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Not dead yet—how malls should evolve to attract shoppers

by | Aug 15, 2018 | Public Relations

Ah, the mall—once every shopper’s favorite destination, ideal one-stop venue and teenage hangout, but now an ancient relic of the old-school shopping experience. But malls don’t necessarily have to go the way of the buggy cart—they just need to inject a little contemporary flair and a few incentives, suggests new research from intelligent media delivery firm Valassis that highlights consumers’ pain points and preferences when it comes to the indoor shopping mall experience.

Results from a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers classified as “regular mall shoppers” (i.e. those that have visited an indoor mall more than three times within the past year), reinforce the idea that brick-and-mortar stores and indoor shopping malls are struggling, with over half of respondents reporting they do most of their shopping online. However, even amid the discussion of the “death of malls,” brick-and-mortar stores can influence those seeking a one-stop shopping destination with strategic updates and incentives.

There are a number of reasons consumers make the trek to a mall instead of shopping online

For instance, over 60 percent of respondents said they are more likely to shop for apparel in a mall as opposed to an e-commerce channel. Given the opportunity to visit multiple retailers and complete several purchases in one location (which 39 percent found valuable), as well as try on and compare clothing options, this is a clear advantage malls have over online storefronts. The survey found mall shopping also offers other advantages including:

  • The social aspect of outings with family and friends (24 percent);
  • Convenience for quick gift purchases (20 percent);
  • A full-day experience that may include dining and entertainment (19 percent); and
  • The ability to compare prices and products across multiple stores (18 percent).

“While the retail industry is certainly being disrupted, brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going anywhere,” said Curtis Tingle, chief marketing officer at Valassis, in a news release. “However, they do need to evolve to meet modern shoppers’ expectations. Consumers want convenience, product options and incentives and all brick-and-mortar retailers, especially malls, need to understand their audience so they can provide an experience that makes visiting worthwhile. Whether that’s offering more discounts, valet parking or incorporating in-store technology, it’s all about catering to customers’ preferences and differentiating the in-store and online experiences.”

The survey not only uncovered factors that drive shoppers to malls, but also those that steer them away

Respondents prefer shopping online (as opposed to at a mall) for a broader range of product options/variations (40 percent), avoiding hectic crowds/parking (38 percent), not having to travel (24 percent) and reducing impulse purchases (16 percent). On the flip-side, these shoppers can be encouraged to visit indoor malls with:

  • More opportunities for savings/discounts (59 percent);
  • Better parking accommodations, such as valet (20 percent);
  • Events such as pop-up shops and giveaways (18 percent); and
  • Onsite grocery shopping options (17 percent).

Not dead yet—how malls should evolve to attract shoppers

Additional survey insights include:

Technology is coming to indoor malls, but more can be done

  • 24 percent of surveyed shoppers have experienced cashier-less checkout services and 20 percent have used digital wallets or payment systems in-store via apps.
  • Another 7 percent have interacted with digital/voice assistants and augmented or virtual reality experiences.
  • However, over half (51 percent) of respondents have yet to encounter innovative technologies, providing a ripe opportunity for retailers to attract new, curious audiences.
    • According to RetailMeNot, retailers are working to increase their use of technology, with 39 percent looking to employ voice-assisted shopping and 51 percent placing a bigger focus on offers/discounts exclusive to mobile app users.

Convenience is subjective

Shoppers want convenience, but what it means to them varies. Some define it as:

  • Minimal wait time and easy check-out (25 percent);
  • Ability to receive the product sooner (21 percent);
  • Customer assistance / service (18 percent);
  • Option to return online purchases in-store (13 percent) or buy online and pick-up in-store (11 percent); and
  • Using mobile apps to redeem coupons and pay (11 percent).

Malls have room for improvement—the top three things consumers want to see more of when shopping at these locations

  • Savings, coupons and deals;
  • Shorter lines and wait times; and
  • More access to in-store customer service reps.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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