Weren’t Shopping Malls Meant to be Dead Already?

Sarah Lazell
October 19, 2016



 Something interesting is happening at my local mall. Shopping units are being boarded up one after the other, however they aren’t staying that way for long. Within weeks, or even days these units are being repainted, refitted and – bam! - a shiny new shop has opened.

This is a surprise to me, I was under the impression that malls were a relic from the past. Once bustling shopping hubs, now ghost towns with flickering fluorescent lighting, killed by the internet. Perhaps the obituary was written too soon - maybe there is life in those old buildings yet?

So what is changing and what does it mean for commerce?

To get people shopping with their feet instead of their fingers, there has to be an incentive. It’s hard to contemplate using my precious free time to drive to a mall, find a parking space, dig around for some cash for parking, and wander around hoping to find the item I need when Amazon literally has a one click button.

Well like every other part of retail, bricks and mortar is simply learning to adapt or die - and a lot of these techniques are coming from technology itself.

You’ve probably seen the changes already. It may be as simple as offering customers the chance to order an item online and pick up the next day, or perhaps new kiosks where you can order a product in a different size or color to be delivered to your home without having to queue at a help desk. Simple changes to give the customer a better, smoother experience.

It is likely that you will start to see a lot more technology as part of your shopping experience. The internet of things is ready to merge commerce and ecommerce, giving customers the more personaliZed experience.

Think: ibeacons creating unique customer discount codes as they walk through the door; Apps that allow users to scan the items they want to try on, then find them waiting for them in the dressing room, as well as a few other recommendations based on their previous choices; Tags that allow consumers to scan and pay for items without having to queue at the checkout.


via CIO via CIO


Not long ago, it seemed that bricks and mortar were way behind when it came to capturing data. It won’t be long before retailers will have a goldmine of shopper behavior data, with better knowledge of where customers walk, pause and what goes in their cart. This information can then be used to create a more bespoke customer experience.

It is estimated that the Westfield San Francisco Center has welcomed an extra 100,000 additional customers since Westfield Bespoke opened last year. Westfield Bespoke is a community within the mall itself based on those exploring how shopping evolves at the hands of technology. It offers co-working space for retail tech start-ups, event space for numerous partners to use, and demo space to facilitate the testing of retail formats and new tech with real world consumers.

Westfield’s isn’t the only one using mall space in new ways. Story, a Manhattan retail location, changes its store design and product mix every four to eight weeks, allowing small brands to experiment with bricks and mortar. Think of a space more similar to a magazine or a gallery, which is also a store. Not too dissimilar to how online retailers are transforming their online space, too.

Westfield understands this - they have had unprecedented success within 5 years of their Stratford mall opening. The UK’s number 1 shopping center has attracted a record breaking 220 million shoppers and delivered £5bn in retail sales. The shopping center has seen sales rise by 32% since opening, with fashion, food and beauty categories seeing strong growth. These meticulously planned malls are less shopping malls, and more like entertainment destinations where people go to shop at the latest shops, see movie premieres, watch fashion shows and dine at exciting new restaurants.

Malls are transforming to stay relevant in a competitive market. The ones that survive will be the ones that are doing their homework, watching and understanding how we want to shop and creating the right environment to do it.

Inspired yet?
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