SHOPPING CENTRES TRANSFORM INTO SMART, OMNICHANNEL PLATFORMS IN THE NEW NORMAL
Shopping Centre News| September 2020
With a consumer base that is interested in experiential retail and the COVID-19 pandemic which has necessitated the need for digital retail experiences, malls have had to adapt Omnichannel technologies, reshape their strategies, incorporate new features into their business structure, and are now moving towards those technologies and experiences that are digitally more convenient to the consumer stuck at home…

The concept of cross-channel content strategy that retail companies use to improve their user experience and foster deeper relationships with their consumers across touchpoints – Omnichannel Retail – has existed in retail for almost a decade now. Going ‘Omnichannel’ has become an integral part of strategies all successful brands and retailers across the globe

Omnichannel typically references brands and retailers who have both a physical and a digital presence. The idea of designing a cohesive user experience at all touchpoints was so successful for retailers and appealing to crowds that shopping centres decided to adopt the strategy and mould it to their specifications. With the idea of doing away with an outdated tenant-mix model, many mall owners are today proactively adapting properties to generate growth in an Omnichannel retailing context. Many mall owners are moving away from the traditional copy-and-paste mall model by creating memorable and unique destinations that attract both tenants and shoppers.

While customers are still very interested in physical retail experiences, their expectations are higher, their appetite for experiential retail growing forcing malls to adapt Omnichannel technologies faster than ever before. Add to this the COVID-19 pandemic and suddenly, malls have had to reshape their strategies, incorporate new features into their business structure, and are now moving towards those technologies and experiences that are digitally more convenient to the consumer stuck at home.

The Concept: Expansion of Multichannel Retailing

Omnichannelisation in shopping malls is a tad bit different today from the original concept. As malls are the epicenter of so many segments associated with both traditional and modern retail, everything which is related with interactive consumer engagement comes under this concept. Today customers tend to be looking for information in the physical store and at the same time are fed additional information on their mobile devices on deals and offers. For such connected consumers, a mall taking this initiative will be a big bonus, leading to an organised, convenient medium of focused shopping.

Omnichannel malls which work to send mobile updates on movies, booking tickets via the mall app, including offers and table booking in restaurants, information on new rides in gaming zones and available parking space will ensure that consumers with families visit the mall again and again.

Aside from this, an Omnichannel mall can integrate traditional methods of mass advertising with emerging interactive channels – websites, emails, social media messaging – to give the same messages, offers, and showcase the same products to consumers. This will help incorporate the needs, communications and interactions between customers, brands / retailers and malls.

Why Malls Need Omnichannelisation

Shopping today is all about convenience – the most important reason perhaps that customers prefer malls to high streets. Malls give them the comfort and ease of spending hours roaming and checking out stores, while the dwell time in high-street stores is limited to minutes. Malls can also provide much better consumer engagement than some big players on high streets including creating great ambience. They also help promote stores at large.

CBRE explains some important factors associated with Omnichannelisation of malls:

Diversification of Retail Mix: Moving the mall tenant mix away from its over-reliance on the low-growth, high e-commerce categories outlined above is pivotal. Proactive mall owners are seeking higher growth categories that focus on experience like food & beverage, entertainment and services. These categories are less vulnerable to online penetration and generate the foot traffic that many traditional mall retailers have lost to the internet.

Creating Distinct Experiences: To compete with online retail growth, mall owners must leverage the competitive advantage of brick-and-mortar experience. Many mall owners are moving away from the traditional copy-and-paste mall model by creating memorable and unique destinations that attract both tenants and shoppers. Enterprising mall owners have taken many different approaches to creating these consumer-friendly experiences, including investment in creative design, events and common spaces. Some have focused on new tenant strategies like pop-ups [link to pop-up piece] that create a buzz and element of surprise to draw in traffic.

Focus on Convenience: Convenience is often cited as the primary reason consumers opt to shop online. The ease and speed of online shopping has raised consumer expectations for how convenient shopping should be, and they carry these expectations with them into the physical store. Landlords must seek to create as convenient and comfortable a shopping experience as possible to attract and retain foot traffic, focusing on everything from convenient parking, digital wayfinding and customer service. Today, due to the pandemic, if a mall is providing a separate entry to the consumers having ‘Aarogya Setu App’ that can also be rated as Omnichannel service, where the user having the app can walk in straight, whereas others have to wait at the entrance and download the app either with the help of mobile data or mall’s Wi-Fi. If a mall is providing free Wi-fifor consumers to connect with the Internet and helps him in getting the product of information of his choice, that is another definition of consumer convenience and Omnichannel. Many high-end malls are also offering concierge services that can provide things like dry cleaning and pet-sitting. Though the strategy may vary between properties, mall owners must drive convenience elements at their centers to meet the new demands of the Omnichannel customer.

