‘To each his own’, is definitely not an adage that shopping centres would agree to abide by given the current circumstances. In fact, of all the entities, shopping centres today are perhaps at the epitome of setting examples on how best safety measures can and should be put in place to deal with the ongoing pandemic. And it’s not just having to ensure the well-being of the customers walking in. The onus of making sure the inhouse staff and the retail partners are all well, all rests with shopping centres.
Ensuring Employee Well-Being
From having a thorough screening to check on the body temperature to sharing timely videos related to preventive measures on reaching home and while at the mall, shopping centres across are doing their best to help their employees and their families feel safe while at work. Sharing the action plan put in place for the wellbeing of the in-house staff at Oberoi Mall, Anuj Arora, General Manager, Oberoi Mall shares, “All the support staff (in-house and retail) are allowed entry from a dedicated entrance only where their temperatures are scanned, and their hands and belongings sanitized prior to their entrance to the premises. All store staff are encouraged to track the temperatures of their employees every day and similar practice is followed for in-house staff by us. In addition, all our staff and security, who have to be in direct contact with the patron, wear face shields and gloves in addition to masks for their and our patron’s enhanced safety.”
Arora emphasizes on the wellbeing on the mall staff adding, “We remain fully cognizant at all times that its equally important to focus on the safety and security of our in-house and retail staff as it is for our patrons. Regular tests and health check-ups are conducted by municipal authorities and retailers to ensure early detection of COVID, if any. Employees are encouraged to minimize their movement outside the Mall premises and are also encouraged to maintain social distancing at all times. As for the parking facility, we have introduced a simple yet effective scan and pay facility at our parking to avoid exchange of cash.”
He further adds, “We have also implemented a new contactless way of ordering and paying for orders across our food outlets and restaurants via patron’s mobile. They need to simply scan a QR code and select from the host of choices available to them in an easy to understand and engaging interface and conclude their transaction over their What’s App account.”
On making it convenient for business to run smoothly with their retail partners without having to engage in one-on-one communication in person between the brands and the shopping centre team, Arora says, “For our internal customers, our retail partners, we have introduced an app where all approvals and material movement scheduling can happen on an interactive paper-less platform, not warranting any frequent face to face interactions, calls, meetings or follow ups, thereby improving operational efficiencies and giving them more time to focus on enhancing customer experience.”
At Viviana Mall, the staff was thoroughly inducted before the reopening of the mall on all the precautions they had to take on reaching home for their own as well as their family’s safety. The mode of communication used was through special videos being created which were then showed to the staff at the malls. The mall in-house staff makes it a point to visit all their retail partner stores to ensure the basic protocols are maintained like minimum distance, wearing of masks etc.
“For Viviana Mall, the safety of its patrons, staff and retail partners comes foremost. The mall believes it is important to not only comply with the standard operating procedures drafted by the Shopping Centres Association of India, but also take additional measures in its capacity to ensure highest possible standards of safety and convenience to all,” says Rima Kirtikar, Chief Marketing Officer, Viviana Mall.
“Viviana Mall has installed a sanitisation tunnel and UV boxes to disinfect the bags at the entrance. Use of Arogya Setu App, masks and sanitiser is mandatory. Unidirectional stickers have been placed on the floor to maintain the flow of shoppers inside the premises. Elevators are allowed only for expectant mothers, injured or differently abled people. Alternate steps have been marked on escalators. All the safety and sanitation processes adopted by Viviana Mall are gold standards certified by London-based RSM Astute Consulting,” she further adds.
Sachin Dhanawade – Chief Operating Officer (COO) Retail & Real Estate, Grauer & Weil (India) Limited, which operates Growel’s 1O1 Mall in the Kandivali suburb of Mumbai has gone ahead to make best use of technology to ensure minimum person to person interaction thus ensuring the safety of not just the patrons walking in but the staff as well. He says, “We have implemented rigorous safety measures and have been very successful in making the mall 100 percent safe for both for employees and customers. Regular announcements are done to remind the visitors in mall customers to follow social distancing norms. Similarly, elevators have also been enhanced with sensor buttons that don’t need to be touched. Washrooms have sensor-based taps and soap dispensers, and potable waterspouts are also sensor based and contactless. From entry to exit all customer touch points have been made contactless.”
Growel’s 1O1 has deployed social distancing officers, who ensure customers are following the protocol and crowding is controlled as per the guidelines. A special staff force is also present to assist the customers in case of any situation and help them follow the safety and hygiene protocols.
