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The American Mall Reimagined

5 minute read - Posted by Daniel Wagstaff on Nov 21, 2019 8:04:00 AM

Every business needs to remain relevant to its customers to survive. The only way of doing so is by matching up to their interests and by keeping up with the latest trends. Shopping malls are no exception to this. They need to evolve based on the interests of shoppers continuously. The stores in the malls keep changing regularly based on these interests, as well. 

In a time when shopping malls are experiencing a slowdown, it’s important to know how the ones that are surviving are reimagining themselves. Let’s take a look at how shopping malls are changing

The Rising Importance Of Customer Experience

As consumers become more aware of brands wanting to attract their attention, their demand for a good shopping experience has increased too. It’s become so important for customers that according to a study, it’ll overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. 

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According to a study by A. T. Kearney, shopping malls were relabelled as consumer engagement spaces. These spaces are essentially places that aren’t just for selling products and services to the consumers but to provide them with an all-round shopping experience. Shopping centers are slowly swinging towards bringing a customer focus. 

In the past, technology was used by shopping malls purely for logistics and transactions. However, it’s being increasingly adopted to communicate with shoppers and give them a better shopping experience. For instance, malls are using proximity marketing to send out the latest promotions to shoppers in the mall through the mall’s free Wi-Fi. 

While the primary focus of brands in shopping malls was to sell things, it’s slowly gravitating towards consumer engagement. The method of selling is changing, as well. Retailers and manufacturers used to “push” the products out. However, they are moving towards “pulling” the customers instead. All of this helps in improving the customer experience. 

Food and Beverage Spaces

A survey by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) found that nearly 40% of consumers pick a mall based on the restaurants in it. The study also found that shoppers who eat at the mall will typically spend more time there and spend more too. 

Due to this reason, food outlets have started popping up in shopping malls all across the United States. For instance, GGP stated that only 25% of their future deals would be with apparel brands as compared to 50% back in 2015. On the other hand, food deals will account for 22% of their future deals instead of just 11%. 

Simon’s Aventura Mall in Florida was recently redesigned to include a vast food court that brought in some amazing restaurants. The most important thing to notice is that malls are increasingly concentrating on bringing in healthy food and local alternatives instead of relying on large food chains. 

Entertainment Attracts People

Gone are the days when people used to visit malls only to shop. The new consumer doesn’t head to the mall for shopping alone. They wish to be entertained and want to have a fun time when they’re out in the mall. Due to this reason, it’s become essential for malls to have a bunch of entertainment options such as game zones, cinemas, and other interactive activities. 

For instance, GGP has come up with a food hall called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Here, the restaurants are rotated regularly (sometimes even daily). Each time, they have a different concept of dining so that the visitors can enjoy not only the food but also the entire dining experience. They once had a restaurant called “Blind Cafe,” where you would have to eat dinner in the dark to understand what it would feel to be blind. Experiences such as this one can attract visitors to the mall

Health-Conscious Consumers

People have become very much aware of the harmful effects of eating junk food. They’ve also realized the necessity of keeping themselves fit. Due to this reason, they prefer eating at local eateries rather than fast-food chains. As a result, shopping malls are increasingly adding local food outlets to their food courts. 

For instance, PREIT’s Fashion District Philadelphia includes loads of local eateries which concentrate on farm-to-table meals. Through this, they intend to attract health-conscious consumers. 

Similarly, PREIT Malls had nearly 83 Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney stores in 2012. However, 45 of those have now been converted into stores of trending store formats such as fast-fashion, sporting goods, and fitness stores. These are again meant to attract health and fitness conscious individuals to the shopping mall. 

Mixed-Use Leads The Way

Malls are no longer viewed as retail-only assets. To ensure that they can sustain the ecommerce onslaught, mall owners are increasingly diversifying their uses. Along with more entertainment, food, and beverage options, they have started to include more green spaces as well. 

They can also work exceptionally well in the live-work-play model where they can provide it all under a single roof. This is the strategy that is driving many current mall projects. Nearly 40% of the top malls are currently building residential space, while 33% are building hotels. The idea is to help in improving the mall accessibility and make it a prime location for leisure, entertainment, and even shopping. 

Final Thoughts 

Shopping malls need to keep up with the changing interests of consumers to survive in the current era. They need to add more food outlets and entertainment venues to attract customers. The focus is shifting from bringing in mega fast-food chains to local outlets that offer authentic dining experiences. Healthy food and lifestyle options are being well-received in shopping malls as well. 

Mall owners are increasingly trying to provide quality experiences to consumers rather than just trying to get them to purchase things from their stores. Similarly, mixed-use spaces are gaining the attention of mall owners, and they are trying to tie them into the live-work-play concept as well. 

What are the other ways through which the American Mall is changing? Let me know in the comments. 

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Topics: Shopping Centers, proximity marketing, Wi-Fi Alive