In the region, we all love our shopping. It used to be a choice of souqs, cold stores and bagalas but the mall has taken over. Malls are much more than a collection of shops but represent a combination of high-street, community parks and amusement/entertainment areas, and so they are destinations in their own right.
Recreational shopping is now part of our culture.
The number of malls in the Gulf is set to increase in response to population growth, tourism, and demand from local and international retailers. Despite this, the young population is making it one of the fastest growing online retail markets in the world — albeit from a low base, because some habits die hard.
According to the global retail development index (GRDI), the region scores high marks — in 2014, the UAE was ranked the fourth most lucrative retail market globally, with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman also ranking in the Top 20.
According to Alpen Capital’s recent research, Dubai is the second most popular retail destination globally, after London. The retail space per 1,000 people in Dubai is 1,380 square metres, which is the highest in the world.
But even as gross leasable area in the region continues to grow and the region attracts retailers, the report notes that it is faced with the need to increase its efforts to modernise its retail industry structure and meet the fast-changing consumer behaviour.
New consumer habits are transforming retail and malls, and shopping centres compete to attract and retain brands — which helps malls to build loyalty with their shoppers. Online shopping and hybrid customer experience journeys (online/offline) are changing the way consumers interact with the brand owners.
This new retail experience influences the bricks’n’mortar model and converges with online touch points such as social networks.
Dubai’s rapid transformation into a smart city further bodes well for its retail industry. But malls are more than just for shopping and with the possibilities presented by ‘smart malls’, there is the opportunity to connect shoppers and visitors in new ways, enhancing the visit experience, keeping shoppers in the mall — and therefore increasing revenues.
They are also great showcases for global retail brands and improve the shopping experience, while reinforcing the mall’s own brand and helping it operate efficiently.
Entertainment and attractions play a key role in drawing shoppers and keeping them in the mall, as they become destinations for the community. ICT solutions enhance the mall experience, via internet access, game, ticketing or event solutions, and managed wi-fi delivers valid business reasons for offering it free to visitors, a key point for the young connected population.
Indoor geolocalisation, augmented reality, and QR codes can all build a journey throughout the mall and can act as a support for social gaming, while mobile applications can be designed to support flash sales or engage customers easily with brands through NFC, indoor geolocation and ibeacon, for example.
Importantly, basic amenities like parking and way-finding should be convenient to use and shoppers need to be incentivised to visit frequently and discover promotions or new collections. Ease of use, promotions, “gamification” and location-aware services contribute to continually maintaining or renewing site attractiveness
It’s not just smart retailing for the purposes of marketing, building loyalty and promoting sales and supporting point-of-sale transactions. Rather, the mall itself becomes a smart retail environment with its own ecosystem built on an ICT platform and hosted, managed and secured by an expert ICT partner — all through the cloud.
These days mall infrastructure and operations facilities management services can be hosted and managed from an ICT environment that supports ‘smart building’ and workplace functionalities that monitor and manage everything from energy to car parks.
This approach is already a reality in Dubai, with Dubai Festival City already using a network platform operated in real-time through the ‘Internet of Everything’ platform, iVivaCloud. The mixed-use development has 550 shops, as well as hotels, office towers, residences, schools and a golf course.
Shoppers are getting more discerning and demanding, and are increasingly connected. Malls need to smarten up to meet the challenge and keep them coming back for more.
Source: Gulf News
Expotrade Middle East FZ-LLC
Level 9, 907 Aurora Tower, Dubai Media City
PO Box 500686 Dubai, U.A.E.
Tel: +9714-4542135 Fax: +9714-4542136