Gone are the days when malls were only about shopping. Today, they are all about offering shoppers experiences – F&B options, special promotions and entertainment hubs are fast becoming the norm rather than the exception…
In an exclusive conversation with IMAGES Retail, Pushpa Bector, Executive Vice President and Business Head DLF Shopping Malls, talks about the mall’s journey, retail expansion plans and future strategies.
Tell us about the journey of DLF malls? What challenges did you face coming up to the top?
The journey of DLF malls has been challenging but extremely rewarding with all malls (DLF Promenade, DLF Mall of India, DLF Cyberhub, DLF Place Saket and DLF City Centre Chandigarh) doing exceptionally well. We have successfully established DLF Promenade as the most admired fashion destination and DLF Mall of India as the largest mall in India today. DLF Place Saket has also carved an identity for itself with more and more brands finding space in it and rapidly growing footfalls on a daily basis. DLF Cyberhub is a unique F&B destination that offers the best world cuisines in the heart of Gurugram. In the recent past GST and demonetisation have been the major challenges but the impact of the same vanished soon after their implication. From a technology standpoint, there have been no significant challenges as we have been moving ahead of the curve using innovative technology to elevate the customer convenience quotient.
In your opinion, what factors have led to DLF malls being such a huge hit in India?
An ideal brand and product mix is sacrosanct in determining the success of a mall. Additionally, elements like hospitality, location, convenience and safety play a significant role. Malls are increasingly becoming experiential centres and hence, there is considerable emphasis given to F&B and entertainment when planning a mall. Our endeavour is to always give our customer the best experience; therefore, we deeply focus on providing great hospitality and safety.
What role does innovation and customer centricity play in keeping visitors engaged?
Customers are very demanding these days and look for an innovative factor every now and then that will drive them to the mall. Keeping this customer sentiment in mind, we are constantly innovating and coming up with customer engaging events to multiply footfall. Events like Sugar Rush, Burgers & Cocktails Festival, Night Owl Festival, Sufi Sama, Khaana Bajana, Japan Cultural Fest, etc are some of the examples in this direction. All the events have done well, and some have been a huge success. We focus on providing a holistic pleasing experience entailing not just great shopping but impactful events.
Let’s talk about the Phygital Experience, personalisation, and intelligent technologies DLF offers…
With the re-launch of DLF Cyberhub, we ushered in the era of ‘phygital’ experiences for our customers within the DLF Shopping Malls portfolio. Huber – DLF Cyberhub’s virtual concierge is a prime example of this. You can talk to Huber to find out where the next Sufi night/ ladies night/etc. will be and at which location; you can reserve a table; check out the menu; find the perfect place which is right for you right at your fingertips and at your convenience. Over time Huber gets to know you and can make personalised recommendations just for you.
How important is a location strategy in defining the success of DLF Malls?
Location will always be a prime concern for customers and we are cognizant of that. All our malls are located in the heart of the city with easy connectivity whether through metros, cabs or simply driving oneself. We have two in Delhi itself, which cater to different catchment areas. Customers prefer going to a mall, which is closer to them and hence, our shopping centres are located where the customers are.
Your take on importance of zoning in a mall?
The zoning of a mall is an added convenience service that we offer to consumers and it plays a key role in becoming a one stop destination for all that the customers are looking for. DLF Mall of India is the first mall in the country that is fully zoned. The ground and first floors house the international and national brands, second floor focuses on ethnic wear followed by the family world on the third floor and F&B and entertainment spread across the fourth, fifth and sixth floors. Zoning of the mall has helped in structuring the offerings effectively and customers are able to find different stores within the same category easily.
Is there need for Omnichannelisation of malls? Your views.
In our view, malls need to embrace technology and become increasingly more digital. However, they don’t need to take the traditional Omnichannel approach. At DLF Shopping Malls, we are moving towards a phygital experience for the customer, which in our view is the right path to walk down.
What role does F&B play in generating footfall in malls?
Over the years food courts and F&B outlets have emerged as one of the key factors in generating footfalls as they create stickiness. The evolving food palate of Indian customers is always on a look out for trying new international cuisines. While some look for an elaborate seating set up to spend quality time with their friends and family, others prefer quick on the go delectable bites. F&B accounts for almost 20 per cent of the space in the malls.
Tell us about the role that hospitality plays in generating footfalls? What are the other services that you offer? What is the importance of these services? How is DLF different from others in this segment?
Hospitality is extremely important for us at the DLF shopping malls. Customers are increasingly well travelled and exposed to various levels of customer service. They can come to except the same from malls and brands in India as well. Hence, we pride ourselves on being able to off er a high-quality experience at any of our DLF shopping malls. We have ex-hoteliers at the helm of each property, ensuring a high level of operations is maintained. Every customer touch point from the parking to rest rooms and concierge services are designed to ensure the utmost level of service. If a customer feels attachment to a mall basis how he/she is treated at every interaction point, then they will be a customer for life.
We have a host of services across our malls like free Wifi, valet, baby changing and baby feeding rooms, currency exchange, pharmacy, first aid, differently able assistance, wheelchairs, prams, tailoring services, dry cleaning, driver’s lounge, car wash services, child safety bands, etc.
What does the future of retail hold for the malls of tomorrow?
Technology will continue to be the game changer and as a leading player in the arena, we will capitalize on this trend and continue to innovate in the interest of Millennials and other target groups.