Next Generation Appeal

The next generation of shoppers wants online and bricks-and-mortar integration, and specific experiential reasons to visit retail destinations, writes Beth Amato.

When shoppers visit a bricks-and-mortar mall, they want an experience, which in shopping centres around the world, is usually achieved through the mix of digital and physical factors.

Take the Nike store in Manhattan. It is just under 6 500 square metres with multiple storeys, and shoppers are immersed in both digital and physical realms. Nike’s store —the House of Innovation 000 —combines traditional shopping with the company’s app: shoppers scan QR codes on mannequins and apparel to see if their size is available and in what colours. The item is logged and sent to the fitting room for the potential customer to try on. If the customer wants to pay, they scan the item on the app on their phone and pay via an instant checkout system.

In South Africa, kitchen and homeware store, Yuppiechef, merges its online and offline shopping experience. It started off as an online shop, but after 12 years of trading this way, opened two stores in Cape Town. These stores stock products, but with shoppers accessing prices and product information by scanning a QR code on their phone or tablet.

Adapt to omnichannel

Flux Trends spotter, Khumo Theko says, “Retailers need to create a ‘no-line’ experience for shoppers, which blends both online and offline elements, much like what Yuppiechef has done.”

Broll, in its Evolution of Retail report, explains that the retail market and shopping malls must adapt to the omnichannel trend, which provides shoppers with an integrated experience across online and offline channels. “In the face of increased competition, shopping centre owners, developers, managers and retailers need to be alert to, and agile in responding to, the latest trends, consumer behaviour and technology in a fast-paced, ever evolving industry,” says the director of Broll Property Intel, Elaine Wilson, in the report.

The report reveals that in South Africa, there are more than 25 million square metres of formal retail space, 2 000 existing shopping centres and close to three million square metres of formal retail space in the pipeline.

“We believe that more money is going to be spent on experiences in shopping centres and less on actual products. Malls can’t be merely a place to shop; people need to experience something new and exciting,” says Lizelle Cloete, head of Broll’s retail leasing division.

The competition in the retail environment is stiff, and so Cloete believes that malls must embrace innovation. This can include a range of experiential and pop-up stores, as well as cashless payment systems.  But while the digital revolution requires retailers to become seriously creative, “experience” is not only about playing with fancy technology. “For example, children can ride on a little train outside a Hamley’s store and play with some of the toys inside the store for free,” says Cloete.

Children are key

An experiential and entertaining environment for children is critical adds Cloete, especially in Gauteng where entertainment options are seen as limited. Kidzania at Fourways Mall simulates a city environment, but is designed purely for children. Parents drop their children off at the zone for up to four hours to run other shopping errands and perhaps grab a coffee.

“With entertainment and experiential facilities like this, parents spend more time at the mall, which means spending money on food and beverages,” says Cloete.

She adds that malls with a good tenant mix (low-end to high-end) bode well for families and these tend to do better financially. “Stores don’t necessarily need to dominate in size (square meterage), but they must differentiate themselves from the scores of other shops in the mall and elsewhere to impress shoppers —especially the newer generation which is digitally savvy,”says Cloete.

The future of retail is, like every other sector, unknown, but the refurbishment and design of malls should adhere to two main principles to be sustainable and competitive —“omnichannel” and “experiential”.

Image: Yupiie Chef

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