Ensuring Minimum Person to Person Interactions
To ensure minimum person to person interaction while at the mall yet ensuring that its business as usual when it comes to housekeeping, safety, parking etc. malls have redefined quite a few things. Prominent amongst them would be having direction stickers being placed for the convenience of the shoppers, enabling QR Code for placing food orders and paying for the same, sanitizing the washrooms after every use etc.
Arora shares an update on actions taken in place at Oberoi Mall, saying, “Cherry picking the best safety solutions available in the market today, we have ensured that there is minimum disruption and interference in the customer experience. We have implemented a host of new services and technologies to make the entire shopping experience as contact less as possible giving customer safety and convenience the utmost importance.”
Arora adds, “Aside from all the usual measures which all malls are taking, we have installed automatic hand sanitizer dispensers in lift lobbies and inside lifts, specific dedicated dustbins are also placed at various locations to dispose off used gloves and masks in a safe and secure manner. Another unique thing we have undertaken at the Mall is the installation of foot-operated door openers which have completely eliminated the need to touch door handles to open doors. Furthermore, we have increased the intake of fresh air through the day to ensure enough air circulation.”
The mall has also identified an isolation room within the premises and have a dedicated full-time nurse and ambulance stationed at the mall to assist in any medical emergency. Apart from this, municipal authorities also conduct regular COVID testing of mall and retail staff at regular intervals.
Revealing the measures undertaken at Viviana, Kirtikar shares, “As part of reworking on our business model a survey was undertaken during lockdown to interact with the consumers and understand their sentiments towards reopening of the mall. The idea was to get insights into their expectations and behaviour on various parameters such as shopping and safety measures. This has helped us in ensuring a safe shopping experience to all our patrons and the inhouse staff. The mall has even moved all its on-ground events and activities to online mode by using its social media page to engage with the customers. To provide the shoppers with a safe dining experience, the seating arrangement is now reduced to 50% of total dine-in capacity. UV sanitisation boxes are installed for sanitising the service trays and crockery. Moreover, QR codes have been placed on dining tables for visitors to access the menus, place their orders and make payments.”
Creaticity too has introduced a social distancing app, called ‘Hi there!’ which alerts a guest if he/she has breached social distancing. “We are encouraging all our customers to download this app. This also helps us to understand pockets of crowds so that we can constantly ensure the norms are not violated. Also our own Creaticity App allows a customer to book a table online, once at the restaurant, digital interventions from placing the order to payment options have been planned for hassle free, safe and minimum contact without losing the flavour of the real experience. Our interactive touch screen kiosks, book by appointment feature, curated trails and video calling facility of the mall, ensure contact less shopping experience for a customer,” says Mahesh M, Chief Executive Officer – Creaticity.
Communicating with Patrons
To instil a sense of security in the mind of the patrons, malls have been actively running various social media campaigns highlighting the measures they have in place. Radio advertisements have been growing in popularity too for the malls considering the print media has taken a backseat. Even during the festive period, malls took on to digital and radio campaigning in full swing to bring in the footfalls. The shopping mall apps to have been revamped to make the content more interactive with a lot many activities and contests for the patrons to feel one with the mall.
Making the Most of the Festive Season
The medium of contests and giving away alluring prizes has worked wonders for malls to being in a steady flow of footfalls, especially during the festive season.
Viviana Mall had a lot of electronics being given away as prizes during their festive season contests as with Work from Home being the new normal, there has been an upsurge in demand when it comes to laptops, printers, tablets etc.
|Viviana Mall’s Festive Edition
|Oberoi Mall’s Festive Initiative
On the response generated by Oberoi Mall, Arora is proud to claim that Oberoi Mall has:
- Witnessed weekend footfalls now exceeding pre-COVID weekdays footfalls
- The average customer spends and average dwell time at Oberoi Mall jump by 60-70% on a month-on-month basis.
- The annual Shop & Win lucky draw event, ‘Light up Luck’ has received an overwhelming response from patrons with the participation level already exceeding last year’s count
Business across categories have had to pull up their socks quicker than ever to adopt to the new normal. Where earlier it was all about pulling in footfalls, the malls today have an added task for ensuring that the footfalls while at the mall are safe and protected from the perils of the unseen virus. Where the expectation of the patrons has grown multifold to have a rejuvenating time while at the mall, the mall staff is enforced to not only ensure their own well being but simultaneously ensuring that the shoppers do not flout any safety norms – the primary amongst all being that of wearing a mask. This has put an additional responsibility on the mall’s marketing team to have a strong yet engaging communication model in place that lists out the do’s and don’ts for the patrons while at the mall. On the surface, the business of a mall may look as coming close to recovery but for the marketing and housekeeping team, the work responsibility has increased multifold.