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Art of Differentiation for Malls

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Size and footfalls are no longer the differentiation criteria for malls today. The brand called mall is trying to up the consumer experience by providing exemplary facilities and infrastructure to attract footfalls and increase sales. Let’s understand how a few Ps of marketing are working their way in differentiating malls.

In India, malls have transformed shopping from a need-driven activity to a leisure time entertainment. Indian malls vary anywhere between 35,000 sq.ft. to 10,00,000 sq.ft., while U.S. malls vary between 4,00,000 sq.ft. to one million sq.ft. In most of traditional Indian malls, around 30 percent of space is allocated to apparel retailers while 12–20 percent space is dedicated to food and beverages. The largest malls in Indian metropolitan cities enjoy approximately 25,000 footfalls per day, which hikes to an average of 50,000 on weekends. As the number of malls is increasing, rentals have also moved from flat rates to revenue sharing models. Consequently, malls are also aggressively campaigning themselves as weekend destinations, and the combination of shopping, food courts, movies and live events all in an air-conditioned environment has begun catching on. So, what is bringing a differentiation among these malls as size and footfalls are more or less becoming common to all and hardly set a mall on customer visit list.

If one thinks of mall as a brand then a mall can be differentiated along several lines. “It could be on the product brands that it houses, service marketing and related aspects, markets and consumer initiatives that it does, etc.,” says Anand Sundaram, CEO, Pioneer Property Zone. And, to some, “functional design, size, various categories of retail are some of the criteria that differentiate malls from each other. In recent times, what a mall can offer to its customers apart from traditional retail options is what sets it apart from the rest. Factors like entertainment, edutainment, family-oriented services, open space, etc. are vital in mall differentiation,” says Santosh Pandey, Vice President, Growel’s 101 Mall. Lake City Mall, Udaipur has a 5-point differentiation definition for itself – it is located in the centre of the city. Accessibility, visibility, excellent facilities and amenities, attractive leasing rates and rentals are what make it stand apart. To some, the premise of differentiation would depend on the positioning of the mall and the customer segments it intends to engage with. If this is taken as the deciding factor, the retailer mix could also be tailor-made accordingly since it may be a while before FDI makes an impact in increasing the number of retailers and there being a cap on the initiatives that one can spend on in India.  Also, all mall owners are not positioning themselves as brands just yet, save a couple – mostly in the Delhi-NCR region. But what is important today is how a mall is following the principle of being a retailer- or shopper-friendly destination, providing superior ambience to its consumers and good facilities to its retailers, offering a complete shopping experience, aesthetically designed open spaces with wide corridors, parking adequacy and food joints which serve as hang-out zones, etc.

In the new marketing parlance, when malls are tagged as brands and positioning is a big issue, each one is looking for innovative ways to attract footfalls. South City Mall believes in celebrating every festival together with its shoppers by turning in a particular festive mood, transfiguring its décor and ambience. Events and activities are conscientiously designed to suit the mood and raise consumer spirits. Over the years, South City Mall has been holding exclusive activities like a unique flea market named ‘Monsoon Mela’ to promote urban and rural artisans from different parts of West Bengal to showcase their art, musical bonanza, cake mixing ceremonies, fashion fiesta to name a few. Growel’s Mall has been taking keen interest in celebrating social community events other than the regular festivals and occasions. A large gathering of children was hosted by Growel’s 101 this children’s day, where India’s first-of-its-kind integrated financial literacy festival, Kandy Valley Festival 2013, taught students about money in a fun way. More than 30 schools and over 3000 students participated in this unique fest. Growel’s also celebrated Raksha Bandhan with underprivileged and blind schools. But, Sundaram says: “If you ask me, positioning is all that will be to create a difference going forward. If a developer or mall owner has identified the potential of the mall and categorically defined the kind of people that it will cater to then he has cracked the code to success.” However, there is no discerning difference in the quality of communication any mall is providing at the moment. The whole game is about location and if they are coming up in the right micro-markets then this is what will set them apart.

Another concern for mall owners is whether to position malls as destination, specialty or just malls for the masses. South City Mall is a shopper’s destination mall and not restricted to a particular category or specialised field. The prime focus has been a large cross-section of people hailing from diversified backgrounds and not just high-end shoppers. “So, rather than being a luxury ghetto, it is more of an arena which offers a vibrant microcosm of a wider society,” says Manmohan Bagree, Vice President, South City Projects. On the other side, Growel’s Mall does not consider itself to be a destination or specialty mall but is gradually developing itself to be the food hub in the near vicinity to attract more footfalls. They have a unique design with a thematic interior based on European architecture, which is a unique selling proposition of the mall. Apart from an interesting blend of retailers, they also engage customers through innovative and unique edutainment events and promos. At Virtuous Retail, they believe in creating community centres and not just mere shopping destinations. The introduction of SVM Bowling and Gaming is one of the many special treats that is organised for patrons who visit the mall.

Sundaram feels service marketing and its aspects could be the numero uno opportunity for differentiation today. Trends are surely skewing towards the positioning off late, but not many have been able to achieve objective just yet.

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