Survival of the Fittest: Malls Must Adapt to Remain Relevant

Is the shopping mall on life support? It may seem that way in the United States with big retailers closing stores and leaving shopping malls vacant. A report from Credit Suisse predicts 25 percent of the country’s malls may close by 2022.[1] There is, however, another alternative to going under—reinvention. Focusing on integrating technology and evolving the experience are the crux of this reinvention.

Malls Must Embrace Technology and Deliver Experiences

Malls that are thriving are built around experiences, not just retail therapy. The mall is a place to meet, socialize, and be entertained. That is clearly the vibe of the latest project being built in Dubai. As one of the wealthiest cities in the world, it is no stranger to building things grand and opulent.

The new mall, called Dubai Square, promises to be the largest in the world with experiences and technology at every turn. This is how malls will survive in the digital age. Technology is helping adapt the experience for the millennial generation and younger, who are digital natives. Attracting these groups means competing with online shopping, so malls have to be attractive and high-tech. Things like 3D projection mapping as a means of wayfinding is an example of what will differentiate this mall from those of the past.

“Championing ‘omnichannel retailing’, it will offer customers a seamless blend of shopping via desktop, mobile or at a retail store. The physical and the digital at Dubai Square co-exist in harmony, with stores acting as showrooms for their online presences,” Emaar properties said in a press release.” Digital conveniences will include custom-designed mobile apps, quick checkout solutions, search and barcode scanning applications, radio-frequency identification technology, mobile payments and click-and-collect services.”

Malls that have embraced technology are leveraging it to connect with visitors via social media, immersive spaces, personalized digital signage and smart features in areas like dressing rooms. Even parking is more convenient with technology through the use of sensors. Technology elevates the experience.

The modern mall, in addition to being high-tech, must be more than a collection of stores. Mixed use is the new norm. In some malls, the ratio is changing to 50/50 for stores and attractions. Dubai Square says it will even offer 3D printed dining options.

Some great examples of this trend include Xanadu in Madrid, Spain that includes family fun like go-karts and bowling. The Mall of America boasts an aquarium and a theme park. The mall has become a destination.

For malls to be relevant in the 21st century, technology and experiences are critical. For the mall, it is time to evolve or become extinct.

[1] https://plus.credit-suisse.com/researchplus/ravDocView?docid=V6JtRW2AF-WErMUc