In the recent retail world, online shopping is a go to option and if the question is asked on whether the trend on online shopping is going to stay or not – the answer is Yes! The frenetic pace at which online retail has been growing makes many people immediately raise the question – does it mean the death of malls and shopping centres which are hubs of shopping activity?
Let us take a step back in time. Today, shopping is arguably the second most sought after leisure activity around the world. The joy of shopping has been around for centuries and for a country like ours, the bargain markets, the weekly mandis, other high-streets, lately shopping centres have been meaning something to each one of us. Simply put, the word is EXPERIENCE.
This experience is an outcome of feelings that emanate from the heart and beliefs that form in the mind about three aspects – the place of shopping, the actual process while shopping and finally the multi-sensory impressions of shopping.
While it is not about offline vs. online shopping, it is more about consumer behaviour which is the focus today namely the Omnichannel context. Comfort, convenience, comparison shopping, all of this and much more are now taken for granted. When we come to think about it, almost all ads now focus on slicing these benefits along with ease of exchange and delivery added to the list and you are home! Consumers are living through times like never before and therefore, retailers are transforming the experience and are integrating their channels across product, price, inventory and marketing too. Presenting all under one roof to the consumer is the primary objective – so much so that it no longer matters for the consumer where or which channel he/she shops from, as long as their objective is met – be it comfort, convenience, ease of shopping or the experience of shopping.
Experience of shopping is what makes malls breathe. Malls have been transitioning for quite a number of years now from shopping centres to social centre and then the much-used family entertainment centre. A Mall in my opinion needs to be an E&E centre – Engagement and Experience centre to be more explicit. It is just not a coinage of a new fad, but a candid observation of times we are in and times to come.
Malls and retail are intertwined and the primary purpose of malls continues to be shopping and generating footfalls. The paradigm shift is not in the WHAT but the HOW of this shopping experience. In today’s scenario, context is the new currency and not only content. For an instance, Creaticity which was always known as a furniture mall has undergone a transformative journey over the last one year as it shifted the weight from the core content (which is certainly like the skull and bone) to the context of physical shopping.
Variations have been made and conversations are held with the customers through a set of service design ideas. Conversations lead to engagement and this engagement is strengthened through intelligent use of technology that helps customers make informed decisions. Elements like interactive kiosks that go beyond just map guides, help customers to choose then store, product or category to make their find easier. Information like how far they need to walk, resting spots, landmarks on the way are enhancers of engagement. A dose of creativity needs to be added to every aspect of the consumer journey to enable an ultimate joy of a consumer starting from the atmosphere of comfort, convenience, smartness, choice and lastly community.
While India is witnessing a new generation of retail enhancements, most pioneering malls are carrying out various transformative initiatives to be in sync with the changing times. The next decade will witness rapid advent of creating experiences much more than earlier and the true power of engagement and experience will differentiate the leaders from the rest of the pack.
Online retailers too are jumping the physical bandwagon as they realise and appreciate the power of engagement and experience in the true physical sense. The multi-sensory experience mentioned earlier is incomplete without tactility or ‘touch and feel’ element and this is possible only in the physical avatar. Hence, the true meaning of the ‘joy of shopping’ would be complete when an individual is in a retail mall with a heart full of excitement to have a comprehensive experience. Shakespeare may have probably concluded by saying ‘GO Shopping’ rather than ‘DO Shopping’.