Traditional shopping malls are facing an identity crisis. Changing consumer preferences and shopping habits have resulted in diminished foot traffic and reduced sales. Technology has made it possible for consumers to order products of any kind from any corner of the world. If you want such people to step out of their homes, you have to lure them with a compelling reason especially in a post-Covid world.
It isn’t surprising that many shopping mall operators are trying to reinvent and reposition their properties. The key is to transform your mall into an upscale destination that offers multi-sensory entertainment. You have to curate an exclusive customer experience that will encourage visitors to keep coming back. That is why many retailers and shopping mall owners are shifting their focus to open-air shopping centers.
Also known as strip malls, the concept of open-air shopping centers isn’t a new one. In recent years, it has garnered traction due to the grim future of traditional shopping malls. Unlike enclosed malls, an open-air shopping center includes rows of stores spread over an area with a sidewalk or pavement in front. Think of it as an organized “high street” with the comfort of a mall.
Here are a few reasons open-air shopping centers are becoming popular:
1. Reduced Operating Costs
Unlike traditional malls, open-air shopping centers don’t require central air conditioning throughout the year. Instead, you can create an outdoor seating area that lets visitors enjoy a pleasant and windy day. This means you only have to install air conditioners for individual stores. It helps minimize power consumption and ultimately reduces the overall operating cost of the property.
Likewise, an open-air shopping center eliminates the need to install artificial lights in every corner. You can easily leverage daylight to illuminate common seating areas and walkways. Even if you install lights in these places, you don’t have to switch them on during the day. Such shopping centers are often smaller in size, thus reducing overheads even further.
The reduction in operating costs creates a win-win situation for both property developers and tenants. It prevents the rent from skyrocketing and helps lure more retailers, including small and local businesses. This, in turn, enables you to curate a diverse array of stores for customers.
2. Increased Visibility
The architecture and design of open-air shopping centers ensure that individual tenants get maximum visibility. Carefully placed signage can grab a consumer’s attention even before they step inside the shopping center. The key is to be in the line of sight of a consumer while they are in the neighborhood. This is in contrast to enclosed malls where visitors must set foot inside the building to find what stores are available.
Let’s say there is a gym located right across your shopping center. A person stepping out after a strenuous exercise session won’t be interested in window shopping at a mall. However, if a smoothie bar at your shopping center catches their attention, they might drop in to quench their post-workout hunger pangs. This can go a long way to drive foot traffic and increase sales.
3. A Unique Shopping Experience
Here’s the thing - modern consumers won’t step out of the comfort of their homes just to buy something. From apparel and footwear to makeup and accessories - they can get anything delivered at their doorstep. When they make an effort to go out, they likely want to spend quality time with their friends and family. It isn’t surprising that they are always on the lookout for exclusive and memorable experiences.
Open-air shopping centers are a perfect fit in this picture. This is because it can turn a routine chore such as grocery shopping into a fun family outing. While the parents pick up the essentials, the kids can enjoy playtime at the in-house park. Likewise, such establishments are a great place to hang out with friends over some fast food or coffee.
It is also worth mentioning that open-air shopping centers often stand out from the crowd of lookalike shopping malls. This, in turn, generates a buzz and helps attract more foot traffic. You should, however, leverage the outdoor space to its fullest potential. From installing a few benches around a garden to building an extensive amphitheater - the possibilities are endless.
4. Steady Traffic
Open-air shopping centers often rely on anchor tenants such as grocery stores, salons, gyms, etc. These are places that people regularly visit to fulfill their essential needs. This, in turn, ensures a steady flow of foot traffic and revenue. Moreover, it ensures that your existing customers keep coming back, thus boosting customer retention and loyalty.
It is worth noting that when such customers visit, it increases the visibility of other tenants as well. This, in turn, tempts them to check out other stores and increases the duration of their visit. It can go a long way to drive conversions for these tenants. It is, however, essential that retail tenants devise new ways to engage with frequent visitors. It could be in the form of seasonal discounts, messages built on personalization, exclusive products, pop-up shops, etc.
5. E-commerce Alliance
Despite the vast reach of online stores, e-commerce businesses often struggle to strengthen brand reputation and customer retention. They often establish a few brick-and-mortar outlets to connect with their audience. This is where open-air shopping centers step into the picture. The steady flow of foot traffic makes these retail establishments easy targets for e-commerce businesses.
The best part is that it creates a win-win situation for both parties. While the e-commerce business finds an opportunity to connect with your frequent visitors, you can also reach out to their customers. This, in turn, connects you with an audience that wouldn’t have visited your shopping center otherwise. It is particularly crucial when you want to target new demographics such as tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z members.
6. A Hub of Entertainment
The presence of a large outdoor space creates immense possibilities for entertaining your visitors. From fashion shows and cooking contests to live screenings of football matches - you can organize various events. You can even organize weekly farmers’ markets, art workshops, yoga classes, etc. Such events help you attract visitors from different walks of life and help start a conversation about your shopping center.
The key is to drive a sense of community and curate a memorable experience for first-time visitors. This, in turn, will encourage them to bring their friends and family for the next event. Ultimately, it will help you build a huge pool of regular visitors. It will also reposition your shopping center as a new-age destination that combines shopping with entertainment.
It is, however, essential to promote these events through online and offline channels. You can install signages to inform passersby about upcoming events. Likewise, you can ask visitors to add check-ins on their social media profiles. You can also use a shopping mall marketing software to send event updates to customers who are connected to the guest Wi-Fi in your shopping center.
For traditional shopping malls who are struggling, you can give your property a makeover to make it relevant to today’s consumers. Open-air shopping centers offer a unique combination of retail and entertainment that helps increase foot traffic. These establishments also bank on anchor tenants to build a steady influx of traffic. Moreover, they give consumers the perfect opportunity to socialize and hang out with their loved ones after a hectic workweek.
Do you know of any other reasons why open-air shopping malls are winning? Let us know in the comments.