A Mall App: Mandatory & Popular Approach Most malls today have an app, and those who don’t are in the process of fast developing one, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has left malls with very low footfalls and shoppers at home. Apps add a layer of convenience at the consumer’s fingertips over the magic of sensory experience. They provide consumers with more power and freedom through personalised shopping experiences.

Some reasons why apps help in Omnichannelisation and are thus necessary for malls are:

Easy to Visit – Traffic, Routes and Parking: One of the biggest deterrents that restrict visitors is the hassle of reaching the mall. Peak hours – especially in the evening – is a major pain point for visitors who need to fight their way through traffic and then find a parking space. Mall apps help in updating visitors on easiest routes and available parking spaces. Some mall apps also provide pre-booking of parking spaces in mall lots, with the app also guiding visitors to the booked space once s/he enters the mall. Many mall apps also help identify the timings when the traffic is the lowest on a visitor’s route and correlate it with the times when each customer usually likes to spend time at the mall.

In-Mall Navigation: Most malls across India are lakhs of square feet in size and there is plenty to explore in very limited time. Apps make navigation in malls easy and accessible. The mobile app by its immense power of analytics, can understand the shopping behavior/pattern of the consumers and can suggest the new arrivals/ offers available in different stores as well. It can also help in finding the nearest restroom, fire exit or staircase. The app can even tell customers if wheelchairs, trolleys or strollers are available.

Payments & Checkout: Adding more benefits, payments and checkout are other factors associated with the app. The apps offer the convenience of no more queues at billing counters. Many malls also provide ‘Clickand-Collect’ services through their apps. Consumers can make purchases at various shops in a mall and once the payment is complete, mall staffcollect all their bags and deposit them at a designated section in the mall. From here, the consumer can pick them up together before leaving.

In COVID times, many malls extended this service by delivering the purchased items to the consumer’s vehicles in parking lots. Many malls are also experimenting with the home delivery concept as well, where consumers can make purchases in app and the mall delivers the products to their homes.

Here’s a look at how some of the best shopping centres are going Omnichannel – and excelling at it – in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and also because it is the need of the 21st Century:

INORBIT MALLS

The Inorbit ChatBot is an additional service that the mall is providing to customers across all five geographies in which the mall is present. It is a voice-to-text assistant which will have information related to brands, services, deals, offers and relevant FAQs about Inorbit. The Bot will also be a platform for interactive sessions like quizzes where winners will be gratified with vouchers or gifts. The Chat Bot is live but in testing phase currently. It aims to provide quick, updated information through an interactive session anytime, anywhere about Inorbit.

Inorbit Malls continues to invest in technology and other areas to bring solutions that help simplify the lives of all its stakeholders. As a brand, they believe in creating and offering new experiences to their consumers for creating a recall value for the brand and ensuring repeat visits from their patrons.

“To encourage shopping, Inorbit along with their retail partners are ensuring products are made available to customers via WhatsApp, email and even video calls; allowing customers to place orders sitting at home and having the product delivered at their doorstep. The malls have invited lifestyle bloggers to promote retailer products and offers running at the mall,” explains Rajneesh Mahajan, CEO, Inorbit Malls.

Inorbit Malls in Malad and Vashi have introduced various convenience driven services that will provide consumers with a pleasant shopping experience, if they wish to shop from home or avoid the premises for some more time. Both malls in Mumbai have started a video calling facility where consumers can make selection through a video call and get their shopping products home delivered. Customers can also avail of curb side pick-up – i.e. simply drive through the mall to collect their pre-paid shopping bags. These new services of home delivery, catalogue sharing on WhatsApp video call all aim to make shopping safe, convenient and fun in the COVID age. All retailers well over 100 brands – within its premises offer these personalised services to customers.

Besides this, Inorbit is ensuring that the body temperature of every visitor and all mall staffis checked everytime they enter the mall, social distancing norms within the premises are maintained, a minimum touch policy is followed and that no touch sanitizing stations are installed at regular distances.

With COVID-19 still forcing consumers to stay indoors in the relative safety of their homes, Inorbit Mall, Whitefield came up with a novel idea to take the shopping centre to the shoppers. In association with brands like Celio*, Skechers, Metro, US Polo, Flying Machine etc., Inorbit Whitefield is arranging shopping stalls in clubhouses of Bengaluru townships so society residents can visit and shop – happy shopping experience with utmost safety at the customers’ doorstep.

“This is truly a delightful one of a kind initiative taken up by Inorbit Mall, Whitefield for allowing our residents to benefit immensely from shopping stores at their doorstep during the current pandemic times. I am sure such a shopping experience – set up with so much ease and with all precautionary measures – will mutually benefit the mall authorities and the society residents and will be appreciated by all. Looking forward to collaborating with Inorbit Mall for more similar endeavours that benefit our residents,” says Jagvir Singh Rawat, Food & Beverage Manager, Palm Meadows Club, Adarsh Palm Meadows Society, Whitefield.

DLF SHOPPING MALLS

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