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How innovation is radically changing retail and shopping mall industries

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As we approach first quarter of the 21st century, everything, including retail design trend, is changing as far as the shopping mall and retail industries are concerned – and that too at a great pace. While change is inevitable, the fact of the matter is that the curve of changes is bit too steep than the base time. And there is good news and bad news. The good news is that innovation is radically changing the retail. And this is the bad news as well.

What will the future of the retail industry look like? What are the trends that will shape retail in the coming years? These are some of the questions that we will try and answer through this study.

The Will (Finally) Be Behind Us

This means that the stores will still exist, with an emphasis on stores in shopping malls. However, stores in shopping centres will be more like customer experience centres. With e-commerce offering deep discounts, deals and incentives, transactions will be majorly done on online stores. Designers will need to cope with this paradigm shift and see how the functioning cost can be minimised. With this upfront the industry shouldn’t be surprised to witness more of high-street models wherein designers cut down the investments by reducing ‘Engineering Loads’. The idea of air-conditioned atriums may cease, and open courtyards would replace them soon. Despite the Retailpocalypse, designers will push hard for design flavours which will push offline sales as well as online sales.

Design Focus on Sensory Experiences

Sensory experiences will be key. They will be the biggest difference between online shopping and offline shopping. With increase in digitisation, haptic experiences will gain high importance, with the store space becoming a place to experience products using all our senses, and of course, with the help of multi-sensory technology.

Browsing vs Buying

For Millennials today, shopping is an act of fun, a recreational activity in which the transaction has become completely secondary. So, with the new generation distinguishing sharply between shopping and buying, what will bring back a customer to the store? It is satisfaction, customer experience. This is where shop-fitters. They must help to ensure that customers who step into the store spend more time for the experience, through a ‘different’ space arrangement, enhanced product presentation, personalised customer care and ultimately be more loyal to the retailer. The basic shopping concept shall not change so much. However, the presentation at the point-ofsale and the involvement of the customer in it will. Retailers will have to offer customers more incentives to visit a store and stay there longer.

Flexibility in Design

The days of static stores are gone. New-age customers neither want to see the same product selection for months nor the same store. In the future, our concrete retail spaces must have more focus, inspiration and offer multi-sensory experiences to all consumers. The flexible use of space with surprising arrangements helps the floor plan come alive. Retailers can bring in a mixture of a core selection of products and create an inspiring theme world around them to complement them. This in turn brings about impulse buys.

Digitisation is Essential

It is important to create value add in brick-and-mortar stores in comparison with the Internet. To offer customers more of an experience, retailers have to make a connection between analogue and haptic experiences – intelligently combined with data-collecting, informative and logistically supportive digitisation. Aside from this, retailers must digitally configure products individually for a clear advantage. They can also explore models like Click & Collect to combine offline and online experiences.

Experimentation is Important

Since no one is quite sure what the future of offline stores looks like, for continued success, retailers must keep experimenting. Retail designers should look to install trial stores – not merely ones which have 3D printing and are event-driven, but analogue and experience-driven. Customers also like to visit stores which offer varied experiences for these stores are like workshops, where shoppers can go and design their own products.

Shopping Mall of the Future: Four Different Paths

The guide to transforming shopping malls into ‘Consumer Engagement Spaces’ (CESs) is based upon the experience economy. The CESs of the future will include retail stores often in smaller formats with less dependence on inventory and more focus on creating personalised brand experiences through virtual reality, augmented reality or mixed reality where consumers can customise their unique shopping and product experiences.

Limited duration pop-up shops will also be important to the new CESs, as they give visitors and guests unexpected treasure-hunting experiences and importantly provide a test platform for new retail concepts and brands. CESs must also be designed around convenience, since time is the consumers’ ultimate luxury. Yet the CESs must also offer compelling ways for people to spend time, their most valuable resource, by providing experiences and things to see and do that will reward their investment of time.

In our vision, there would be four different models for the CES of the future:
a) Destination centres
b) Values centres
c) Innovation centres
d) Retaildential centres

The idea of the destination centre is probably the easiest to envision, as flagship stores will play a more prominent role with greatly enhanced experiences added into the mix, including restaurants, theatres and event spaces, museum exhibitions, as well as attractions like theme parks, indoor skating and ski slopes, and water parks. These will be true destinations, suited for weekend vacations, not so much day-in/day-out shopping.

The values centres would be ‘hyper-curated centres’ specialising in related retail businesses and services, reflecting the values and preferences of the surrounding community. These values centres are anchored by an idea, or concept, not a major retailer. This could be one viable path for many of the nation’s smaller malls that can’t step up to true destination centre status. The key to success for values centre is to look to its local community for an organising idea. The concept might be health and wellness, local food, artisans and manufacturers, or even causes such as animal rights, or ethnic identity.

The innovation centres will be powered by technology so that every store and the centre itself gather real-time data in order to satisfy shoppers and evolve with them. We see innovation centres employing anthropologists, cultural psychologists and ethnographers to turn the massive amounts of consumer data collected into information that malls and tenant partners can use to enhance and evolve the shopping experiences. The innovation centres will combine high-tech with high-touch to create futuristic customer engagement spaces.

The evolution of the retaildential centers will have elements of the values centres, as they will be focused to cater to a specific life-stage or lifestyle consumer with shared needs and interests, but will be buttressed by residential housing to make the CES more than a place to visit, but a place to live. The need for affordable housing is great among maturing baby boomers, looking to downsize and gain convenient access to various services, as well as among young professionals attracted to CESs that offer retail stores, restaurants and theatres, work-play offerings, gyms and spas. Examples of how to mix work and play together into a CES include the campuses of companies like Nike, Google and Microsoft, with the addition of apartments and condos adding the dormitory to these work-play live spaces.

Conclusion

The future of retail real estate is as robust as the industry’s imagination. Future success depends to a large degree onbeing able to ‘unlearn’ the lessons of the past. Tomorrow’s success will belong to those operatorsand tenants willing to break from yesterday’s patterns and practices and fully embrace a consumerdriven future.