The idea that the mall is dead or dying will not go away. On a daily basis the media reports on slowing foot traffic, closing stores and mall operators struggling to regain their former glory.
The counterpoint to all that doom and gloom continues to be experience, experience,
experience. The idea being that if retailers and malls can find a way to make their locations more than just a place to purchase goods they can not only survive, but also thrive, in today’s ultra-competitive retail landscape.
Last month my family and I made the pilgrimage from New Jersey to Minnesota to pay
homage to the shining example of destination retailing: The Mall of America. Now I am not a
huge fan of shopping. I would describe myself more of a buyer than a shopper — that is I usually know what I am looking for in advance and visit a store to check out the options in person and quickly make a purchase. For me the idea of vacationing at a mall was not overly exciting.
But I must admit I was wrong. The Mall of America is as advertised. It is way more than a shopping center — it is in fact an experience. It strikes you as soon as you enter the massive parking lot and see the spattering of RV’s and trailers that adorn it, evidence that the cathedral to consumerism is still one of the nation’s must-attend attractions. The mall’s 40 million visitors each year come for its indoor amusement park, full-size aquarium, arcades, restaurants, go-cart track, etc. Of course, there is a seemingly endless array of stores to choose from, but they almost seem like an afterthought.
The mall is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but you wouldn’t know it. The entire
facility is sparkling clean and inviting with plenty of cutting-edge tech on display, giving the mall a just-opened look.
Strategically placed throughout the shopping center are wayfinding kiosks that seem to
magically appear as soon as you need one. They instantaneously provide direction to the store or attraction of your choice and somehow make the humongous shopping center manageable. While the kiosks are abundant and extremely user friendly the mall recently introduced a mobile version of the application, so shoppers can access the interactive map via their personal device.
For those that are unable to find what they are looking or would rather do their shopping
digitally the mall houses Amazon pickup lockers that add to the next-gen motif. All the user has to do is scan a barcode from their phone at the self-serve kiosk and the appropriate locker door swings open with their purchase waiting inside.
While not every mall or retailer has the resources or scale of the Mall of America, each one
can and must find ways to redefine the shopping experience. The key to winning in today’s marketplace is giving shoppers what they want, and increasing what they want is experience. Consumers can purchase products anywhere, anytime — but they still crave physical retailing — find a way to draw them in. For more on what the modern shopper desires and how to best connect with them be sure to check out the results from our annual Shopper Insight Study.