restaurants-department stores can team up to create a new buzz. Traditional marketing tools to attract footfalls requires frequent refreshing of visual merchandising, offering complementary services, and so on.
Transforming malls into a community and cultural hub experience is something that only shopping centres can best specialize in, and this can be a key focus of efforts in drawing footfalls. To get better ideas on the subject, we present below views of industry experts Dr Samantak Das, Chief Economist at Knight Frank India and Ms Ankita Sood, Lead Consultant-Research, Knight Frank India and Mr Abhishek Bansal, ED-Pacific India Group:
Bringing back the customer – Engaging customers and increasing footfalls in Malls
By Dr Samantak Das, Chief Economist, National Director – Research, Knight Frank India with inputs from Ms Ankita Sood, Lead Consultant – Research, Knight Frank India
The shopping centre format and buyer behaviour has seen a massive change in the last few decades in India. Starting from the simple ‘Plaza culture’ in the 1990s to the current crème de la crème malls, shopping centres have most definitely come a long way from conceptualisation indiscretions like poor design, unviable locations and poor commercialisation.
But is this enough?
The online market place is the latest edition to the retail format and it is here to stay, thanks to the technology savvy millennials, India is quickly becoming a global destination for online retailers. With internet users expected to reach over 500 million towards mid-2018 and the speed at which this ‘click-and-sell’ model has panned out in the last half decade has compelled brick-and-mortar formats to sit up and take stock of the situation.
Shopping centres today cannot let themselves be a mere aggregation of fancy stores but have to be a reflection of the aspirations, lifestyle and positioning of a city and its people, if they have to survive the wave of online retail. So how does one attract a buyer to a store and then convert that footfall into billing? Why would buyers walk into a store when they can get everything via a computer or cell phone? The only way would be by synergizing the basic principles of retailing with new technology.
The right product mix – F&B and entertainment to call the shots
Shopping malls will have to be remodelled and rearranged into recreation centres offering more than just shopping. They have to be experience destinations with an array of F&B and entertainment options to lure footfalls. This transition in the product mix is evident from the growing share of F&B in the overall mall space, which has increased from 8–9% to 15–20% over the past few years. For instance, the share of F&B in the most recent DLF Mall of India in Noida is as high as 40%. Malls have realised that F&B options act as a major pull so it becomes imperative to choose the right brands to shape the footfalls of the mall.
Customer engagement – Food, music, movies, activities!
A customer might not want to shop, but if the mall engages him through promotions and events, such as food festivals, music concerts and other such events, the likelihood of that footfall converting into sales increases manifold.
Customer experience – Bringing the brand to your closet
Buyers are attracted to sellers that make them feel special at the first instance. To enhance this further, today, brands are emphasising on design elements like space, ambience, aesthetics and privacy while putting up a store. In this way, stores are becoming an instrument to tell the story of the brand’s heritage or showcasing the launch of their new line.
Nondescript will not hold – The power of visual merchandising
In simple words, visual merchandising is the arrangement of the store through props, mannequins, fixtures and backdrop that attracts a customer to a store. It also uses sensory elements like music, scents, etc. to awaken the senses of the buyer. All these elements put together not only add aesthetic value to the store but also help showcase the products to the buyers.
Technology to the rescue – A step ahead of your customer
Even though e-commerce is backed by technology it is also helping the brick-and-mortar stores to tag their customers and lure them to the stores. Technology like ‘Bluetooth-assisted beacons’ to track mobiles of potential buyers in the vicinity and send them messages about offers is being used by many stores. Other tools for engaging customers involve using artificial intelligence and augmented reality through which the retailers are able to track down the potential buyers.
In a nutshell
Technology penetration in retail is only set to grow from here, and so will the expectations of buyers for every rupee they spend. The brick-and-mortar formats will have to harmonise technology with the human experience that will give them an edge over the online platform and thus bring back footfalls to the stores.
West Edmonton Mall, Canada
Encouraging repeat visits is crucial to mall marketing
By Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific India Group
The growing popularity of online retail is providing consumers with more and more choices, which is making it tougher for brick-and-mortar players to win back the loyalty of customers. But if you’re willing to play the game, you can offer things that no online retailer can compete with.
The key is in giving customers a good reason to come into your store. In our experience, increasing footfall in physical stores count on two areas: Customer Experience – encouraging consumers to return to your business; and Marketing – increasing awareness of your business among new customers.
Short term lease – To keep our customer excited in a market that is so dynamic with an influx of new international brands, it is necessary to have shorter leases so that there is freshness in offerings and ambience. This requires constant evaluation of the performance of various brands before renewing the lease. Rental yield is obviously an important part of our portfolio.
Hospitality – Hospitality plays a vital role to ensure repeat visits of customers, whether it is a mall or hotel. Repeat customers are the foundation of any successful business, hence the malls have to be on their toes, always working out ways to encourage and maintain customer loyalty. At Pacific, we have an international mall management company and the first priority is to ensure customer friendly environment. In C1 (Customer First) program the emphasis is to continuously train and groom both the on-roll and out-sourced staff to establish high standards in customer interaction and excellent shopping experience.
Security services – It is essential to invest in state of the art security management service and surveillance systems which also involves continuous renovations and up-gradation of customer service areas to enhance customer experience.
Special services – Offering a host of essential services helps attract and retain customers – these are travel agency, salon, car spa, kid’s play area, ATMs, baby care rooms, pram services, mobile power bank service, infirmary, tailoring services, etc. This way the mall also caters to the day-to-day seemingly trivial but vital needs of customers and encourages a sense of attachment and frequent visits.
Unique events – Customers now look for a holistic experience and it is important to engage with them on an emotional level. At Pacific mall we are aggressive in creating specialised and unique marketing events, like Queen’s Wednesday; Live acts such as magician shows, jugglers, acrobat, unicycle acts on every 2nd and 4th Saturday; Musical Fridays, etc. We are also a favourite host for Auto Arcade every year. Then we have #FashionFridays where we present a celebrity fashion & styling tips video blogger every first Friday of the month.
Customer experience – Customers look for experiences that surpass conventional shopping, it is more about entertainment and spending quality time with family and friends. Digital technology is helping enhance customer engagement, which in turn stimulates footfalls, besides boosting sales. Providing a wide array of national and global brands, Big-box retail, play zones and enthralling events add up to the overall experience.
Technology – Technology plays an important role in providing mall management and engagement solutions. We use Cloud based applications to empower teams to help them deliver higher productivity & efficiency. This includes services like Real time CSI & RSI Management System, Retailer and Customer Analytics, automated system for logging and tracking of complaints, and centralized one-point system to track consumption of all utilities throughout the mall, to name a few.
Zoning & tenant mix – A shopping centre thrives on the success of its tenants. Creating the right tenant mix helps in attracting and retaining visitors by offering varied choices. Proper zoning of the mall facilitates ease of location od specific services and products, smooth movement of shoppers within the mall, and avoids unnecessary clusters and confusions.
All said, finally it is the Entertainment and F&B category that is major footfall driver in a mall and a properly planned entertainment-food partnership can attract customers and their entire families to a variegated choice of fun and cuisine.