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The Indian Mallscape: A retail experience like no other

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The Great Indian Mall Boom began innocuously enough in the early 2000s, with just three malls in existence in the entire country. The rest is, as they say, history as Indian shoppers slowly but surely developed a penchant for shopping in clean, vibrant, climate-controlled and highly enabled malls.

The Indian Mallscape: A retail experience like no other
The Great Indian Mall Boom began innocuously enough in the early 2000s, with just three malls in existence in the entire country

According to a report by Anarock, titled ‘The Rise and Rise of Indian Malls’, rapid urbanisation and digitisation, increasing disposable incomes and lifestyle changes of the middleclass are leading to a major revolution in the Indian retail sector, which is pegged togrow by 60 percent to reach US$ 1.1 trillion by 2020.

The report says that the Indian Government has clearly hit the bulls eye by easing the FDI norms in the retail sector over the past few years. Reacting to the immense opportunities and diminishing entry barriers into the Indian retail scene, overseas retailers are now expanding exuberantly. And it’s not just the metros they’re targeting – even Tier II cities like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Jaipur, to name a few, are opening up for organised retail in a big way. Malls are literally mushrooming across the Indian subcontinent.

India’s Mushrooming Mallscape

The Great Indian Mall Boom began innocuously enough in the early 2000s, with just three malls in existence in the entire country. The rest is, as they say, history as Indian shoppers slowly but surely developed a penchant for shopping in clean, vibrant, climate-controlled and highly enabled malls rather than in the usual ‘kirana’ shops and scattered individual stores.

According to the Anarock report, despite many hiccups, including the recession of 2007-2008 and the advent of e-commerce businesses, the numbers vouchsafe that Indian malls are definitely here to stay. By 2017-end, there were more than 600 operational malls across the country. Interestingly, more than 30 new shopping malls covering nearly 14 million sq.ft. of area are expected to come up across top eight cities by 2020.

Malls as FECs

As India’s mallscape evolved, so did the aspirations of the young, Millennial shopper. He demanded more than just retail, and the shopping centre community scrambled to provide it. After all, customer is always the king. With the advent of e-commerce, this need to provide more than just shopping to the consumer became even more profound. Since everything was available online and at the consumer’s doorstep, how exactly were malls going to lure in shoppers?

While some considered e-commerce a prominent threat – and literally shut shop – others emerged stronger than ever. E-commerce for them became a challenge, a retail game they were determined to win, and they did this by providing experiences which online shopping simply couldn’t replicate.

Adaptability & Flexibility

Today with the help of the Internet, methods of engagement and communication have changed considerably. The retail industry, along with shopping centres, is faced with the uphill task of keeping up with the modern demands of the evolving consumers. The old school of thought ‘once you get customers into your store, sales will happen’ no longer applies since all malls offer similar brands and an equal number of stores. This is where innovation and experiential retail has come in, quickly becoming the traditional brick-and-mortar format’s unique selling point.

Fresh ideas and groundbreaking schemes – each more dynamic than the one before – make it possible for malls to connect with the consumer. The idea is to try something new, very often, so as to increase the number of hits and quickly skate over the misses. A study of new and latest trends is a must in order to align activities in the retail spaces business with continually changing consumer behavior patterns for customer feedback can make or break sales.

In-store engagement is important because it is mutually beneficial for both the customer and the mallbased retailer. Consumer data and analytics, when combined with friendly, face-to-face service, allows employees to create a sense of value and familiarity for in-store shoppers.

Evolving Into Smart Malls

For today’s shoppers, a trip to the mall needs to be a complete experience – shopping, entertainment, leisure and digital. To keep up the competition from e-commerce, mall management is turning to digital and technical aid to offer an enhanced consumer experience.

Mall wi-fi networks – which open a direct channel of communication with consumers – personalized shopping experiences, interactive maps and live streaming of events and offers inside kiosks and on huge screens across the malls make for a more convenient and enjoyable time for visitors. Shopping centres are using technology to mine customer data to know their shopping habits. They then use this data to promote products and services more effectively while ensuring a right mix of retailers for the local catchment.

Apart from these obvious features, malls are introducing several techbased innovations to better assist customers. and have launched apps which bring the mall directory at the customer’s fingertips and includes updates and
notifi cations on new stores opened and upcoming events. Malls in Banglaore and Mumbai have introduced the ‘Pay on Foot System’. These machines are located at lobbies and exit points where the shoppers can pay parking fees (sometimes by redeeming vouchers and coupons).

boasts of high tech security systems, night vision IP based CCTV cameras, and a facility to pay parking payments through digital wallet.

The long and short of this evolution was that today, no mall can afford to operate in isolation, depending solely on shopping as its prime source of revenue-generation and footfalls. Malls transformed into community spaces, bringing to the discerning consumer the best of brands, food, and entertainment.

They are becoming regular after office hangout places or even during office work spaces – with the new generation frequenting coffee shops and preferring to work there on their laptops, rather than their staid old offices. Millennials view visiting malls as a status symbol, college going teens choose malls for entertainment, couples consider it for a romantic tête-à-tête. In a nutshell, shopping malls are community hubs where people go to rejuvenate, socialise and entertain.