Shopping malls post Covid-19: Proximity and personalised value key

Daria Pawelko

Daria Pawelko is a Group Innovation Manager at Atrium European Real Estate. She looks for and implements new solutions to improve the shopping experience and operational efficiency in Atrium shopping malls. Earlier, she supported the digital transformation and other strategic initiatives at Empik, the biggest multimedia retail chain in Poland and advised various industries at Roland Berger, a strategy consultancy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated previous trends in shoppers’ behaviour, as well as crystalised new opportunities and challenges for shopping malls.
E-commerce sales surged during the pandemic, and the shift towards online is expected to grow. Even non-internet-savvy shoppers learnt new technologies stepping out of their comfort zones into new sales channels. The increase in e-commerce stimulated further integration of stores stock with online sales (click & collect, drive-thru services, Zalando Connect) or even deployment of quicker from-store delivery (e.g. QCommerce by Glovo).
The economic slowdown also impacted consumer behaviour. Shoppers tended to move towards a more targeted, less frequent, higher basket experiential shopping (with limited leisure and entertainment elements).
In recent years some shopping malls tested solutions to capture a slice of this online cake
(e.g. click & reserve, aggregated collection of online purchase with drive-thru service, live-streaming sales), but they find it challenging to compete with multi-brand online stores due to a limited offer width or technical capacity. However, end-customer proximity remains the great advantage of shopping malls.
Clients clearly appreciate this proximity (proven by post-lockdown footfall and sales rebounds), and there remains a place for shopping malls as long as they continue to adapt and enhance their focus on shoppers’ experience, personalised value and embrace the opportunities of the ROPO effect (research online, purchase offline). Lockdown has left shoppers asking for more human interaction – shopping malls can offer that.
Understanding shoppers, what they want, how they behave becomes even more critical; therefore, a data-driven approach is of paramount importance. It means a combination of an effective CRM solution with integrated omnichannel touchpoints, gathering data about shoppers’ behaviour and preferences (e.g. demographic and psychographic characteristics as well as behavioural and transactional activity records) together with multichannel communication both with shoppers and retailers. Shoppers’ insights may be effectively enhanced with systems analysing people’s movement throughout a mall and between stores, such as traditional counting, wifi-tracking or the latest visual recognition tools supported by AI.
Analysed data should help define actions improving the experience, both digital (e.g. intelligent digital signage, wayfinding, chatbots, personalised communication and ads) and non-digital (e.g. unique emotional experience, personalised events). It can also help landlords streamline operations, focus marketing strategies and optimise the tenant mix.
Post-pandemic decreases in footfall and revenue have meant a stronger focus on costs. Proptech supporting decreases in utility consumption and streamlining facility management, as well as improving collaboration with tenants, which will be highly useful in the near future.
Overall, shopping malls now need to embrace technology to drive a digital transformation that has just commenced in earnest for the industry.