Is the mall dead? It’s easier than ever to make this argument, considering the last 18 months of record ecommerce sales and the reluctance to shop in person due to the pandemic.
However, industry experts believe the mall is ready for a comeback. It will look different, though, and leverage technology to create new experiences for shoppers.
Interactive experiences will replace anchor stores
Since its inception, the mall concept has been built around anchors, which were typically department stores. Unfortunately, many of those traditional department stores have been on a slide for some time. Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, Ascena Retail Group and Tailored Brands filed for bankruptcy in 2020.
While they are still operating, they’ve all closed numerous stores and are rethinking their footprint.
With increased competition from Amazon, Target, Walmart and other ecommerce retailers like Etsy, department stores couldn’t survive. As they vacated malls, large spaces became vacant. Without the influx of new retailers, malls are now looking to reimagine the shopping experience with interactive experiences.
One example is the Village at the West Oaks in Houston, which transformed a Bed Bath and Beyond into a new retail experience. Sesimique is an interactive art museum that’s family-friendly and full of wonderful surprises. Similarly, Canada Goose, a luxury clothing retailer, created "The Journey: A Canada Goose Experience" at CF Sherway Gardens Mall in Toronto. The space focuses on telling the story of the products, the people who where them, and the connection to the natural world.
These immersive experiences won’t bring the mall back to its former glory. However, they will certainly attract more people to the space.
Practicality Is Reshaping the Mall Footprint, Too
While immersive experiences are an exciting possibility, other options are a bit more practical. Healthcare providers are looking at malls for plausible spaces, according to a 2019 report.
Vision centers have people a popular fixture in malls for a number of years. With COVID-19 malls have become popular spots for testing and vaccines. Primary care, specialty care, labs and other services could also soon become permanent fixtures. In many cases malls provide greater convenience for consumers, including better locations, parking and hours.
What Digital Tools Can Malls Use to Entice Shoppers to Come Back?
Brands have a significant opportunity to elevate the shopping experience with technology. Interactivity and engagement are key here.
Some applications include:
- Interactive kiosks that deliver product information and deliver promotional and seasonal messaging. Read our Carhartt case study to see this idea in action.
- Touchscreens that offer suggestions. Consumers may be looking for an opinion on what goes with this or what else they’ll need if buying one product. Smart touchscreens can deliver ideas that could keep shoppers in stores longer and buying more.
- Interactive wayfinding that allows visitors to map their course. Additionally, information about the stores, such as current deals and promotions can be included. Another option with wayfinding is to guide customers to where they should pick up items purchased online, as BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) will continue to be big for consumers.
- Crowd control digital communications that combine digital signage, IoT sensors and other technology are rapidly becoming popular. Such applications can manage queues better, so shoppers face less frustration. They can also tie into emergency notifications to alert in real-time.
- Digital menu boards in food courts streamline sharing nutrional information, menu items and specials, Additionally, they can be integrated into backend systems and programmed to change based on time of day, inventory, and much more.
- Large-scale digital video walls that deliver news, weather, infotainment and advertising. With high-quality, relevant content, these installations can garner attention.
- Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are another technology emerging in the retail world. AR and VR allow customers to digitally test products. Consumers have a high interest here, as 66% said they have an interest in AR for help with shopping.
The Mall of Tomorrow—Powered by Technology
One thing that is sure about the mall of tomorrow is that technology will be pivotal to the transformation. From digital signage to kiosks to touchscreens, the Omnivex platform can help your organization. Explore our retail solutions.