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Guest Column

Organized retail will continue to gravitate toward creating lasting experiences

By: Ankit Kansal, MD, Axon Developers

Retail has drastically changed over the past decade. From once being purely centered on transactional facilities and benefits, the contours of retail are now shifting more towards building better engagement and creating long-lasting impressions. 

Developers are now keeping no stone unturned in investing in better designs, spatial alignments, and technology to give customers unique and memorable experiences.

There is a strong thrust to think beyond transactions and build long-term relationships. To actualize the same, retailers are now working aggressively towards redefining customer expectations and accordingly fine-tuning their offerings.

Mall operators, developers, and individual store operators need to work in tandem to give a seamless and coherent experience to visitors. From the moment one enters the space to when one exits, it is imperative to curate powerful brand experiences for visitors, across multiple touchpoints. This is how the future of retail will appear.

The Millennial Push

Though the pandemic played a part in retail’s ongoing evolution, what is more, important is the growing influence of millennial buyers. The growing influence of millennials is the most crucial driving force behind retail’s evolution.

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The new-age millennial buyers just do not want features, discounts, and benefits like their previous generation. What is more essential for them is in-person experiences and fun that can elevate their overall shopping. Retailers also understand that if they want to drive sales, they have to give a desirable experience to their millennial customer base.

Social media and technology are some of the key levers to engage with millennials. Most of the millennials are digital natives and lead an active social life on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, etc. Retailers are now understanding the same and creating spaces that offer authentic photo shoot or video shoot opportunities.

The more opportunities for sharable experiences inside the mall or store, the higher the chance to engage with new-age customers. Working on visual designs of the stores and organizing theme parties can be good initial steps. Users generated content are also a cost-effective way of marketing.

To nurture communities

One of the areas, where brick-and-mortar has an edge over e-commerce is the ability to nurture community. No matter how seamlessly the transactions are facilitated over the web, they can never create a sense of belongingness and community. Retailers and retail developers need to understand the intrinsic advantages that come with a real brick-and-mortar setup and smartly leverage the same.

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The use of signages, wall paintings, open spaces, designs, and creativity to build and reinforce local narratives is highly recommended. In the past we have seen malls and shopping complexes conducting cultural nights, music events, children’s sports, vlogging shows, etc.

Nevertheless, mall operators have to put in more effort and mull other creative ideas such as health check-ups, conducting food shows, promoting local celebrities & sportspersons, organizing fashion events, etc.

In America, few stores have experimented with pasting the photos of local fitness stars and giving them 25% discounts on all purchases made in-house. Similar stuff can be tried out in India as well.

Retail of the future

Notwithstanding the growing stiff competition from the digital retail space, malls & shopping complexes will continue to thrive. Outdoor retail is not going to be obsolete. They will be the go-to symbol of consumerism. Yet, mall owners must understand that modern retail is not just about buying fashion, apparel, daily essentials, pharma, etc. Most such items can be purchased online.

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The focus has to be more on developing the mall as a destination with a strong focus on entertainment, F&Bs, dining-out, better parking areas, increased open spaces & green zones, etc.

New age malls will integrate the shopping experience with a lot of entertainment, sharable experiences, and convenience.

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